CD REVIEW: Ferris Mudd - Ferris Mudd
By Alex Jasperse - 04/05/2007 - 01:20 PM EDT
Artist: Band: Ferris Mudd
Album: Ferris Mudd 
Production/Musicianship Grade: 10/10
Songwriting Skills: 10/10
Performance Skill: 9.7/10
Nearly 40 years ago, the term ‘progressive rock’ burst into the music scene. It represented a flowering of creative ideas; whether it was challenging works by groups such as Gentle Giant, the mind-expanding sonic explorations of Pink Floyd or the ‘intelligent’, yet accessible works of King Crimson, prog was ambitious, eclectic, and perhaps a bit pretentious. And then, by the early 1980s, it drifted off the radar. Which raises the question: where did the ideology go? Did it just disappear?
Hailing from Alabama, Ferris Mudd’s self-titled debut may just be the answer to this question…
Throwing aside the weight of being metronome and pretense, Ferris Mudd’s use of complex multi-part harmonies, layered guitar lines, beautiful and melodic drums parts and dreamlike keyboards weave together a riot of tonal colours into a dazzling audio experience. Operating within a progressive rock framework, their melodic pop sensibilities and the technical prowess comparable to many larger acts, fuses together elements from groups like Yes (Jon Anderson’s voice comes to mind) and Kansas into an all out anthemic record.
Upon first listen, there’s an odd sense of nostalgia – as if this were a lost record from the late 1970s that had finally found its way to CD. From the guitars to the drums, the unmistakable sound of ‘trebly’ mixing courses throughout. The modern, full-bodied production techniques are not there, but that’s irrelevant: it’s all about the seamless and well thought-out musicianship.
With an utterly hypnotic 6/8 time signature, the opening track, “Time to Fly”, lulls the listener into a relaxed trance. Led by Steve Richard’s high tenor vocals, Ferris Mudd’s smooth and sweet tones, paired with soaring guitar solos, gains a symphonic momentum, only to rapidly descend into layers of classic “doos” and “oohs” reminiscent of classic Yes.
As the album continues, it’s obvious who the band’s influences are. So much so, you could literally sit down with anything by Pink Floyd, Yes, Emerson, Lake & Palmer and Kansas and spend time connecting the dots. But any questions of authenticity become meaningless with the fact that there is a mature voice underneath that has something new to say. Tracks like the hair-raising “Over Your Head” rearranges the classic prog formula, injecting hints of Porcupine Tree’s darker and melancholic experimentation. Distinctive and captivating on its own, pulsating keyboard lines and lightly strummed acoustic guitars slowly deconstruct the passage of time as a story of personal conflict unfolds. As it approaches the four-minute mark, a sense of anxiety and uncertainty builds as the song takes a surprising turn. Things speed up and become more aggressive; reinforced by Richard’s masterful command over the guitar’s distorted tone, unleashing a fiery barrage of emotional leads infused with vivid lyrical imagery.
There’s more to Ferris Mudd than words. While their music can be beautiful and full of familiar sounds in tracks like “Unwrapped”, it can also be dark, disturbing and vicious. “End of the Day” sails from gentle acoustic guitar lines to electric guitar passages that interject a brief sense of chaos, only to dissolve into one of the most honest vocal melodies that’ll tear your heart apart. The listener’s imagination is offered some licence, but Ferris Mudd’s music will break you down and coerce you into finding a truth – even if it has to claw its way out. It visits the dark places we avoid, presenting them in an artistic expression that demands revisit.
Ferris Mudd’s debut is simply this: high-caliber songwriting and musicianship that offers a uniquely dark and hypnotic exploration of rock and metal that’s complex, haunting and unforgettable. To suggest that it is something familiar is to reject the fact that it is dangerously new. So back to before: has the mad flowering of ideas wilted since prog’s inception nearly 40 years ago? Has the genre run dry? Where does Ferris Mudd fit in?
This band is proof that the ethos of prog is still alive and kicking: its members have reshaped and injected a force all their own into the prog boundaries with compositions that pulse with the lifeblood of rock, metal, jazz and even pop. Ferris Mudd’s interest in the architecture of sound has infused each song with its own unique sound world – there are no leftovers, instead a collection of songs that can destroy you with their beauty. If their debut doesn’t get the recognition it deserves, they can proudly be awarded the acclaim of being one of the best-kept music secrets to come along in a while. This is an act to watch.
The Verdict: 9.9/10
For more information, please contact Ferris Mudd at firstname.lastname@example.org
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