Songs For The Apocalypse
As a life-long Hard Rock and Heavy Metal enthusiast, my fascination with short-lived artists and groups has served me remarkable well, resulting in a series of undeniably pleasant surprises (I, Napoleon). Having already shamelessly devoted much of my misspent youth to the hairspray and mascara-encrusted offerings of Guns N' Roses, L.A. Guns and, to a lesser extent, Mötley Crüe, my instincts rarely failed me. A prime example of this is Miami. Florida-based Saigon Kick. Emerging with their self-titled debut in 1990, their sophomore effort The Lizard (1992) thrust them to the dizzying heights of global recognition via the haunting single “Love Is On The Way”. Unfortunately, the group would self-destruct shortly thereafter, leaving a legion of fans wondering 'What If' and 'Why?'. Now, nearly a quarter of a century after their final all-new release (Devil In The Details, 1995), guitarist/mastermind Jason Bieler has at long last released his sophomore solo effort Songs For The Apocalypse.
On the brilliant Songs For The Apocalypse (2020), an expertly assembled fifteen song collection of Prog-tinged Hard Rock, each track, beginning with the rumbling--albeit undeniably shimmering--“Apology” and the maddeningly infectious single “Bring Out Your Dead”, immediately commands the rapt and undivided attention of all parties involved, myself most definitely included. His first 'proper' solo effort in nearly twenty-five years (Houston, We Have A Problem, 1998) and, perhaps more notably, his first overall new recording in over twenty years (the Super TransAtlantic masterpiece Shuttlecock, 2000) the guitarist wastes little, if any, time delivering an idealistic distillation of the tonalities that once propelled him to the dizzying heights of international acclaim. Distinguishing himself from his few legitimate contemporaries by reminding us of his unsung wizardries, Bieler succeeds without burying the proverbial average listener within a veritable avalanche of compositional prolixity.
Continuing with the emotionally-charged lament “Down In A Hole” and the Emil Werstler (ex-Dååth)-led jewel “Horror Wobbles The Hippo”, the airtight--to say the very least--combination of vocalist/guitarist/multi-instrumentalist Jason Bieler, vocalists Benji Webbe (Skindred) and Jeff Scott Soto (Sons Of Apollo, Yngwie Malmsteen), guitarists Andee Blacksugar (KMFDM), Bumblefoot (GNR, Sons Of Apollo), Butch Walker (ex-Marvelous 3), Clint Lowery (Sevendust), Devin Townsend (Vai) and Stephen Gibb, bassists Clay Cook, David Ellefson (F5, Megadeth), Kevin Scott, Kyle Sanders (Damageplan) and Pat Badger (Extreme), and drummers Edu Cominato (Geoff Tate) and Ricky Sanders steamrolls ahead with a well-rehearsed ease. Exceeding all but the most optimistic of 'fanboi' expectations, Bieler showcases an impossibly fluid skill-set, at times remaining tastefully restrained without sacrificing the substance or, more importantly, the tone at the heart of the materials.
A self-Produced affair throughout, other standouts, including the groove-laden “Born Of The Sun” and the soaring, acoustic guitar-driven socio-political gem “Very Fine People”, offers a wealth of further sonic evidence in support of Bieler's unabashed lyrical and compositional prowess. While not necessarily for the uninitiated (or, for that matter, anyone without a genuine and sincere interest in all things Prog and/or Prog-related), the razor-sharp behemoth that is the omnipotent Songs For The Apocalypse is seemingly guaranteed to earn the guitarist the wide-spread critical and commercial accolades he so rightfully deserves. Available on CD, LP and Digitally, even if you find yourself less than enthralled with the arguably tongue-in-cheek '...And The Baron Von Bielski Orchestra' moniker, one must, at the very least, sincerely admire the intestinal fortitude necessary for such an ambitious undertaking. Love him or loathe him, this is quite possibly as good as modern independent Rock gets.
But what can you really expect? Ultimately, that will depend on your particular point of view. With Bieler at last flexing his more than considerable creative muscles on a truly grand scale, the end result(s) of the more than considerable multi-instrumentalist's efforts are, without a doubt, nothing short of extraordinary and do deserve to be treated accordingly. A genuine and sincere instant classic, the majority--if not all--of the fully accessible wares contained herein are seemingly guaranteed to appeal to both die-hard completists (i.e., those who have been patiently following his post-Devil In The Details) career and clueless newcomers alike. Needless to say, if you've once again found yourself in search of a thought-provoking yet musically challenging 'reprieve' from the painfully mindless, Pop and Hip-Hop-laden atrocities that are so often force fed en mass, then this, my friends, might just be the high-octane counterstep for whatever it is that ails you. Trust me, you will not be disappointed.
Songs For The Apocalypse (2021)
Moments From The Fringe (1998)
Houston, We Have A Problem (1998)
Devil In The Details (1995)
The Lizard (1992)
Saigon Kick (1991)
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