(All Album Reviews by jlneudorf)
Dean Watson is a multi-instrumentalist hailing from Toronto, Canada. He took the progressive rock world by storm with his excellent debut release Unsettled, also reviewed on this site. Although the bar was set very high I am happy to say his new album Imposing Elements may be even better.
As it is with his debut, it is all Mr. Watson as he plays all instruments, even adding bass this time around. Once again he proves he is just as proficient on the keys as he is on the guitar providing exquisite solos and rhythms throughout the album’s eight tracks. The album mixes jazz, fusion and progressive rock wrapped with outstanding musicianship, songwriting and craftsmanship.
Whether his playing is soft or heavy you can be rest assured the perfect notes will be reached. Never is the style overwrought with unnecessary noodling and instrumental showboating although there are many solos that attest to a musician who is completely focused on his craft. The songs are both challenging and melodic, simple yet complex. This album should satisfy a wide spectrum of progressive music fans.
Right from the opening keyboard notes of “Past Present”, you just know what a classy affair this album will be. Soon a deeper rhythmic groove evolves leading to tasteful keyboard solo and a stick in your head repeating melody. The guitar and keyboards trade solos making for a progressive rock/fusion extravaganza. Eventually a back drop of symphonic sounds create a wonderful textural element that fully stimulates the senses.
With “16 Feet Below” the sound is a little more jazzy, tinged with dissonance and subtle guitar work. The keyboards soon become more pronounced leading to heavier guitar rhythms that gather intensity along with swells of keys in the background. Electronic elements are also introduced which only serves to add to the progressive aura of the music.
One of my favourite tracks is the ambitious “Underpass”, a heavenly mixture of progressive rock and jazz. The start almost has traces of Steely Dan in the keyboards and percussion before metallic chords surface adding a more menacing edge to the sound only to have the jazzier flavourings return once again.
Latin style percussion opens the fourth track “Push Too”. The guitar solos rip up the soundscape with a lot more rock and roll bite than previously heard and again Watson shows his skill in programming electronics and drums. “Pendulum” features a calming, more languid intro with the keys and guitar work having a laid back feel before the tempo increases with the background and foreground swelling with keys. “Depth Charge” opens with jazzy keyboard chords and a cool flute flavoured solo. Synth and guitar solos follow suit and the song has an overall off kilter feel. The persistent keyboard line throughout is spot on. In contrast, “Of Age” has a metallic edge verging on progressive metal with surges of what sounds like Mellotron in the background. The heaviness eases off only to return with lead synth and guitar.
The journey ends with “New Resolution”. The pace is slow, more leisurely, each note adding to the totality of nuance and texture. The fusion sound is fully developed with synths and keyboards adding a spacey, cooler vibe . The interplay between keys and guitars is flawless.
All the elements are here to make this one of the best releases of 2012, regardless of the genre. Instrumental music has rarely sounded this good. As it stands, Imposing Elements is available as a digital download only. If ever there was an artist who deserves the backing of a label, Dean Watson is your man.