Band: A Chinese Firedrill

CD Title: “Circles”

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Label: ProgRock Records

Label Website:

Release Date: 2007


One never knows when a member of a successful group with a distinctive sound goes solo how far the personal sound will stray from the “day job.” Well in the case of Joey Vera’s first solo…he strays quite a distance. Don’t expect to hear any thrash metal here. Instead on Circles we are treated to some sparkling heavy progressive rock with an art-rock influence. Who knew?


Vera is calling his first solo project A Chinese Firedrill with the CD’s proper name Circles. For those who aren’t familiar with Vera’s resume, he’s presently the bassist for both Armored Saint and Fates Warning, but he’s also contributed to OSI, Chroma Key, Anthrax and a few others. He’s a pretty busy guy. Here he handles all the instruments, vocals, writing and production. In fact the only thing he doesn’t play are the drums which are supplied by Greg Studgio.


Right off the top let me say I was really taken by this record. Stylistically it’s kind of like something from Porcupine Tree. Each of the seven compositions tends to be quite complex in terms of all the moving parts. A song will start with a beautiful acoustic riff before suddenly sliding into a real crunchy heavy distorted guitar riff and then there might be a melodic chorus or two before shifting into some lush keyboard orchestration. The tone is mostly upbeat with a hint of melancholy. Kind of a “sweet & sour” effect that never wears out it’s welcome. Four of the songs are about seven minutes long with a couple shorter ones and then the longest at just over nine-minutes. Vera’s vocals are really good. There’s no straining, no screaming, he doesn’t force it at all, to my ear it’s more along the lines of David Gilmour’s Pink Floyd style. What I like about that is that you can actually understand the message. Throughout the disc there are plenty of softer moments with just electric piano, or guitar which provides a perfect introduction to a grand, epic section of the song before some synths or sound effects move the piece in yet another direction. Nothing is overdone, you get a taste and then the song moves on. What’s more each of these songs contains multiple melodies that stick with you for days.


A Chinese Firedrill is one of those records I can’t stop listening too. Whenever I get to that point where I ask, what do I feel like now…Circles is at the top of the stack because it’s varied, it’s heavy, it’s acoustic, it’s loud, it’s soft, it’s orchestrated it’s…it’s…it’s just everything I like in a prog record. This is certainly one of my favorites of 2007. Check it out, it gets my recommendation.