Band Website: http://thearzuniverse.com
Label: Unicorn Records
Label Website: www.unicorndigital.com
Release Date: 2012
Here’s a prog tale that will be familiar to many. Musical guy starts playing in a Yes tribute band. Musical guy wants to start creating his own music and teams up with the Yes tribute band’s drummer to create record. I know that’s pretty simplified but in a nutshell that’s the history of Arz; Steve Adams (guitars, bass, keyboards, vocals) and Merrill Hale (drums, percussion). Based out of Portland, Oregon the duo have recently signed up with Unicorn Digital and released Turn of the Tide a crafty blend classic symphonic progressive rock in a modern melodic prog package.
Turn of the Tide is a full 74-minutes featuring nine-tracks, three of which are well over 10-minutes in length. The disc starts off with a symphonic flourish in “Arz Nova” [1:27] sort of reminding me of the old pomp rock Angel theme from that band’s first album. It’s a bold statement of intention here, richly orchestrated, that leads directly into the acoustic guitar strains of “Birth of a Hero” [8:22]. In short order grand crescendos punctuate the proceedings before guitar, triangle sounds and vocals enter the fray. Arz, take the core of a song, its melody and then embellish that melody taking it in many different directions. Their music features many twists and turns and musical change-ups and yet it’s all very song driven. A tune may be made up of many different musical segments or elements and yet it still comes across as a song that might have hummable parts. Each composition features moments where huge swells of music build the intensity or grand sweeping climaxes provide emotional drama. These guys like the big sound. Their approach is best displayed on the albums epic track “Hope and Glory” [16:40] that opens with two-minutes of heavily orchestrated fanfare which then makes way for soft, rich symphonic strings creating an expectant mood. At the four minute mark, drums, guitars, synths, triangles all come in to collide into the songs next phase. It’s a grand sound and I love it.
Turn of the Tide is a very accomplished release, it sounds like these guys have been playing together for some time, the performance is really tight. If you include the digital releases, this is actually the fifth recording for Arz, the second with both of them performing. If you are a fan of bands such as Presto Ballet, Salem Hill, Darwin’s Radio or early Magellan I strongly recommend you check out Arz. Highly recommended.