|Icefish, Human Hardware|
|Production & Engineering:||4.0|
Italy’s latest export, Icefish, easy delivers our favorite prog metal record of the year, but although we’ve just dropped Human Hardware into the prog metal bucket, that description is somewhat limiting for this fantastic record, since Icefish blends influences from metal to classic hard rock to jazz fusion with some classic, Scandinavian hair band melodic richness thrown in for good measure.
This is truly a super-group, featuring a lineup of extraordinary musicians who are each renowned masters of their craft. Guitarist Marco Sfogli, keyboardist Alex Argento, drummer Virgil Donati, and bassist/vocalist Andrea Casali, many of whom have played together on various other projects, have united to create a band of their own, and it’s clear that these guys have forged a fantastic union together.
From the opening track, “It Begins,” the vibe of the record is set with Marco’s incredibly precise seven-string riffage, and then when the band kicks in and you hear Alex Argento’s signature chordal work juxtaposed against the rhythm, you know you’re in for a treat. Donati’s drumming needs no introduction, with Portnoy-like precision minus the overplaying, and Casali is yet another musician in a long line of mind-blowing artists who can sing soaring melodic lines while laying down intricate progressive rock bass lines.
We loved how songs like “Revolution” blur genre boundaries, fusing Led Zeppelin grooves with Dream Theater-like musical excursions, while songs like “Solitude” and “The Pieces” incorporate more melodic textures into the mix.
Throughout Human Hardware, the musical performances are superb, and although a lesser band might have turned this record into a shredding wank-fest, this is tasteful stuff throughout, with Sfogli and Argento’s incredible, bet-you-can’t-play-this, lead work serving the songs rather than their egos. Speaking of which, if you can’t get enough of Icefish, check out Alex Argento’s instrumental solo record, Ego, on which Sfogli plays guitar, where the vibe leans more in the jazz fusion direction. Or, if you want more of Sfogli’s shred work, check out his outstanding instrumental solo record, reMarcoble, or listen to him on some of Donati’s solo material. Clearly, these guys were destined to form a band together one day.
Production values on Human Hardware are exemplary throughout, with fantastic, tight, drum sounds, bass tight and right in the pocket, stellar high-gain guitar tone with that obvious European amp vibe, and keyboard sounds that are completely modern and full of fantastic ear candy. Actually, all of Human Hardware is full of delicious ear candy for musicians who crave a delicious blend of rock, metal, and fusion with a melodic song core to anchor it all. If these guys stick together and continue to evolve, we just may have the next Dream Theater on our hands. Bravissimo!
Check out the band's video for the first single, "It Begins," here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tkExYyD2nwE