Released: 2002, Marmaduke Records
Ok, first things first, this CD is not for everyone. Don’t even try to get it unless you know there’s a world beyond pure metal. All of you out there who are metal purists, elitists and mainly anyone who has a closed mind regarding music (although I know none of you will admit it), stay away from this album.
That said, Cosmosquad’s SQUADROPHENIA has pretty much blown my mind over and over again since I started spinning it on my CD player. The Rock/Metal/Jazz/Fusion mix that has been achieved by this fantastic band is just something out of a dream you couldn’t piece together if you tried your whole life.
Let's talk about the band a little bit--I’m sure you will be quite impressed by the line-up. Starting off with only their names, we have a trio formed by Jeff Kollman (guitar), Shane Gaalaas (bass) and Barry Sparks (drums). If you have any idea of who these guys are--individually, together, what they have done, who they’ve played with--then you must be thinking about how much talent is packed in this one band.
Kollman is the main brains behind the song writing. He’s an accomplished and very proficient guitar player and also a producer of his own and other people’s music. In addition, his past credits include playing in bands such as The Phil Mogg band, Edwin Dare and Mogg/Way (which features the original members of UFO).
Sparks is an amazing bass player who brings a lot of jazz-y feeling into the music among other things. His credits include backing up such artists as Yngwie J. Malmsteem, Michael Schenker and Uli Jon Roth (He must be a very patient man, or a Zen Master, or both) and is currently the standing bass player for the recently reformed Dokken.
Finally, we have Shane Gaalaas in charge of the drums. His credits also include Yngwie J. Malmsteem support, Michael Schenker and Uli Jon Roth, as well as being currently drumming with Glen Hughes.
So, what can you expect from this excellent band? Fast and flurry axes? Rapid fire drums? Double bass all over? Hell, no! Squadrophenia, as mentioned before, are a bewitching mix of Rock, Metal, Fusion, Jazz, and you can also find some flamenco guitar elements in there (such as in the beautiful “Jam for Jason”), as well as African rhythms (“Road to Tanzania/Tribal Dance”).
Some tracks, though designed for the band to shine as a whole rather than as three individuals playing, tend to sound like they were influenced or written for a particular member of the band. A perfect example of this is “Jam for Jason,” where Kollman gets the spotlight, then “Road to Tanzania/Tribal Dance,” where Gaalaas is meant to shine, and, finally, “Winter in Innisfail,” where Sparks is written to be the center of attention.
In all, I could not point to one particular track that stands out from the rest since every single minute of this album is a precious moment meant to wake the listener up to the sounds of this band’s feelings and great sense of composition. On the other hand, MY personal favorite on this one would have to be “Winter in Innisfail”--it’s melodic Heaven and I can’t get enough of it!
Finally, as I said, this album is definitely not for just anyone. Some will be bored, some will not be able to understand, some will hate it, some will love it, but in the end, this is one of the best releases of 2002 so far. I can almost guarantee it will make my top 10 at the end of the year.