Intro: Giannis Zavradinos
Translation: Alexandros Mantas
23 / 12 / 2017
Deluge Grander were formed in Maryland, USA in 2005 from the ashes of Cerebus Effect when Dan Britton (keyboards and anything else you can imagine) started working on material of his own. Flanked by Dave Breggren (guitar), Brett D’Annon (bass), Patrick Gaffney (drums), his personal musical vision was about to come alive. He was proved to be very ambitious, and justifiably so, and he unleashed his seemingly inexhaustible (good for us) compositional and arranging talents through four albums (all of them via ΕMKOG Records) with the one always topping the previous. The cover art of Heliotians (2014) no less, was designed by him; therefore, we have to do with a man with diverse artistic inquiries who is fully aware of his skills which are not confined to music alone.
The talented Mr. Britton
The gradual replacement of the hard sound with wind and string instruments propelled the imagination and productivity of the band. As a result, their music was described as “symphonic prog”, a term that doesn’t do justice to the depth and development of their ideas and actually pigeonholes them. His well-rounded study on the70s prog scene is so assiduous that results in juicy outcomes and not the usual clichés. But there is more to Britton’s genius.
His compositional skills are not confined by the keyboardist’s attitude, he knows perfectly well where an instrument works best and depending on the demands and climax of every song he chooses the right one. It is inevitable then that the final outcome rewards the listener with balanced arrangements and spot-on changes.
Oceanarium was released in November and is the middle part of a trilogy (the first part is Heliotians which was released three years ago and the third part Lunarians will come out in 2018) and the trilogy itself is part of a more extended work with seven parts that will also be released down the line. The same concept goes for the compositions; idea within an idea and all of them tight in a homogeneous complex with a sense of depth combined with the element of surprise and coherence. Quite often you get the feeling that the songs could last forever or at least you forget how they started. This leaves no other choice to the listener but listen to them repeatedly and to discover every time new stuff that might had gone previously unnoticed. Since it is an instrumental album in its entirety, there is space for a wide gamut of instruments that includes, aside from the standard wind and string instruments, quite surprisingly banjo, electric sitar, dulcimer, mandolin, trombone that are used sophisticatedly over the steady foundations that the formation keyboards/guitar/bass/drums provides without overegging the pudding. Nothing is missing and nothing is superfluous here. The rhythm basis is mainly based on the percussions and the drum kit intervenes only when necessary.
There is a healthy amount of musical influences on Oceanarium although absorbed by the unique identity of the band which is always present. The symphonic climaxes of Snow Goose, the jazz lyricism of Lizard, the impressionism of Tony Banks in the after-Hackett era of Genesis, the warm passages of the classical guitar of John Williams on the first two albums of Sky, the playful disposition of Mothers of Invention, together with assorted motifs that nod to library music that is found in TV productions of the seventies are but a few tesserae of a wonderful prog mosaic. The imaginative song titles like Finding a Shipwreck in a Valley in an Ocean or A Numbered Rat, a High Ledge, and a Maze of Horizons depict a visual texture so neatly embossed that only Britton with the invaluable contribution of his colleagues and the stellar production could translate into notes. Tropical Detective Squadron is perhaps the album’s top song…for today!
In an interesting year that covers the entire spectrum of the progressive music, and consequently satisfied every demanding listener, Deluge Grander introduce themselves to us as a unique option. Free of extravaganzas, aggressive and abysmal jammings indenting to impress but only disorienting, they come back with totally well-structured material that brims with imagination and feeling. Oceanarium will surely function as a musical haven which we will visit time and time again down the line to lose ourselves even for a little while in its wonderful soundscapes that are like painting pictures that spring to life. If the grandiose and ambitious plan of Mr. Britt is about to come true, it should live up to the expectations and the standards he has set and has spoiled us. For the time being we thank him, we praise him and he has our full support.
9 / 10
Diverse, adventurous, charming, artistically impeccable but, at the same time, incomplete. These are some of the numerous impressions that the multiple listens of Oceanarium, the fourth album of the Americans Deluge Grander, leave behind. With the amazing guitarist / keyboardist Dan Britton (Birds And Buildings, Cerebus Effect) as the man on the helm, the progsters that hail from Baltimore build a viscous sound that is simultaneously bizarre and accessible by combining individual elements from symphonic prog and jazz-fusion, bringing quite often Mike Oldfield to mind, but also leaving a soundtrack-ish taste lingering in the venture. Due to its instrumental nature, it makes sense that there is a lot of space, especially on the lengthier tracks, for the musicians to unfold their gifts. Nevertheless, there are times that there is a sense of incompleteness since in the ocean of ideas it is not always clear where they want to end up. Yet, Oceanarium is a strong musical propose for 2017 and the fans of prog rock shouldn’t pass it by.
7.5 / 10