Thought I'd post my thoughts on an album by an artist that you really do need to know about.   

Many fans of the music produced by bands such as Meshuggah, Cynic, Atheist and a host of subterranean metal offerings will be familiar with jazz fusion rhythms married to overt metal stylings. What almost all of this music has in common is that the artists are all identifiably metal musicians.

So, what of the polar opposite then?  

In the recent past, outstanding releases by ‘non-metal,’ jazz-themed artists such as Brandon Seabrook, whom The Village Voice named as "NYC's Best Guitarist of 2012", offer determinedly metal sounds. Are highly trained and extraordinarily skilled musicians turning their hand to metal? The journey continues with Dan Weiss and his remarkable album, Starebaby.

Starebaby is a collection of musical sketches bought together as cuts to comprise an album. One should endeavour to listen to the album as a unit to ensure the full musical narrative is understood. Like so much rewarding music, it’s far from immediate and will take some getting used to for the garden variety metal fan.  

The album opens with “A Punchers Chance.” Minor guitar chords entice the listener until Weiss, and former Mr. Bungle bassist Trevor Dunn set the tone of the cut with a brooding marriage of deep bass and hi-hats. The guitarists offer plenty of scale-based noodling complimenting Dunn’s performance.  

Keyboardist/ Pianist Craig Taborn introduces second cut “Depredation” alongside Weiss’s tom and cymbal rhythm. Elements of the great Sun Ra filter through this cut; the instrumentation could be isolated and paired separately remaining musical; lots of new melodies. Wails of feedback and distortion familiar to those who find solace in Sunn O))) and Japanese legends Boris, ends the cut.

During a recent conversation with Weiss, he confirmed that fourth cut “Badalamenti” is a tribute to the composer Angelo Badalamenti. His work includes scoring Blue Velvet, the Twin Peaks saga (1990–1992, 2017) and Mulholland Drive. Given the absence of vocals across the album, the keys do a remarkable job relaying a vocal aesthetic hinting at the chaos and confusion Laura Palmer may have experienced when crossing over into BOB’s calamitous universe.

The guitar leads/ solo on “Cry Box” veer toward the type offered by Meshuggah‘s genius in residence, Fredrik Thordendal. From the reviewer’s perspective, this is the cut readers of the publication may want to listen to first before settling into the entire album.

Starebaby’s enduring moment occurs through “The Memory of My Memory”. Dunn’s colossal bass throb combines with a percussive performance by Weiss that has more than just a few nods to Terrorizer and former Morbid Angel percussionist, Peter Sandoval. No doubt unintended by Weiss, however it was also very exciting to learn that Weiss is familiar with Sandoval.

The final track, “Episode 8” is the reviewers favourite cut; an epic 14-minute odyssey diving deep into the most challenging aspects of the music offered across the disc. Virtually indescribable.  

Without turning the review into a track by track analysis, there is an extravaganza of unique twists and turns throughout the album that offers a particularly rewarding listening experience to the metal fan. This is not an album that exists for the supreme technical talents of Weiss to be demonstrated at the expense of emotion, feel and what some may even classify as sensitivity.  

Starebaby is a challenging look into the musical soul of one of the most vital composers and arrangers in the music biz. The fact that Weiss has found the inspiration to produce music that can be appreciated by metal fans offers a once in a blue moon opportunity for listeners to enjoy jazz-based compositions where they may have eschewed the genre.  

Starebaby is the most inspiring, thus essential release under the huge banner of ‘metal’ for many, many years.

Purchase the album here: https://danweiss.bandcamp.com   

Follow Dan here: http://www.danweiss.net