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Black Light Syndrome

Bozzio/Levin/Stevens - Black Light Syndrome ©1997 Magna Carta
1. Sun Road
2. Dark Corners
3. Duende
4. Black Light Syndrome
5. Falling In Circles
6. Back Of Hours
7. Chaos/Control

Having heard (and reviewed) the trio's excellent second album (Situation Dangerous) before Black Light Syndrome, reviewing their first CD now feels a little awkward, as it may be somewhat unfair to find an earlier album inferior to its successor after the fact. But as Black Light Syndrome clearly isn't worthy of its makers, it deserves to be exposed as a substandard piece of work regardless of chronology. So here we go.

Black Light Syndrome has our three little pigs going at it on their instruments much the way you would expect them to, Stevens being predictably inferior to his acolytes. Unlike the follow-up album, however, the production is rather flat and the songs lack both energy and direction. One five-minute jam at the end of an album can be entertaining, but close to seventy minutes of unstructured playing with very forgettable bits of melody here and there just doesn't cut it, and the listener will likely hover around the skip button more than once. Even Tony Levin disappoints, as his pitch on the fretless bass is far from perfect in numerous occasions. Only Terry Bozzio's innovative drumming (especially on "Duende") may redeem the album, if one is a drummer.

The rest of the world would be well advised to obtain Situation Dangerous and forget that BLS ever released a first album.

Review by Rog The Frog Billerey-Mosier

Review date: 10/2000

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Situation Dangerous

Bozzio/Levin/Stevens - Situation Dangerous ©2000 Magna Carta
1. Dangerous
2. Endless
3. Crash
4. Spiral
5. Melt
6. Tragic
7. Tziganne
8. Lost

Ubiquitous uber-players Terry Bozzio, Tony Levin and Steve "pipsqueak" Stevens return with their second instrumental trio release, Situation Dangerous, following 1997's Black Light Syndrome.

The label, Bozzio's pedigree (Zappa) and Levin's day job (King Crimson) made me fear that I was in for ponderously polyrhythmic prog poop, but the presence of Stevens, one of the most overrated "virtuosi" of the 80s, reassured me. As the guitar was undoubtedly to be the lead instrument, I suspected that Stevens would carve a safe niche for his handful of licks and rein in his colleagues' aspirations to complexity.

And indeed, there's nary a complex meter change on this record. What we have instead is a set of really solid, melodic, rocking compositions, permeated with the faux-flamenco flavor of Stevens' new persona. Metal numbers alternate with fully or partially acoustic pieces, with Levin grooving on all sorts of basses or leading on the cello and Bozzio kicking booty in the background. He also gets to display his tuned-drum soloing ("Tziganne," with a silly extra "n"). The metal-cum-flamenco-ish "Tragic" evokes a couple of Marc Bonilla's thoroughly enjoyable second solo CD American Matador. Stevens' soloing is adequate (considering the league he's playing in), and he plays melodies with conviction. My only beef is that the acoustic instruments were recorded direct and not miked, which always sounds like proboscis monkey dung.

In short, an excellent straight instrumental metal album, a pleasant departure from Magna Carta's notoriously overcooked output.

Review by Rog The Frog Billerey-Mosier

Review date: 09/2000

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