Band: Not Otherwise Specified | Album: Deadweight | Genre: Progressive rock | Year: 2019
From: Atlanta, USA | Label: Weeping Angel Studios
For fans of: Dream Theater, Kansas, IQ, Riverside, Spock’s Beard
When progressive rock first emerged as a distinct genre, the United States were slow to make a sound for themselves. The Brits were the genre’s progenitors, and they largely defined its archetypes and evolution. “Anglo-prog” is an awfully broad swathe of musical styles, but it conjures up a definite set of sounds. The Italians forged a unique niche, and the French, Spaniards, and Yugoslavs had their own identifiable quirks as well, to say nothing of Krautrock.
The American sound that eventually did emerge was pioneered by bands like Kansas and Starcastle: derived from the Anglo sound but grander, more bombastic, and less subtle. Not Otherwise Specified (NOS), while unmistakably modern, draw heavily from that mid-70s American sound.
Deadweight opens with a pair of instrumentals: the first being mellow and keyboard-driven, and the second being heavier, with Mellotron, electric piano, and distorted guitar trading the lead. NOS aim for grandiosity, and they achieve it, with no small amount of cheese.
Not only do NOS draw from bands like Kansas, they also pull heavily from the first wave of progressive metal. The guitar tones and dramatic vocals are reminiscent of acts like Fates Warning and Dream Theater. “Memories”, the first song to feature vocals on the album, is a huge, melodramatic piece that covers a dizzying amount of ground in under six minutes. Spanning from its gentle opening, to its soaring, dramatic midsection, up to its almost Van der Graaf Generator-sounding finale, this song is something of a sampler for what’s to come.
The music on Deadweight is consistently heavy. Had this album come out in 1988, this would have been considered a progressive metal album, but metal’s definition has shifted over the ensuing decades. The instrumental “Wandering in the Wilderness” typifies this. It features an organ solo that wouldn’t have been out of place in a Steppenwolf song, and the combination of the rich string textures and majestic guitar solo lend this piece some gravitas.
This album isn’t without its flaws. And first and foremost is that it’s just too long. At around an hour long, NOS could have trimmed off about ten minutes here and there and made this a much stronger album. A handful of songs noticeably began to drag. The other major gripe I have is that Deadweight leans heavily on progressive rock tropes. More specifically, it leans on bands like Kansas and Spock’s Beard. Those are bands I enjoy, but the cheese factor is often somewhat high for my taste.
All things considered, Deadweight is a good album. I enjoy it a lot, and NOS have a lot of potential to become one of the more exciting bands in the progressive rock world.