Aztec Jade - Frame Of Mind


Year of Release: 1998
Label: CMG Records
Catalog Number: n/a
Format: CD
Total Time: 42:34:00

Out of the state of New York comes this 5-piece outfit called Aztec Jade. With the few known American Prog Metal bands in existence, it makes me proud and hopeful that there is a future for American Prog Metal bands. Not only that, it's a great sign that bands seem to be coming out of the woodwork and producing nice discs like this. I am not sure if this band is on a label or not, it is hard to tell from the disc insert. There is a name of The Capitol Music Group printed on the disc, but I am not sure if this is an indy label, or something that the band has named [CMG may be part of CBS/Sony Records - ed.] If the band is not signed to a label, they should be.

THE STYLE

This is definitely prog metal with a slew of different influences coming from within ... the sound is guitar / keyboard driven melodic prog metal, with the band having a sound somewhere between the keyboarded sound of Divine Regale, similar song structures to say a Poverty's No Crime, and maybe some Dream Theater influenced melodies as well. While the band is not as heavy as the ones mentioned, the band definitely belongs in the metal category. The disc is song structured, meaning that the band strives to write songs built around lyrics, instead of the lyrics built around music, meaning that you won't find long, drawn out instrumentals here, or solos abound by any of these players. Considering that the disc is only 42 minutes long, it's not hard to see why it is structured in this manner. Basically, the band sounds like they were out to create a "dramatic", "emotional" piece of work judging by the lyrics and the melodies. While at times it sounds like the music sounds almost "happy," there are times when the music sounds downright "dramatic." In essence, some of the music wants to make you tap your foot, while some of it wants you to bang your head; it's a nice mixture of emotional input that this band has injected into their music. Overall, look for nicely laid out melodies, and this is the emphasis on the songs, but also look for some nice progressive elements within the music.

THE BAND:

A 5-piece set up. Vocals, guitar, bass, drums and keyboards. With an emphasis on vocals and keyboards; just the way I like it. Sure there is guitar all over the disc, but the keyboards and vocal sounds make this thing stick out like a sore thumb. While the bass and drums are busy laying down the foundation for the sound, the guitar / keyboards / singer belt out the sometimes "pretty" sounding melodies. Every now and then you will hear a short guitar solo, or a keyboard synth solo, and even some drum runs, but in the end this band is bent on writing songs in which you will be able to hum to long after you put the disc down. An example of this would be the song, "Nosferatu," in which the chorus keeps coming to haunt you just like the character of old.

THE VOCALS:

Definitely one of the highlights for me, is the singer, Leon Ozug. The strange thing about Leon is that I hear about 10 different singers in his voice, and I can't name a single one of them. Basically, he is a mid-range operatic vocalist, but with an emphasis on "pleasant". There isn't a thing annoying about his voice, and knowing my weak spot for singers, it was a pleasure to hear his first notes which made me smile with joy, knowing that I could continue on to listen to the music not having to wonder what he might try to do with his voice along the way. I wish I could describe his voice to you in a simplistic manner. I hear maybe a combination of the singer from The Quest, a tiny bit of a Roy Khan tone, and a host of others that I can't put my finger on at the moment. Suffice it to say that he has a very pleasant tone, and he makes the music really stick out with his clear, precise, emotional tone.

THE PRODUCTION:

Whether or not this is self-produced, it is well done. For the most part, every instrument is very clear in the mix, and once again, someone thought that the singer should be heard first and foremost. How many prog metal discs can listen to the words without having to look at the lyric sheet? Not many. In the case of Aztec Jade, there is no need to read much of anything except the names of the band members. The vocals are so clear that it is quite easy to hear every single word the singer is singing. All of the other instruments are well mixed, with the keyboards really shining through on this one. However, the guitars are clear as well, and even the bass can be heard separate and apart from the other instruments. The drum sounds are the only real complaint I have, and it's such a small one that to most it's not even worth mentioning. The snare drum has that "cardboard" type sound that plagues a lot of indy bands, although it really is a matter of opinion as to whether you like a natural sound like this one, or one that is artificially reproduced. Other than that small tidbit of a complaint, I can't find much to argue about here in the sound dept; some bands wish they could sound this good.

THE COMMENTS:

Overall, I am quite happy with this release, as I am sure the band is. It's always a surprise to be able to get in a disc that you know nothing about and enjoy it as much as I am. Mind you, I am not speaking ground-breaking, mind-blowing material here, but then how many discs actually do that ? For most prog metal fans looking for something new and fresh, this is a good disc to track down. Just the fact that the band comes from America tells me that there are many more bands out there just waiting to be heard, and I hope that more bands start coming out of the woodwork and are able to produce good music like Aztec Jade, showing us that prog metal is still alive and well around the world.


Tracklisting:
The Calling (4:19) / To Believe (5:12) / Mad Not Crazy (4:16) / Desperate Land (2:58) / Nosferatu (4:37) / Return To Atlantis (4:25) / Regatta Fugue Part II (3:25) / Stained (4:19) / Gates Of Babylon (4:15) / Requiem (4:30)

Musicians:
Bryan Kowalski - bass
Timothy Becker - keyboards
Leon Ozug - vocals
Matthew Howenstein - guitars
Richard Miller - drums

Discography:
Aztec Jade (1994)
Modern Prophet (1995)
Primitive Traxx (1997)
Frame Of Mind (1997)
Paradise Lost (2000)
Concrete Eden (2001)

Genre: Progressive-Power Metal

Origin US

Added: July 25th 1999
Reviewer: Larry "LarryD" Daglieri

Artist website: www.aztecjade.com
Hits: 830
Language: english

  

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