If Umphrey’s McGee, Consider the Source, and Snarky Puppy had a few weeks to hang out and write music, HAGO sounds to me like what could result. This is music written by musicians who are talented enough to perform exactly what they want to hear. Yes, some of them went to Berklee College of Music. Guitarist/main composer Yoel Genin, drummer Yogev Gabay and bassist Guy Bernfeld created the group while studying and soon recruited Nerya Zidon (saxes) and Tom Bar (piano/keys). There are strong jazz components in addition to jazz-fusion, progressive rock, prog-metal, “eastern” scales and modes – yes, they give themselves a “falafel Djent” categorization. Clever and apt.
By the keyboard solo in track 2 (around 3:53) it’s obvious to me that the jazz quotient is increased on HAGO’s debut. “Ezekiel 1.4” features up-tempo, djenty rhythms plus a sax to thicken the melody. The solos are swapped from sax to guitar to synths with ease. The layers of rhythm guitars, bass, sax, piano and keyboards are well crafted and the alternation between “regular” snare and piccolo snare is just another item to affirm that composition is a key element to these compositions.
Progressive Jazz Fusion? Is that redundant? I am no scale wizard, so I can’t identify the scales used on track 3, but the combination of syncopation (do I hear tabla?), “Eastern” scales (is that a fretless guitar?), chunky distorted rhythm guitars; this is a dish made in a kitchen with many flavors that on paper may sound contradictory but the finished product tastes great.
The dynamic change to a slower tempo for “Ancient Secrets” is wise. The fretless bass solo seals the deal for me. And the melody to this song is excellent. But don’t space out; the freak-out at the end is worth paying attention to.
The juxtaposition of hand drums and wicked, far-off guitars on “Rain” brings us into “Shdemati” (written by Yedida Admon, rearranged by Genin) which features male and female vocals sung in Hebrew, stunning layers of harmonies, and more bouncing rhythms. This emotional track is a centerpiece if there ever was one. “Dawn of Machine” is a call-back to track 1 but with more flesh added to that original skeleton.
Alan Watts discusses space at the beginning of “Alpha Centauri,” a disorienting sound collage with weaving guitars that gives way to a short bass solo. The second half of the song reminds me of the music of Thank You Scientist in a major way. Horny-Prog-Metal for the win.
Complex chord voicings lead us to a female voice presented as another melodic instrument on “Aurora.” I believe this song lives on sheet music somewhere; it’s like the quartet is a voice plus three saxophones each taking a different line. Lots of dynamics, some dissonance, thick composition, and a little chaos. The lines between jazz fusion and progressive metal have been braided. “Clockwork” is a third and final companion to the tracks 1 and 7; a tone poem if you will.
“Antikythera” begins as the heaviest track out of them all. This is a progressive jazz sax metal party until (you guessed it) half way though. A solo piano restates the bassline and much more in a segment reminiscent of that Rick Wakeman portion of “South Side of the Sky” by Yes. The bombast returns and soon we’re at “Tralfamadore.” There are extra instruments (trumpet, lauto and a quintet of strings) which elevate this track beyond all previously-used genre descriptions. It’s a soundtrack-quality musical journey. The production is so good you don’t even notice it.
This is a musical buffet! There are obvious influences from many genres and, to be cliché, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. If you enjoy Mahavishnu Orchestra AND Animals as Leaders, this is for you.
- Past Forward 1:32
- Ezekiel 1.4 7:40
- Gefilte Babab 6:00
- Ancient Secrets 8:26
- Rain 1:10
- Shdemati 5:57
- Dawn of Machine 3:11
- Alpha Centauri 4:25
- Aurora 8:37
- Clockwork 1:26
- Antikythera 7:18
- Tralfamadore 8:00
Release Date: January 18, 2018