Bryan Beller is one of the best bassist on the planet. I would venture to say that he is also the most underrated as well. Many people know him as one third of The Aristocrats. But Bellar has played with shredders Joe Satriani and Steve Vai, plus the insanely talented Mike Keneally and been a part of some of James LaBrie’s solo albums…to name just a few.
“Scenes From The Flood” is his latest solo album and it’s a double concept album, a prog tour de force if you will. Well, let’s hang on there. There are very few double prog albums that SHOULD be double albums. Even classics like “The Wall” or “The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway” have filler on them in my opinion. I realize many will disagree. And let’s not even get into “The Astonishing”!!
“Scenes From The Flood” is an 18 song, 88 minute album about a storm and it’s aftermath. It has 26 different musicians on it: Christopher Allis, Bryan Beller, Nili Brosh, Paul Cartwright, Darran Charles, Julian Coryell, Mike Dawes, Janet Feder, Guthrie Govan, Ray Hearne, Gene Hoglan, Mike Keneally, Jamie Kime, Fred Kron, Teddy Kumpel, Jake Howsam Lowe, Evan Mazunik, Nate Morton, Rick Musallam, Mike Olekshy, Griff Peters, John Petrucci, Matt Rohde, Joe Satriani, Rishabh Seen, Joe Travers, and Leah Zeger. It’s a full house. But the album rests fully on Beller and his composition skills.
The album is a bit inconsistent for me. There are some amazing songs on it, some filler and others that I just don’t care for. Sadly, there are some skippable songs. There’s a good single album in here for sure. The style from song to song does vary at times but not in a good way. For example, “Volunteer State” (with Satriani) is a great tune. But then “Everything And Nothing” comes next and there’s spoken word over an awesome bass line. Great music ruined by an audiobook moment. “A Quickening” is next and I skip it each time. It’s an electronic piece that sounds out of place and well, it’s annoying.
“Steiner In Ellipses” should have followed “Volunteer State.” It rips and would have kept the momentum going. I don’t mind variety as long as the songs are good. Sadly they just aren’t. “Always Worth It” is aptly named as it’s one of the albums best tracks. But then it’s followed by a strange acoustic guitar/bells duet called “Lookout Mountain.” I guess they are bells but they sound out of tune and yes annoying.
“The Storm” is another rocker that I really enjoy with another momentum killer after it in “The Flood.” “The Flood” isn’t a bad song really. It’s a piano driven ambient piece which somewhat offsets the track prior. “Bunkistan” is a groovy track that has some excellent bass work by Beller. I’m sure many assume that a bassist’s solo album would be one massive bass solo but that’s far from the truth here. “As Advertised” is another keeper while “Army Of The Black Rectangles” is undone by terrible vocals (I assume by the man himself).
“The Outer Boundary” is another bit of filler. “Angles & Exits” is a dreary track with more shaky vocals. Hey I can’t sing so I admire the bravery but it just doesn’t work for me. “The Inner Boundary” is yes more filler. Things get really going with the massive “World Class” which is definitely one of the best tracks. The album closes out with “Sweet Water” which builds up so well before exploding into “Let Go Of Everything.” The last track is a synth throbbing finale that actually does work well.
I think that about 80% of “Scenes From The Flood” works out with the rest of it sounding like it might’ve best been left off. It’s not the Aristocrats though I could certainly hear a few of these songs on one of their albums. It has a lot of styles, and lots of fine playing. The orchestral moments give it a cinematic feel and maybe that would have been a direction this could have gone. A movie soundtrack with no movie. “Scenes From The Flood” is a bold statement from a talented artist and composer, it just could have used a few less scenes.
The Scouring Of Three & Seventeen
Everything And Nothing
Steiner In Ellipses
Always Worth it
Army Of The Black Rectangles
The Outer Boundary
Angles & Exits
The Inner Boundary
Let Go Of Everything
Release Date: 13 September 2019