Out now on Lion Music
John Macaluso is arguably one of the metal world’s best known (and most active) drummers largely thanks to work with Ark. Yngwie Malmsteen and with Dream Theater’s James LaBrie. So what can you expect when a drummer makes a solo album? Well in the case of John Macaluso & Union Radio then a damn fine progressive album in ‘The Radio Waves Goodbye’. The vibe of the album is quite varied with a number of different styles that all managed to remain progressive throughout the 13 tracks on offer. Yes the emphasis seems more on grooves and keyboard textures (reminiscent of Pink Floyd in this respect) as opposed to pure musical masturbation and guitar overload (although there is still a lot of guitar to be enjoyed) and this really makes the album shine with originality, the album is also home to a great production with superb sonic spread – listening with headphones is a truly dazzling experience!
Opener “Soul In Your Mind” is the most accessible track for progressive metal fans to get into with a sound that recalls the best of Dream Theater which may suggest the reason why it fits James LaBrie’s vocals to a tee. There is a tremendous amount of variation in this track alone yet it remains a cohesive track from start to finish and is home to an insanely addictive chorus. “Mother Illusion” begins with Macaluso laying down some drum patterns which verge on jazz and the vibe almost verges on ambient dance at times, yet the vocals from Mike DiMeo keep this within the rock field. “The Prayer Pill” sees the ambient sound continue coming across as a prog rock version of Portishead to these ears aside from the vocals of Adrian Holtz. Up next is another dazzling track in “Dissolved” which sounds like classic Pink Floyd (Animals era) with 21st century attitude and a large dose of adrenaline for good measure. Mike Dimeo’s vocals are sublime here and this track will surely be a contender for song of 2007.
“Gates To Bridges” is another super cool slice of what is now becoming trademark Macaluso with a nice balance between the restraint verse and powerful chorus. Vitalij Kurpij throws down some great keyboard solos whilst Marco Sfogli adds some sublime guitar work especially over the double time solo section. The track is as will its predecessors enhanced by phenomenal drum work which only adds to the song and manages to groove – something many drummers in a prog environment could learn from. “Shimmering Grey” begins atmospheric with a sustained chord over which we get guitar volume swells (again quite Pink Floyd) yet rumblings of something darker enter at around the 1:00 mark, the way the track builds shows an almost architectural approach to song writing and shows Macaluso has a very good idea of what to do in terms of overall musical perspective. The chorus is again very strong and sounds almost Kings X to these ears with strong vocal harmonies. The 7:33 long “T-34” is epic in approach and comes across as a movie score to some fantasy epic to these ears, it’s musically very visual and has arguably the most impressive music in terms of technicality on the album and will keep prog buffs happily dissecting the music bar by bar for hours.
“Staring ‘Pain’” is another strong track that has several different nuances all working together in harmony whilst Macaluso gets to show off his drum chops in the solo track “Pretzel” complete with comedy intro. “Yesterday I’ll Understand” begins with a nice Fender Rhodes intro before we are treated to another superb vocal performance this time from Don Chaffin and this track has hit single written all over it, modern in approach in many respects with another killer chorus. “The Six Foot Under Happy Man” see Macaluso take an oddball journey into show time jazz and to be honest it sounds totally out of place on the album but I presume its here for a reason. “Things You Should Not Know” sees the music head back into more familiar waters with another compelling drum pattern leading the track although it will take a few listens to get into this one as its quite disjointed in places. The album closes with “Away With Words” which is a nice atmospheric instrumental (aside from some tribal chanting) and in a way the track seems to resolve everything heard elsewhere making for a nice calming end to the album.
“The Radio Waves Goodbye” really is a very unique album. I don’t think there is any other album reviewed here on this site that you can compare it to. There are traces of influence throughout yet John Macaluso has managed to add his own stamp to the progressive genre with an impressive collection of tracks that really have something for fans from all angles of this varied genre from past to present. Overall the album is a very rewarding experience after a few listens and could well be the surprise package of 2007.
RATING – 94%