As a child I always liked the musical “The Magic Flute” by Mozart. It was so enchanting. But given that my father only owned two records, which were Led Zeppelin III and IV, my imagination of magical music was a bit different from what good old Wolfgang imagined. A good example for what I believe is magical music come from the band Black Neon District with their debut Standing Waves, which will come out on the 9th of February.
Just listen to the first track, “Emergence”, and you will understand. Starting with a massive drum roll, it gets clear right away that the production on this album is as dense as a black hole. In contrast to that, the guitar dances over the thick undertones in an almost fairy like manor. Sweeping runs, chromatic note patterns, and bright funky melodies vividly play together to form a sense of wonder and astonishment that would really please my younger self. But this wouldn’t be a prog record if there wasn’t a change of pace once in a while – and by ‘once in a while’, I mean quite a lot.
After a short groovy bit, the band locks into a slow tranquil clean part, where we’re also introduced to the vocals. As the distortion slowly seeps back in, the guitar builds to an epic melodic verse while the bass maintains the foundation for this recipe. The vocals can almost be called poppy, and while you can definitely hear the production they’ve gone through, they sound quite charming; neither too raspy, nor too shrill. After building back into the intro riffs an almost old-school sounding solo brings enough nostalgia to feel familiar with what’s going on, but still authentic enough to feel like you are experiencing them for the first time. To my surprise Black Neon District hits with a very Animals As Leaders sounding interlude that just puts the very on top of what might be the best desert for any progger.
Of course after hearing that interlude I had to look farther into the record. While keeping their own style the band goes through every stereotype that has ever been good about the prog genre while leaving out everything that made it corny or worse. Every song shines in its own unique light while never straying to far from what fans of the band will all hold close to their heart. Authenticity. Black Neon District delivers the entire performance with dignity and grace in a genre so often weighed down by formulas and inorganic sound.
What really stunned me was how confident the band is. The songwriting is nice and catchy the playing is very tight and almost reminiscent of Closure in Moscow, only harder. The production is mostly quite good, though I still have some complaints. The drums and guitar are very overpowering, and the bass and vocals don’t come through as strong as they could be. Black Neon District certainly has a bright future ahead of them, and they show a very strong skill sets to begin with. I’m definitely keeping an eye on them and everything they will be releasing.
Notable Tracks: “Emergence”; “Resurgence”
FFO: Closure in Moscow, (old) Intervals