Whilst I don’t believe that we’ve gone into any in-depth discussion on this album, we at Prog Talk feel that Thank You Scientists’ Stranger Heads Prevail deserves a little bit more attention on our part – well, at least the people who are part of this mini-Roundabout. Thank You Scientist are a progressive rock band hailing from New Jersey that flaunt a heavy jazz fusion flair, and have been making waves in the progressive music scene with their sophomore album, Stranger Heads Prevail, released July 29th 2016 through Evil Ink Records, founded by Claudio Sanchez of Coheed and Cambria fame.
But what do we make of Stranger Heads Prevail? What do YOU make of it? Feel free to share your thoughts about the albums or our reviews in the comments section below!
As ever, our Roundabouts are a compilation of each admin’s independent reviews, and collectively, Prog Talk does not have an official, unanimous stance on any album – any circle-jerking or lack thereof is completely incidental. Anyway, without further ado, let’s talk prog:
I went into this album blind, never having heard Thank You Scientist‘s debut album, Maps of Non-Existent Places. But instead of gushing about how much I love this album, I’m going to bring to light the aspects of Stranger Heads Prevail that I find particularly weak – and then I’m going to gush about how much I love this album.
Now I’m not sure if the album has some grand conceptual narrative behind it all, but the first and final tracks are a little too self-aware that they’re contained within an album: ‘Prologue…A Faint Applause’ and its pseudo-reprise ‘Epilogue…And the Clever Depart’ remind me of The Killers’ ‘Enterlude’ and ‘Exitlude’ from Sam’s Town, only more boy-bandish and with heaps more West End cheese. Admittedly, even I find it hard not to crack a smile at it. Though with lines such as “Moving along / Singing a song / It might be a little cliché”, I do hope that it’s intentionally exuberant and tongue-in-cheek as Thank You Scientist lean precariously against the fourth wall. Compared to the rest of the album’s bounding tracks, these bookends feel sluggish – I feel that Stranger Heads Prevail would’ve fared even better to hit the ground running with all saxes blazing in the chaotic opening to ‘The Somnambulist’. But oh well, nothing a ‘next song’ button can’t fix.
I feel there are few, very few, foul tasting clashes within the album in terms of the bands stylistic execution. Especially in the opening track ‘Prologue…’, there are a number of fast, descending-then-rising chromatic licks that feel intentionally comedic when played on piano and xylophone (think ‘Spooky Scary Skeletons’) – I feel that these don’t sit well at all alongside the intensity of the rest of the album’s powerful choruses and intense riffs. In Stranger Heads Prevail, these conflicting styles result in disturbances I just can’t ignore – mountains out of molehills, yes, but otherwise this album is relatively mole-free.
Don’t get me wrong – whilst it looks like I’m condemning more than commending this album, it’s harder for me to articulate my praise into something more tangible than effeminate squeals.
Stranger Heads Prevail‘s variance between jazz, Coheed-esque alternative metal, symphonic and progressive rock elements is fantastic. There’s plenty of fun in the fast paced guitar and sax duels, such as the intro to ‘Caverns’; the ‘do-wops’ in ‘Psychopomp’ and even the prog metal wankery in the climax to ‘The Amateur Arsonist’s Handbook’ – a trope that usually gets my eyes rolling. On the other end of the spectrum, ‘A Wolf in Cheap Clothing’s wailing guitar and vocal duel is touchingly sorrowful and the delicate; and the violin laden end to ‘Need More Input’ feels delicately math rock, even Steve Reich-ian. Moments like these show that Thank You Scientist are more than capable of being sensitive as well as having boundless energy. But the main driver of the album, and one thing that I love more than the saxophone melodies, is Salvatore Marrano’s heart-melting vocals – they are unwaveringly powerful and near sensual in the verses of ‘Mr Invisible’ and the chorus in ‘Need More Input’.
Overall, I find Stranger Heads Prevail to be a stellar album, with only a few nit-picky flaws: the album’s thankfully short opener and closer. If that fat was cut off, it could have potentially been my prog album of the year. Though saying that, what’s my #1? You’ll just have to wait and see in the New Year. In the meantime, check this album out, you won’t be disappointed.
Listen to ‘Mr Invisible’ through Evil Ink Records here:
American collective Thank You Scientist has been a name on my radar since their debut Maps of Non-Existent Places, a fresh and excellent release that went on to become a fan favorite for many, yet we craved for more. Thankfully, our prayers have been answered, and everything that made that record good has been amped to 11 on Stranger Heads Prevail, their sophomore album.
What makes this band and this album so good? Simple: their amazing combination of progressive rock, metal and jazz. Heavy riffs, catchy choruses and saxophone/trumpet duets make Thank You Scientist so unique and fun to hear. I can’t help but smile when ‘Prologue: A Faint Applause…’ starts, because it reminds me so much of The Dear Hunter’s intros, sounding like a big band about to go full on into display.
There is not one single track in this album that falls short of greatness, each one has its own twist that will amaze and surprise you. Highlights of this album have to be ‘The Somnambulist’, ‘Mr. Invisible’, ‘Psychopomp’ and the jazziest track of them all ‘Rude Goldberg Variations’. Stranger Heads Prevail clocks at almost 70 minutes, but I assure you that you’ll keep playing the replay button after the epilogue.
Thank You Scientist have proved once again their winning formula with this album, definitely on my Top 10 of this year; if you haven’t checked it yet, stop reading this and by all means, listen to it! You’ll have a very good time.
So there you have it, all two of us seem to love Thank You Scientist’s latest album Stranger Heads Prevail – it’s definitely deserved the hype surrounding the album. Here’s to hoping their next album is just as stellar. What’s your thoughts on this album? Did you love it as much as Symphony and myself? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below!