As I continue reviewing albums, the one thing I always look forward to are the bands unlike anyone I’ve ever reviewed before. They come around every couple of months or so. This time around is California band Mondo Drag and their soon to be released album The Occultation of Light. Their psychedelic sound mixed with classic progressive rock influences and their jam band physique make for an interesting project.
While jam bands tend to bore me – at least the ones as of late who feature fourteen minute songs of nothing put on record – Mondo Drag choose a more entertaining route. The Occultation of Light is filled with songs that don’t feature much singing, but a lot of music, only this music sounds well rehearsed, and whether or not it is spontaneity or it is all pre-conceived, the music just sounds good and settled, rather than all over the damn place.
Only two songs on The Occultation of Light surpass six minutes: Dying Light and The Eye. Dying Light introduces things nicely with an almost three minute instrumental introduction mostly filled with entertaining keyboard melodies before Mondo Drag keyboardist/vocalist John Gamino comes in to sing, but the singing is only limited to two brief verses. The main centre of focus is the progressive instrumentation that makes the entire almost eight minutes of the song go by in what seems like four minutes. Then there is The Eye. It’s a much slower track that builds up momentum slowly as it goes, in such a unique way that by the time it starts to speed up, you don’t realize it’s been three minutes. Once again, it only features brief vocals, which is a common theme throughout much of the songs on the album.
Along with these two songs are another six intelligent tracks equally as progressively psychedelic as the next with as little vocals as possible. The only songs that have more than a couple of short verses are Out of Sight, Rising Omen and Ride The Sky, but even so, these songs still focus so much more attention to their music rather than singing. I like how old fashioned the songs sound. It’s hard to single out any songs on The Occultation of Light as to which sounds more or less like a classic rock tune, as Mondo Drag‘s progressive intelligence is pretty much full swing on every track.
I do find a strong Deep Purple sound in a lot of Mondo Drag‘s though. Most specifically when they sound more hard rock than progressive rock. I noticed it big time yesterday when Rising Omen came up on my shuffle. I could have sworn it was a Deep Purple song that I somehow didn’t know, thanks to the very Jon Lord sounding organ that starts it off. Many of the guitar riffs as well have a Deep Purple-ness to them, and Ventura Garcia‘s drumming can be as crazy as Ian Paice‘s, though I can compare his playing to plenty of other innovation drummers from the 70s hard rock scene. I’d call the sound of the songs on The Occultation of Light a crossover between Deep Purple and King Crimson.
At first listen I couldn’t help but notice how all eight The Occultation of Light tracks have the same to similar tempo. With the exception of The Eye which goes from especially slow to only a slightly faster tempo the rest of the tracks, Mondo Drag wrote most of these songs in the same tempo which is kind of a bad thing, particularly for the average listener. It may make them think all the songs sound the same. However, that is far from the truth. The Occultation of Light is easily the most unique progressive rock album I’ve ever reviewed. It’s also the most unique psychedelic album and jam album I’ve ever reviewed too. It’s not the best of any of them (well, maybe the best jam album) but it’s surely one I enjoy.
Thanks for reading!
“Incendiary Procession” – It’s uncharacteristic to pick the only full instrumental on the album as the highlight, but most of the songs only barely have singing anyway. This song best exemplifies how well Mondo Drag can jam out a tune that sounds anything but aimless and can keep listeners entertained throughout the entire duration of the song.
7.5 (Out of 10)
|2.||Out of Sight 4:00|
|3.||Rising Omen 5:22|
|4.||Incendiary Procession 4:10|
|5.||The Eye 6:24|
|6.||In Your Head (Parts I & II) 5:14|
|7.||Dying Light 7:52|
|8.||Ride The Sky 3:33|