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Jason Bieler – Songs for the Apocalypse


Album Review: JASON BIELER & THE BARON VON BIELSKI ORCHESTRA Songs for the Apocalypse

8.5/10 Reviewer

Vocalist/guitarist Jason Bieler is no stranger to impressive collaborations. Be it with heavy outfits like Saigon Kick, Talisman, and Super TransAtlantic, or through various other projects, the hard rock/glam metal musician always works with noteworthy players to produce appealing results. His latest LP, Songs for the Apocalypse (released under the guise of Jason Bieler and The Baron von Bielski Orchestra), is easily the most magnificent example yet of that characteristic fervor and ability. Featuring a who’s who roster of guests, the disc is a wonderfully theatrical, multifaceted, and hard-hitting journey that’s sure to stay at the top of Bieler’s musical accomplishments for years to come.

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The amount of major genre names involved here is staggering, with Todd LaTorre (Queensrÿche), Devin Townsend, Bumblefoot, Clint Lowery (Sevendust), and Dave Ellefson (Megadeth) among the line-up. In the official press release, Bieler describes the album as what might happen “if Neurosis  got stuck in a blizzard at a Wawa with Supertramp, then Jellyfish showed up and they all decided to do Barry Manilow covers in the style of Meshuggah, but in waltz time with slight country underpinnings.” While the end result isn’t that diverse or experimental, its mixture of luscious harmonies and raucous but fun and inviting instrumentation justifies those comparisons to some extent.

The record’s greatest strength is its sleek and welcoming catchiness, with many of the tracks oozing sing-along allure. The first proper song, “Apology,” begins with a Big Elf-esque slice of carnival atmosphere before launching into an accessible rocker reminiscent of Fates Warning, Alice in Chains, and King’s X. Slightly psychedelic effects decorate the landscape as well, adding a touch of artsy vibrancy to an otherwise upfront arrangement.  Subsequent tunes like “Down in a Hole,” “Stones Will Fly,” “Born of the Sun,” and “Alone in the World” achieve an equal level of straightforward appeal with noteworthy nuances enhancing their sense of eccentric adventurousness and dense chemistry.

As enjoyable and commendable as those pieces are, though, it’s the songs that are even less conventional and more audacious that truly demonstrate Bieler and company’s specialness. In particular, “Annalise” and “Crab Claw Dan” are almost otherworldly in their trippy rhythms and dreamily off-kilter vocal layers.  They’re soothing and gentle but also mysterious, conveying what might happen if Jolly went deeper into their therapeutic transcendences.

Similarly, the instrumental “Horror Wobbles the Hippo” lives up to its curious and cartoonish title by offering a dissonantly symphonic voyage of jazzy guitar work and bizarre accompaniments. With its odd timbres and humorously abrasive voices, “Beyond Hope” is like a radio-friendly Igorrr or Mr. Bungle piece; in contrast, “Baby Driver” is reminiscent of Townsend’s own ambient trajectories by being minimalistic and comforting but with a tinge of strange colorfulness. Lastly, the prologue and epilogue—“Never Ending Circle” and “Fkswyso,” respectively—tie it all together with enchanting thematic continuity.

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At the heart of it all, of course, is Bieler’s signature style. As such, Songs for the Apocalypse sees him stretching his artistic breadth by evoking a vast array of imaginative lenses, yet never deviating too far from what fans love about his tried-and-true vision. Best of all, it’s a record that’s instantly gratifying and memorable but also full of enough intriguing subtleties to make repeating listens rewarding. If Bieler continues to employ the idiosyncratic flavors of friends and peers (while venturing into weirder and freer territories), there’s no telling how exciting and fascinating his next sequence will be.

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