Deep Thought

a progressive rock adventure

Reviews - Somewhere in the dark

Progressive World

Stephanie Sollow

Somewhere In The Dark is the culmination of what the band previously released on their two independent EPs, Morphios and Shadows Of The Past, adding 4 additional tracks. This album was released in 2002 - so yes, it's been awaiting review awhile - two years after the EPs. So, listening to the tracks here became a fairly fresh experience - in fact, it wasn't until I looked at the song titles that I realized that I heard many of them before. Interestingly enough, comparing what I said about some of the tracks then to what I hear now, they don't sound like the same tracks at all.

Deep Thought are a prog band in the style of early Marillion, Jadis, IQ, Pendragon, Pallas, et al. So, yes, you could call this Swiss quintet "neo-prog" with a decided UK flavour. They at least have an understanding of how a "neo-prog" band should sound, even while they don't sound completely like any of the abovementioned bands. They do incorporate elements of all them, fashioning something that is new, even while it is old. There are the parpy keyboards and the upbeat arrangements that mark much in the "neo-prog" style. Fortunately, the similarity ends with style and feel. This is a good thing, especially if you like the "neo" style, but don't care to hear clones. In fact, who Deep Though remind me of is the short-lived band Epilogue, also from the UK - it's a comparison that I also mentioned in a previous review, as well.

The highlight element to Deep Thought is the guitar work of Marcel Oehler, and on "Shadows Of The Past," especially, which features his most prominent performance with a tone that is bright and brassy. His sound is influenced by Steve Rothery - when you hear his liquid guitar playing, you can't help but think of the Marillion guitarist. But, that's not his only mode, as his style of playing changes, depending on the needs of the track while retaining, broadly, a very established "neo-prog" style. "Shadows..." also features the bass of Dominick Rudmann very prominently, about midway through.

While not a lowlight, the least impressive element is in the vocal department. Pat Merz' voice is not a bad voice, it just seems a little "wrong" at times on some notes, a little flat. I don't care for the vocals at all on the newer track "Changing The Rules," a song about spousal abuse. The keyboards (Dominick Pfleghaar) are at the forefront alongside guitar and vocals, though throbbing drums (Martin Altenbach) take over for the choruses. Although rhythmically it gives Deep Thought a chugging metal sound, all the edges are smoothed off, which makes this track a little light. There is a nice, floaty keyboard passage about halfway through, however. Vocally "Morphios" is the strongest of the album's 9 tracks, and doesn't sound wildly different from its earlier counterpart.

The first of the new pieces is "Clock," which can be described as a rather generic prog tune, and sets the tone for the rest of the album, featuring all the various elements that will be heard throughout. Though about halfway through, there is a light, jaunty interlude of plucked guitar notes and a single steady drum beat has an almost Celtic, dance feel to it. "Driving," another new track, is the least interesting. It is rather sparse, sounding as if it were drums and vocals only, though a careful listen will reveal a quietly throbbing bass. Even when this song kicks in with the addition of psychedelic sounds from guitar, there still seems to be something missing, there being what feels like a hole in the mix. Oehler's tart solo is quite nice, however. "Mud On The Hill" is the forth new track and this epic begins rather moodily with quietly rumbling drums, and swirling keyboard and guitars. It's one of the nicer tracks on the album, even as it also seems sometimes to be rather bland. You're waiting for the piece to break free, to explode into something, but... instead slowly builds into something quite tense and intense. The tension breaks, but not as you expect, as it quickly changes back to the comparatively lighter and more relaxed core of the arrangement. This track is more than 14 minutes long, and does venture into an extended instrumental passage, falling somewhere in between on the tension scale. Nice guitar soloing from Oehler, however. What it does demonstrate is that Deep Thought are very good instrumentalists with a good grasp about what appeals about "neo." This track also features a guest vocal performance from Jsabelle J Fischer on vocals (who they should let guest more on their next release).

"Ice" would otherwise be a catchy winner if I felt Merz's vocal performance were stronger. By catchy I don't mean poppy, but the choral verses are such that they become memorable... The mellower, artier middle section is a very nice moment, time seeming to hang in the air while we get more chiming guitar over sparse percussion, solidly, but quietly, throbbing bass and subtle keyboard atmospheres. Ah, before it really jumps into overdrive -- well, overdrive for "neo" -- and puts throbbing bass and sometimes sharp parpy keys front and center - you can't help but think of early-Marillion (Script-era mainly).

Deep Thought are fairly decent and do have some interesting ideas, but there isn't enough, I feel, that will allow them to truly stand out on their own, to break free of the pack of generic "neo-prog" bands.

Rating: 3.25/5