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Headspace: Rock Metal Bands [2009]

rock_metal_bands

Headspace

As one can infer from the front cover, the band I am about to describe is really unique as for both genre, techniques used and arrangements. I beg forgiveness in sackcloth and ashes because I neglected attention to their previous works, which means I don’t have a touchstone from the past, but hey…there are so many bands around and too many releases. One lifetime couldn’t be enough even if one dedicated their whole free time to music, and I am one who’s very close to that goal actually!

Anyway, the opener “New Material” begins deceiving you by making you think Stratospheerius are in the vein of Red Hot Chili Peppers, but then the electric violin and track plot bring towards T-Ride and the likes. Excellent are the bass lines by the way.

Old Ghosts” is a danceable groovy Rock that has some percussions and hooks that have connections to Santana. The amplified guitar and the violin are the protagonists here and they are perfectly in tune; after all, when the guitar didn’t exist yet, the fiddle was already notorious because of rumors about musicians such as Italian Tartini’s and Niccolò Paganini’s; the latter, perhaps because of his otherworldly skill, had devilish tales swirl around him. In fact, he was rumored to:

  1. Have sold his soul to the devil, or even himself be Satan incarnate
  2. Use the guts of murdered women as string material for his violins
  3. Have been imprisoned for gambling debts

Due to the superstitions surrounding him, and the fact that he didn’t receive last rights before death, permission to bury his body in consecrated ground was withheld until five years after his death, after an official inquiry could be made into his orthodoxy, and his son could give a generous ‘donation’ to the church. Moreover the Evil One, as agent of death and creator of dance, became linked to the violin during the Renaissance period, as depicted by paintings such as Pieter Brueghel’s “The Triumph of Death” and Hendrik Goltzius’s “Couple Playing, with Death Behind“. These introductory statements are necessary as every song is made particular by the acoustic or the electric violin, and this is especially valid for “Sold out“; like all string instruments it is more difficult to play than a piano for instance, because you need more precision but this major effort is repaid by the infinite nuances you can achieve; the solo is therefore vital and this one is – without exaggeration – awesome, since it is played in a guitaristic manner.

Coordinates vary completely with the record highlight, “Today Is Tomorrow“, reminding of Genesis in the vocals and Incubus (USA) when the distorted guitar bursts into; the utmost care was delivered to the guitar licks and the bass windings along with the moog psychedelic inserts make it suitable as a single, whereas “Mental Floss” and “Gutterpunk Blues” are perfect candidates for modern Western flick soundtracks; there’re wah-wah, John Zorn, psychedelia, acoustic guitar, guitar shredding and everything is skillfully performed. Each member is a master of their instrument and the emotive links between the 4 members is real considerable.

The elegance of the cover “Driven to Tears“, originally composed by the Police, melts with the fat bass sinuosity, while the frantic and surgical drum work is closer to a gardener’s chisel; decidedly moving are the lyrics, surpassing the other ones that Sting’s band wrote as for their mordant; such topics are still topical, altho the song is about 25 years old.

Multiformity is guaranteed by New Jersey’s musicians but at the same there’s always a link with the full length as a whole; that’s why “Yulia” is no exception, even tho it deal with Jazz Rock in a fairly free and romanticist way, whereas “Long Rd.” manages to combine Funky rock with a fairly melancholic violin. It may sound like a heresy impossible to realize but Joe Deninzon and his pack made it real!

In conclusion, “Heavy Shtettle Part II: Heavier Shtettle” is the only composition written by four hands together with Mr. Alex Skolnick; curb your headbanging, because it is heavy, especially the final part in crescendo, but it is not Heavy metal and it is based on Middle-East percussions and rhythms; another masterpiece indeed!

One more thing to stress out is the excellent recording giving great attention to detail, which is vital to albums like this.

After all it turned out to be a positive thing that a band of this kind has come out these times; I fear that if they’d started in the 80’s they would have been understood by too few people, while now the public is more mature in all. Surely in the 70’s there was more place for avantgarde artists and labels were not as oppressive and market-oriented as nowadays’, yet it seems unlikely that some major would have signed them, as they are too forward with their minds! About the 90’s enough has been said and the decline of music sales and the excess of releases, so I will limit myself to claim that today’s tighter competition has been a timely useful spur to the four-piece.

The violin has never been made so topical like now, and most of the time its notes stay far from nostalgia or melancholy, the way bands such as My Dying Bride have accustomed us. Were they still alive, my country-fellows Vivaldi and virtuosist Paganini would be crying for joy, but also more recent violinists such as Stravinskij, Prokofiev and Sciostakovic would like to attend a Rock gig of the quartet, no shit!

If you have an open mind, tastes that range from Frank Zappa, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Dave Matthews, Radiohead, Jeff Beck, Bela Fleck and Blues Traveler and are in search of something different, go for this record; for once the band’s name doesn’t exaggerate and is up to the expectations created. No, you won’t get bored even after a century by these 10 tracks, my word!

MARKUS GANZHERRLICH – April 20th, 2009

Line-up on this record:
Mack Price – electric and acoustic guitar, vocals
Lucianna Padmore – drums
Bob Bowen – electric bass, moog, vocals
Joe Deninzon – acoustic violin, 6-string fretless violin, 7-string fretted electric violin, mandolin, lead vocals, acoustic guitar
Benny Koonyevsky- guest percussions

Headspace: Cool Cleveland [2007]

coolcleveland

Headspace
Stratospheerius
Fiddlefunk

It’s familiar, but like absolutely nothing you’ve heard before. That’s about all this reviewer can muster as a lead for reviewing the latest Stratospheerius release, Headspace. Led by electric violinist/vocalist/mandolinist and former Clevelander Joe Deninzon, the quartet unleashes their fourth full-length effort with an assortment of songs that simply careen from your speakers. Following up their critically-acclaimed Live Wires disc, Headspace contains a frenzied mélange of alt-bluegrass, progressive rock, jazz fusion and funkabilly, with shades of the neo-hippie 90s and space rock for good measure. If Bela Fleck and Frank Zappa had a love child in outer space, it might grow up to sound like these guys do.

Band leader Deninzon brings it from the word go, channeling every bit of voracity through his 6 and 7-string Viper electric violin. No joke, he pushes bandmates Mack Price (guitars, vocals) Bob Bowen (electric and acoustic bass) and Lucianna Padmore (drums) into the stratosphere. You know their name is fitting after the set opener “New Material,” which pinballs through an array of time signatures and chord progressions that stop on a dime. In contrast, “Old Ghosts,” “Today is Tommorrow,” and the manic “Gutterpunk Blues” go for a bigger, louder and faster Jam Band ethos. Pay particular attention to the inimitable cover of The Police classic “Driven to Tears” and the set closer, “Heavy Shtettle II,” which you simply have to hear yourself to believe. Even I’m a bit lost for words about it. Memorable hooks, gravity-defying instrumental prowess and a kitchen sink move toward rock and Zappa-esque fusion fill Headspace. Let it fill yours.

Stratospheerius performs at the Beachland Ballroom, 15711 Waterloo Rd., next Wednesday, November 7 at 8PM. Singer/songwriter and former Clevelander Jann Klose opens the show and Ryan Montbleau headlines. Visit Stratospheerius at http://www.myspace.com/stratospheerius. Visit the Beachland at http://www.beachlandballroom.com/. Pick up the new Stratospheerius CD at http://www.cdbaby.com/.

Headspace: Blog Critics Music [2007]

blog_critics_music

Stratospheerius, Headspace

by Jon Sobel

There’s so much going on on this CD that it could merit an “Indie Round-Up” column all on its own. Stratospheerius’s music can’t be pegged to one genre, but neither is it a simple hybrid of a couple of styles. For that reason, it’s exciting stuff.

Jazz fusion, Stingpop, progressive rock, classical strains, and jam-band spaceouts take turns running through the ten songs on this, the band’s fourth album. Leader Joe Deninzon’s devilish violin weaves the compositions together, and he lends his throaty vocals to some of the tunes, layering attractive melodies over odd time signatures and dynamic, unpredictable arrangements. Think of a much more adventurous version of the Dave Matthews Band, add Steely Dan precision and prog-rock inventiveness, and you’ll get an inkling. There’s also a Police influence that would be quite evident even without the revved-up cover of “Driven to Tears.” The crack musicians deserve mention individually: drummer Luciana Padmore, bassist Bob Bowen, and guitarist Mack Price.

These songs really do sidestep genre, yet one foot remains in accessible pop territory. “New Material” opens with a Celtic jam that flames into a lightspeed funk-rocker. The song is a funny take on creative inspiration and writer’s block: “I need a death threat deadline panic attack/I need a big bolt of lightning to strike me in the ass/Where’s my material/I need new material.” “Mental Floss” is an exciting odd-time instrumental jam, while “Gutterpunk Blues” begins with a delicate-punk (a new term I just made up) mandolin solo (Deninzon again) which leads into crashing heavy-metal riffage and then devolves into wild electric guitar and drum soloing. The jazz fusion elements come to the fore in the slower instrumental “Yulia,” while the pumped-up klezmer of “Heavy Shtettle Part II: Heavier Shtettle” closes the CD with a blast of technical prowess and ear-candy fun.

An interesting and spirited journey into outrageous creativity, this CD is highly recommended for anyone with an adventurous ear, including fans of fusion, progressive rock, the Police, the Kronos Quartet’s pop experiments and collaborations, and fiery fiddling. Sample the music at the Stratospheerius website and their Myspace page, and read a good interview with Joe Deninzon.


Jon Sobel reviews music and theater on a regular basis for Blogcritics, and occasionally comments on politics, world affairs, and life in New York City. He is also a computer professional, musician, and small-time concert promoter in New York City. (His band, Whisperado, can be criticized at will.)

Headspace: Sea of Tranquility [2007]

sea_tranquility

Hailed as champions of “psychojazz trip funk,” Stratospheerius leap deep into progdom withHeadspace — a smart and satsifying album in which a mandolin-powered instrumental called “Gutterpunk Blues” can straddle a frantic, spot-on cover of The Police’s “Driven to Tears,” and a Jewish heavy metal anthem (“Heavy Shtettle Part II: Heavier Shtettle”) and a solid, fiddle-fueled rocker about a songwriter pissed off because he can’t write a song (“New Material”) book-end a collection of 10 equally fascinating pieces.

Fronted by electric violinist (and guitarist, singer and mandolin man) Joe Deninzon, Stratospheerius veers more heavily from its instrumental past into vocal-based music influenced as much by Bruce Springsteen and Joni Mitchell as Frank Zappa and Bela Fleck, Kansas and The Flower Kings. Hence, these songs tell stories that, coupled with some intense instrumentation that the quartet makes sound way too easy, emerge as substantial pieces of ear candy. And the three instrumentals here improve significantly upon the band’s earlier work.

Despite the unusual shredding (mandolin rules, dude!) and virtuoso aspirations inherent in this music, Headspace resonates with an earthbound freshness that reflects a charming change of direction for a band that’s already established itself as critical darling. The possibilities just became seemingly endless.

Track Listing
1) New Material
2) Old Ghosts
3) Sold Out
4) Today Is Tomorrow
5) Mental Floss
6) Gutterpunk Blues
7) Driven to Tears
8) Yulia
9) Long Rd.
10) Heavy Shtettle Part II: Heavier Shtettle

Added: July 12th 2007
Reviewer: Michael Popke
Score: 4 1/2 stars

Headspace: Aquarium [2007]

aquarian

Headspace: ProgSheet [2007]

progsheet

Stratospheerius – Headspace

In my head, there are times I listen to a piece of music and subdivide the beat, then subdivide the subdivisions, trying to look at rhythms in different ways. I was in that sort of mood listening to this CD. The song Old Ghosts is a good example. Vocal rhythm, bass accents, guitar groove, drum groove, percussion, and violin all dividing the rhythm in their own ways yet united at the same time. A funky one, that tune. Sold Out is full of exciting changes – Jean Luc Ponty and Chick Corea gig with the Dregs is what it reminds me of.

Headspace is a cranker of an album, with Joe Deninzon showing some vocal chops in addition to his Herculean violin skills. Drummer Lucianna Padmore, bassist Bob Bowen, & guitarist Mack Price play baffling beats, power passages, and some sweet grooves. Guest artist Benny Koonyevsky adds great percussion as well – a sort of modern day Morris Pert. A high voltage cover of the Police’s Driven To Tears is a welcome addition to this wonderful jazz / rock / fusion / world disc. A massive energy generator of ideas. I needed this.

Headspace: Ytsejam.com [2007]

ytsejam

Stratospheerius – Headspace (2007)

Stratospheerius, led by the talents of Joe Deninzon on Lead vocals and a multitude of acoustic and electric violins, is probably best described as a light jazz group with a little Progressive Rock, country and Funk thrown in for good measure.

The production is exquisite and the musicianship is top notch. There are no low points on this album, although there is a cover song I wouldnât have included for sake of making room for another original.

New Material: Funky, melodic and very reminiscent of a more talented Lenny Kravitz.

Old Ghosts: A nice jazzy piece. Very spooky in it’s feel. One of the hot spots on the album.

Sold Out: A Progressive Hoe-down intro melding into a funk-grove with a nice light jazz melody. Sublime.

Today is Tomorrow: Light and airy with a nice vocal. This is a beautiful song that keep your ear interested.

Mental Floss: Odd times and funky grooves. This is a well constructed instrumental piece that shows off the talents of everyone in the group.

Gutterpunk Blues: Western/Bluegrass feel to the intro with a nice seamless transition into a a solid metal groove. Another of the hot spots on this album. Nice melding of styles.

Driven to Tears: This is a groovy cover of one of my favorite Police tunes. While I love this arrangement, I feel it would have served better as a b-side or web download and made room for another original piece.

Yulia: Probably the most jazzy piece on the album. Very melodic and sad, with a tinge of hope.

Long Rd.: Funk-jazz piece with a great solo. The vocal verses are entertaining but I find the chorus very repetitious and somewhat tedious.

Heavy Shtettle Part II: Eastern and Persian influences abound on this wonderfully crafted instrumental. The music is imperative, demanding attention.

Added: June 27th 2007
Reviewer: Koggie

Headspace: Cash Box [2007]

cashbox

ALTERNATIVE & PUNK
Reviewed 05-29-07
Stratospheerius  Head Space

Psychojazz mavens Stratospheerius bring their violin influenced jams out in full on their latest release Head Space. Blending their influences into a style all their own, Stratospheerius make music that teeters on becoming its own genre. Part Dave Matthews Band, part modern rock and part classical, Head Space bounces from sound to sound with total ease. The violin playing by veteran Joe Deninzon opens up the dynamic of Stratospheerius with total urgency and takes what may at first seem like normal rock songs to an entirely higher level. However, it is not just the violen that makes Head Space a great experience. The vocal performance of Joe Deninzon is on par with his stringed abilities. This is most apparent on Head Space’s far and away hit track “Today Is Tomorrow.” This track still features Deninzon’s trademark strings, but he holds off on bowing them and instead plucks the strings for the first half of the song. “Today Is Tomorrow” also shows off the bands ability to craft a radio friendly song and one that still operates perfectly within the context of the album.

Opening track New Material is an interesting song to start off Head Space with. The song at first seems very Rocky Grass and a listening that does not penetrate the album may not get passed it if they are not a fan of the genre. However, as Head Space progresses, it reveals the many different sides of Stratospheerius. New Material shows a more roots rock and bluegrass influenced sound, “Old Ghosts” shows off the bands summer fest jam band appeal, and “Today Is Tomorrow” takes the band and puts them right into the best parts of the mainstream. On “Mental Floss,” Deninzon shows how he has earned the nickname the “Jimi Hendrix of violin” as he tears threw a distortion heavy solo that points more in the direction of Guns N Roses’ Slash than Yo Yo Ma. The other effected instruments on “Mental Floss” give Head Space a great push in the psychedelic direction, adding to the long list of the bands genre leaping abilities. Head Space is an exciting experience, taking the listener by the hand and whipping them around an Alice In Wonderland like journey of musical exploration.

Justin Scro     

Headspace: Music Street Journal [2007]

musicstreetjournal

Stratospheerius – Headspace

By Greg Olma

Overall Review

Stratospheerius is really a vehicle for the talents of Joe Deninzon. His electric violin is the main focal point of the music and although the other musicians in the band definitely hold their own, it would be hard to take him out of the equation. I am reviewing this after just seeing my first concert by Stratospheerius so some of the tracks are still fresh in my mind. What I find captivating about the CD is that although many styles are brought to the table, they somehow live comfortably together within the context of the songs. There is a little jazz mixed in with rock on some tracks while on other tunes, the band melds in some country and funk parts that give the whole album a little bit of a prog feel. With that odd mix of styles, this project could have gone horribly wrong but Deninzon and company keep things musical so that the listener is kept interested but not overwhelmed with styles and sounds. Only 4 out of the 10 songs on offer here are instrumentals so it really is an album for the masses (not just the musos out there). My recommendation is to put away your pre-conceived notions of the violin (this is not The Charlie Daniels Band) and give the record a shot.

Track by Track Review

New Material: The album starts off with an almost country feel but during the verses, a little bit of The Police comes through. The chorus goes into a totally different direction making it almost 3 different songs. It all somehow fits seamlessly making it the perfect opening track. There is also a nice electric violin/guitar interplay during the solo section.

Old Ghosts: It’s the second song and I’m already hooked. This track has a little mix of Steely Dan and later day Toto but most importantly, it has an effortless feel that is contagious. I guarantee that you will be tapping your foot to this tune before it finishes.

Sold Out: As mentioned earlier, this cut really has a jazz rock sound to it. There is a nice violin solo that fits the cut without being over the top. Deninzon’s restraint really shows that he is true musician by making sure the song comes first, then showing his talents second. Had he over did it on the solo, it would have ruined the track.

Today is Tomorrow: This song starts off slowly but builds until the chorus where it gets quite heavy. During the verses, it has a very Police-like sound, especially in the vocal delivery.

Mental Floss: Instrumentals are not always my “cup of tea” but Stratospheerius know how to keep it interesting. The tune starts off with a Jethro Tull/Joe Satriani hybrid that even adds in some Pink Floyd sounds. Even though the track goes in a few directions, it all comes back to where it started wrapping things up nicely. It is hard to believe that the cut is 6 and ½ minutes long because it goes by quickly.

Gutterpunk Blues: This instrumental cut has a mandolin intro but once it gets going has some heavy Black Sabbath style riffing. There are some Jethro Tull sounds thrown in there for good measure making this one of the heavier pieces on the album.

Driven to Tears: If you guessed that this is a Police cover, you would be correct. Stratospheerius does the song justice by staying close enough to the original but adding their own flavor to it. It is not a straight cover of the song and that is why it works. If you are going to pull out a popular track, then you have to add something of yourself to it; and that is precisely what the band does.

Yulia: This cut is definitely the showcase for Joe Deninzon’s talents. At times, it has a little bit of a classical feel but it builds into a heavier tune as it moves along. Because most of the music on this CD is upbeat, this instrumental somehow feels sad; as though the violin is mourning the loss of someone.

Long Rd.: Aside from the chorus this track is pure funk. The chorus is repetitive but the rest of the tune has a nice groove.

Heavy Shtettle Part II: Heavier Shtettle: The name makes you think of Led Zeppelin and that is precisely what this tune gives you. This is Stratospheerius’ version of “Kashmir” which is heavy in a different way to let’s say Black Sabbath. It makes me want to go and hear what Part I sounds like.