Review Summary: Shyamalan twist: Orbs wrote a fun progressive rock album!
If you were me and I were you, we'd both expect a Dan Briggs side project to be chock-full of solid bass work, and Asleep Next to Science
certainly is. But here's the Shyamalan twist: Dan Briggs is the guitarist. Weird, right?
It's the tip of the iceberg. Shyamalan twists are everywhere.
Would you expect an ex-Abigail Williams and current Cradle of Filth keyboardist to be part of a uniquely awesome prog-rock band? Well she is. This one. Would you expect Adam Fisher's whiny, kind of petulant vocals to work outside of his time with Fear Before? Well they do. And if you think the tone I'm writing in is childish and irritating, I'd advise you to stay far away from Asleep Next to Science
. It's kind of a weird one.
Lazy comparisons are worth a lot, and in Orbs' case you're getting a mix of Yes, Mew and amphetamines. Asleep Next to Science
is what you get when a bass virtuoso starts finger picking a guitar alongside two members from an increasingly irrelevant post-hardcore act and an attractive girl who's talented in spite of her choice to work almost exclusively with terrible black metal acts. What's weirdest is it's a progressive rock album that works because it's a lot of fun to listen to. There's a common theme throughout its 9 tracks but without a stuffy, pretentious concept, noticing it is up to you.
“A Man of Science” introduces said theme, which is a loose connection between faith and science. The nearly six minute cut breezes by surprisingly quick thanks to tense work on the keyboards and Fisher's delivery. Replacing 'God' with 'Science', he truncates cries of “Oh my Science, he's on the roof again, citing scripture and throwing up his...”
until the song's climax.
“Does he think he's conducting some great orchestra? Because he's waving his hands and I can't help but saying, 'Oh my Science, he's on the roof again[...]and throwing up his hands.”
It's lyrics like this that make the album so much fun. They're weird, and in the case of “Kid Cancer” completely nonsensical, but just peculiar enough to make you pay attention. Paired with the band's solid grasp on tension and climaxes and Asleep Next to Science
is much better than it needs to be.
Even “People Will Read Again,” with its incessant piano rolls and intermittent references to the Chupacabra works for most of its ten-plus minutes. At fourteen minutes, “Eclipsical” is even longer, but it works, too. Fragmented and segmented, “Eclipsical” devolves into a grunge-influenced acoustic number before climaxing with Briggs' lone guitar solo. Have I mentioned he finger-picks exclusively? Shyamalan twist.
Asleep Next to Science
isn't for everyone. The vocals are whiny and incredibly nasally, and the lyrics fall awkwardly between pretentious and absurd. After an hour-plus of progressive gibberish its easy to tune out, but the expansive nature of these songs paired with how remarkably catchy they are means you can always tune right back in. Each member of Orbs displays their technical muscles without obstructive flexing. And the lyrics...
Shouldn't have stayed but I get carried away
Like a kid in a candy store, pocket full of razorblades.
Sticking gum in sister's hair, or in the back of my pants.
Shouldn't have stayed but I got ***ing outplayed!
And the demon advanced with a hidden agenda: Me
They call me kid cancer, the beast calls me son
I haven't yet decided, it this a chore or is this fun?
That's from “Kid Cancer”, the second part of “The Northwestern Bearitories”. With lyrics, you should at least feel obligated to check it out. You might hate it or you might not. At the very least it should get a grin out of you.