Review Summary: We will dance as it breaks
True to Mike Portnoy’s character, Adrenaline Mob isn’t the only project that the drummer has joined since 2010. Initially conceived by master producer Peter Collins, Flying Colors could be summed up as a contemporary prog rock dream team as it features prominent figures from groups such as Deep Purple, the Dixie Dregs, and Spock’s Beard. The resulting release is one that throws a few curveballs but ultimately lives up to fans’ expectations.
Flying Colors has a style that is somewhat hard to pinpoint. They pull from a variety of influences and genres that range from prog and pop to alternative rock. Muse is the most prominent influence though one can also hear traces of King’s X, the Beatles, Queen, Yes, and Journey. In a way, some songs feel like more accessible versions of what Dream Theater was attempting to do on albums like Octavarium and Systematic Chaos.
The material is made even stronger by the band’s irresistible chemistry and technical skills. Surprisingly, bassist Dave LaRue and vocalist Casey MacPherson are the strongest members on board with the former frequently leading the melodies while the latter offers a wide range that sounds like a cross between Matthew Bellamy and the guy from Snow Patrol. In addition, brothers Steve and Neal Morse’s guitar and keyboards often battle for prominence with some great blending as a result and Portnoy puts on a solid performance.
This is another one of those albums that the songwriting is what really makes things worthwhile. With all the different elements at work on here, it is great to see a release that offers unique hooks in each song while also being textured enough to reveal new insights with repeated listens. Even the closing “Infinite Fire” has a sweeping chorus to go along with its instrumental segments and twelve minute running time.
A good majority of the songs on here are unified by their rather upbeat and optimistic nature. This is best exemplified by the opening “Blue Ocean,” a seven-minute track that is made memorable by its walking bass line, uplifting vocal harmonies, and energized transitions that feel like something that’s playing on Broadway. “Love Is What I’m Waiting For” has a similarly theatrical feel and “The Storm” also stands out thanks to its background piano melody and optimistic chorus.
There are also a few heavier moments on here though I don’t think anything on here could necessarily be classified as metal. “All Falls Down” is easily the most aggressive track and features the most demanding drum performance along with some interesting vocal contrasts and frantic guitar sweeps. “Woulda Coulda Shoulda” is also made memorable by its heavy use of extension and feels like it could’ve been a lost track on Muse’s Absolution or Velvet Revolver’s Contraband. Yeah, I’m still trying to make sense of that one…
In contrast, the band also included a few ballads on here for good measure. While they still have the optimistic tone that is featured on the album’s other songs, there is also a bittersweet tinge to it. This is best seen on “Fool In My Heart,” a track that features a blues beat and Portnoy on lead vocals singing lyrics that are absolutely not about Dream Theater in any way, shape, or form. Speaking of which, “Everything Changes” and “Better Than Walking Away” do remind me of Dream Theater ballads with the latter having a sentimental feeling that recalls “The Answer Lies Within.”
Overall, this is another one of those albums that exceeded my already high expectations. The band’s lineup works incredibly well together, the variety is pulled off without sounding awkward, and the songwriting does offer the perfect balance between immediacy and complexity. In a way similar to Adrenaline Mob, Flying Colors may be pushing for a mainstream audience that may ultimately not embrace due to their somewhat cult status. Fortunately the band offers a lot of class to make up for this and may have an excellent future if they can keep up the momentum. Highly recommended to fans of prog and alternative rock everywhere.
“Better Than Walking Away”
“All Falls Down”
“Fool In My Heart”
Originally published at http://suite101.com