Thank You Scientist
Stranger Heads Prevail


4.5
superb

Review

by DavidShaw1213 USER (7 Reviews)
July 30th, 2016 | 19 replies


Release Date: 2016 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Thank You Scientist play off the strengths of their debut to create another massively entertaining and technically astounding release.

The opening track off of Stranger Heads Prevail sounds like it would be better suited to a Broadway production than an album by a rising rock act, but the unpredictability is part of the charm that makes New Jersey’s Thank You Scientist so endearing. Their music is so diverse, and incorporates so many different influences that pieces like these are not only expected, but cherished. One of their songs could be spastic math rock that builds up to an arena ready chorus, where elsewhere it can sound like the music of John Coltrane coming in by way of Dream Theater, and while their specific brand of song craft doesn’t necessarily appeal to certain portions of music listeners, their sound has turned them into a well-respected group for all those who feel otherwise. This can be partially attributed to bizarre talent that the group incorporates. While the band at its center is your typical four man setup, their ranks also include violin and saxophone players, a horn/synth man, and numerous of session musicians when needed. This combination allows for the core of the group to create the foundational sounds and rhythms while the rest of the band provides the extra flare that helps distinguish them from their peers.

This sound was first put on display in 2011 with the release of Thank You Scientist’s debut EP, The Perils of Time Travel. While that release lacked the flare and precision of their later work, it still showcased an important step for the group and at least hinted at what they would later become. That product would finally be shown in 2012, with the release of their first full length record, Maps of Non-Existent Places. A perfect blend of spectacle and musicianship, Maps had a unique charm and capitalized on all the band’s strengths to make it one of the most impressive releases of that year. But putting out a great record doesn’t necessarily ensure lasting success, so the band had the forethought to put out their second record quickly, which brings us to the present day with the release of their latest album Stranger Heads Prevail.

Stranger Heads is a refinement on everything that made Maps work. First, the genre bending is better executed this time around which gives the different musical passages far greater variations in sound. Whereas the previous record mainly featured jazz instruments over rock style song structures, Stranger Heads does a lot to balance the scale. The opening instrumental pieces, once loud and bombastic, now recall jazz greats of the 60s and 70s with great veneration. “Mr. Invisible” immediately evokes the spirit of Herbie Hancock during his early 70s transitional period. The intro piece is a timely update on his sound, only with horns at the forefront instead of keyboards. “A Wolf In Cheap Clothing” leads in with a more somber passage reminiscent of Miles Davis at the peak of his abilities. In addition, for those with a taste for instrumentals there is the nine minute “Rube Goldberg Variations.” This epic, brilliantly crafted, Weather Report on steroids sounding piece drags the listener kicking and screaming through each new passage and contains solos on the trumpet, saxophone, violin, and guitar in that order. Seldom are any group’s talents better exposed than on a song like this.

But for all of the new ideas, Thank You Scientist haven’t lost a bit of their edge. After that opening show tune like song, (because again, why not?), “The Somnambulist” comes roaring in right from the onset with a crashing rhythm section that drives the track towards a tremendous climax that is sure to sound great in a live setting. “Caverns” starts with a frantic intro that expertly highlights the band’s more progressive tendencies. It also serves to show the unique structure of these songs. While the band still follows a verse-chorus-verse platform, they take their own time going about it and each section of a song can contain a number of different segments before reaching its end. The bridges in the second half of each piece are frequently presented as a frantic blend of instrumental wizardry and fiercely delivered lyrics which, when combined, can create dizzying muscial moments that are sure to impress.

If there is any criticism that someone might try to level at this release, it is that it does sound an awful lot like the first record. With the exception of greater jazz influence, many of the songs here do share some of the same qualities as the ones on Maps. It is true that familiarity can be a pitfall for a lot of talented groups, especially if their staple sound ends up growing weaker with repetition, but that being said, Thank You Scientist can largely be excused for this simply because of how strong their staple sound is. Maps was an uncommon case of a band arriving on the scene with a fully formed identity that is bombastic and technically comprehensive enough that actually figuring out where to go from that point can be difficult. In the minds of some fans, drastic change might even be downright unwelcome. Having such a rock solid first release has served to undue countless great bands over the years simply because they don’t know how to follow it up, so if Thank You Scientist want to take their time, bask in the acclaim, and take a more graceful approach towards their advancement, that isn’t always a bad thing.

“Psychopomp” serves as a great example of why this sound works. It is a song where every member of the band gets an opportunity to shine. The horns open the track with a sort of Middle Eastern flare complimented by a blistering guitar lead played by Tom Monda while the drum and base lay down a primitive rhythm that waits for the chorus to get more intricate. Extra praise goes to vocalist Salvatore Marrano for having the talent to consistently succeed despite the myriad of sounds around him. Whereas many prog vocalists suffer from getting drowned out by the other layers of sound that they have to work with, Marrano always stands confidently at the forefront whenever he takes the mic, and even “Psychopomp”’s soaring, over the top climax can’t manage to derail him. Stranger Heads ends with the united voices of “The Amateur Arsonist's Handbook” joined in a sing along outro before “Epilogue” softly croons about all the songs the band has left to write, and we should surely hope that they aren’t just making that up.

Thank You Scientist can be extremely difficult to categorize. Their sound could be linked to post-hardcore, jazz, metal, math rock, prog, funk, and countless other labels, but whatever they are, their music is hugely creative, relentlessly unique, and massively enjoyable. Yet for all the technical bravado their songs are, at heart, thrilling anthems that are actually capable of pleasing those who are willing to take the chance to hear them. Thank You Scientist may still be in the first chapter of their career, but one can expect that masterful achievements like these will increase their renown among listeners of a wide variety of genres. Here’s hoping their King Crimson meets Circa Survive madness continues to stay intact for many more records to come.

Best Tracks: “Caverns,” “Blue Automatic,” “Psychopomp”
Worst Tracks: “Epilogue… And the Clever Depart”



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user ratings (471)
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other reviews of this album
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It doesn’t get much better than this....


Comments:Add a Comment 
DavidShaw1213
July 30th 2016


151 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Hey everyone! Hope you like the review. Don’t know if I’ll be writing another before next month. I actually have to go back to school on August 8th, so I’m sure to be a bit distracted. I’ll also resume my duties DJing at the radio station down there once I return, so I’ll post some details about that for any interested. Anyway, enjoy the review!

elcrawfodor
July 30th 2016


1264 Comments


Great review, completely forgot this was coming out. Liked what I heard off the debut, so I'll definitely give this a spin tonight

brollin
August 10th 2016


49 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Really well written review! Loved reading it.



I noticed one errant 'of': "numerous of session musicians" should be "numerous session musicians", probably.

DickLeggingtonThe3rd
October 1st 2016


83 Comments


Great review. Ive never heard these guys but this makes me think it will be my kind of thing.

BLUEOmni
October 10th 2016


724 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Caverns, A Wolf in Cheap Clothing, and Psychopomp are my favorites off this album. Excellent album. Haven't been able to turn it off the past few weeks.

Dewinged
November 15th 2016


3655 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Digging this. Strong Coheed & Cambria vibes here.

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owen
December 14th 2016


4608 Comments

Album Rating: 1.5

shamelessly awful

Digging: Jucara Marcal - Encarnado

guitarded_chuck
December 15th 2016


12534 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

how does this site not see how fucking awful this band is

Digging: Drive-by Truckers - American Band

Cimnele
December 20th 2016


1238 Comments

Album Rating: 1.5

this band could ruin black forest gateau for me



its funny cos the composition on these songs has everything I like... lots of variation and orchestration and the free will to jump out of its key or to tell a main instrument it's suddenly an accompanying instrument, and all played by decent players. but progressive music just can't survive this perfectionist process where every part is auditioned and tweaked until it's a transition.



give pro-tools back to priffry and try again with some long notes, feedback, coughing and shit.

DoofusWainwright
Contributing Reviewer
December 20th 2016


12734 Comments

Album Rating: 1.5 | Sound Off

Unfathomably shit

Digging: The Posies - Success

FullOfSounds
December 20th 2016


14563 Comments


Band fell off hard for me. I can't seem to get into how disconnected everything feels from each other.

Digging: Sleep Station - After the War

Spacesh1p
December 20th 2016


6393 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

I'm with that Doofus.

Digging: Andy Stott - Passed Me By

FullOfSounds
December 20th 2016


14563 Comments


I haven't even given this a full listen yet. Just couldn't get into it

pjquinones747
December 20th 2016


1502 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Underwhelming. Loved the last album but this was a major dropoff.

Digging: Modern Baseball - You?re Gonna Miss It All

Toondude10
December 21st 2016


10820 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Anyone else think that the Prologue sounds like something straight off The Dear Hunter. Hell even the vocals are incredibly similar.

Digging: Ulver - The Assassination of Julius Caesar

DoofusWainwright
Contributing Reviewer
February 22nd 2017


12734 Comments

Album Rating: 1.5 | Sound Off

Lol at this sitting on a 4

owen
February 22nd 2017


4608 Comments

Album Rating: 1.5

embarrassing

unforgiven89
February 28th 2017


204 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I love this album.

Dewinged
February 28th 2017


3655 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I gave it a 4 and I don't remember anything about it. There goes my credibility.



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