Listening to this debut album, Gates of Loki, it immediately hit me that Puzzlewood is not another garage band trying to make a big splash either. These guys are very sophisticated in composition and arrangement, writing and musicianship! While they may not be a Geddy, Peart and Lifeson individually, they are one of the tightest bands I have ever heard. I am a big fan of Rush, so I know what “tight” sounds like. While challenging to hear the subtle cues and three-dimensional points in MP3 files, I did get the sense of each member’s skill and abilities if you will and how they work together. If you are a Rush fan of any degree or just like your prog-rock to be highly detailed and precise, you will pick up on it in this band.
While the MP3 version was sent and all I had, I can’t comment much on sound quality or give any star rating, I can describe what I heard and what I think of the band.
While, I have only listened to the entire album once and have not quite grasped the feelings and such of the songs yet, I have made myself familiar with other aspects of it.
Gates of Loki starts out with the overly appropriate title track called oddly enough, “Intro (Gates of Loki)”. The instrumental track starts with some synth effects designed to give one a sense of starting out on a journey of mystery and discovery. A few moments into the track the rest of the band comes in with electric guitar and hand percussion. After the great opener in my opinion, track two, “Remember My Name”, gives us our first taste of meat, so to speak. This seemingly Porcupine Tree/King Crimson inspired piece showcases how tight the band is with the bridge in this song including hand percussion, where the band stops abruptly for a couple of seconds, then starts just as suddenly several times and one does not even hear a single subtle anomaly. The guitar playing is almost Alex Lifeson like. I detected some subtle loss of detail in the bass due to being MP3 though and not necessarily the mix. The third song, “Obsessed” (which has a video on YouTube by the way), includes the sound of flute and middle-east percussion (Tambourine), which is a bit too forward in the mix in my opinion. The video it should be noted, has some imagery some may find disturbing, so watch with that knowledge in mind. The fourth track, “Come Back Home” is one of the quieter tracks on the album featuring a more acoustical sound while the fifth track, “Tyrant Who Fall In Love” is a harder sounding song. The bridge in this tune features more middle-east style percussion and even some east-Indian scat.
Track #6, “Your House” (Translated from Russian) is the only track where the lyrics are sung in Russian. This is interesting to me because in my opinion the Russian language on its own is very musical. Track #7, “To The Void” shows just how good the drummer is. The vocals are good, but a bit rough. This tune also features a bouzouki lending to that ethnic feel. Song eight, “Hollow” is mostly a contemporary jazz sound until about the last-minute when rock guitar comes in to finish. To me this just further shows how good these guys are, to be able to flawlessly execute a different genera like that in the middle of an album. Track #9, “Jerusalem” is the longest song on the album at the prog-rock requisite, 7 plus minutes, if you will. The song is about the city of Jerusalem and some of its history and mythology. The feel of the song is almost an ancient tribal feel, most appropriate. The final track, “Road Will Lead” is kind of jazzy again, but features an Oud taking lead, really different. The song goes to rock after the second chorus.
Overall, this album introduces one to a very tight and sophisticated band, definitely not your typical garage band trying to make something. The songs sound very well produced even in MP3 format, which says someone was not asleep at the controls. The only anomalies I detected were the fore mentioned forward percussion in track #3 and in the last track the vocals sounded unpleasantly clipped in the chorus to me, but that could have been an effect, I’m not sure. I can imagine this LP sounding even better on vinyl or some uncompressed format, or even on CD.
I plan on listening to this band again, many times. (Yeah, I think they are that good). I think it is more than safe to say that I hope these guys continue to make music and it would be interesting to see what they come up with next.
You can hear them on their website and here: https://puzzlewood.bandcamp.com/releases