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Gods write their music in ink - 93%

BloodIronBeer, December 5th, 2018
Written based on this version: 2000, CD, Eclectic Electric

Spastic Ink's Ink Complete is as erratic and unpredictable as the band's name would have you believe. The style, if you absolutely had to define one for this album, is a majority of a dark, metallic jazz fusion pieces, with neo-classical peppered in, and such extreme syncopation, loose and ever-changing rhythmic frameworks as to leave the rest completely beyond the reach of “genre”. Many of the titles very dryly allude to the musical devices used in the tracks themselves, like See and It's Sharp, uses C and C# exclusively – and I promise you, you will never hear a more interesting song that only uses two notes – and that's two notes, not two pitches, because it is repeated in higher and lower octaves, just so we're clear. (I love that this is falsely stated as being only C#'s in the album notes on here – because it is so clearly two notes – and the title literally says it) To Counter and Groove in E Minor is, as it suggests, in E Minor and uses counterpoint. Suspended On All Fours, is an allusion to suspended chords – which implement the 4th interval which is generally omitted from chords. There's That 178 Thing, which is in 17/8 time.

All that being said, taken at face value, that probably sounds like the most boring way you could approach music – but the uncanny gifts of Ron and Bobby Jarzombek can carve this banality into works of unparalleled brilliance. I like to think of myself as a much more harsh critic than most, I have listened to a lot of music in my life, and have studied and played it for well over 20 years, and I don't use the word “genius” lightly. I'm reluctant to use the word at all; I would probably only grant that title to two individuals in metal – Jonas from Spawn of Possession, and Ron Jarzombek. Their music is so advanced I can say it's the only metal I really can't wrap my head around – but it's much more than that – it's the seemingly unattainable marriage of extremely advanced music and smashing the nail on the head in terms of songwriting and making a real connection with the listener. Many of the lines in the guitar here are lyrical, and so memorable despite being so zany. It is actually amazing to me, because I've heard so much music that can't even approach this level of musicianship, let alone doing it with such potency and tact; it takes a truly transcendent talent to not be bogged down by the burden of simply playing the music, and to be able to write with such ease, as if putting together a 4 chord pop song, yet it's so advanced that most people will never even glean it's brilliance.

I know a moderator is reading this right now, saying “describe the music already, asshole.” - okay, okay.

I'll try to describe a sampling of the songs that are easiest to actually tack descriptions to. To Counter and Groove in E Minor starts with an Oriental, pentatonic line that slowly brings the bass in with more conventional tonality, then starts on the counterpoint but abruptly ends to get into a groovy funk bass and drum beat. The guitar eventually comes back in and alternates from funk, with the neoclassical fill swooping in from time to time, to all out neoclassical with question and answer between the bass and guitar. This track is “normal” advanced, definitely a lot of stuff going on, but not something that really displays Ron's genius.

Just a Little Dirty has this intense funky drum beat that's still lightning quick and has a metal flavor and the riff is a technical neo-classical sort that manages to perhaps be the heaviest and darkest on the album, sounding kind of like that occasional Symphony X instrumental track where they really roll up their sleeves and get to work on some musicality.

A Wild Hare matches up with scenes from Bambi and the guitar essentially dubs what would be Thumper's lines. But what's really crazy, is that Ron manages to get a similar “talking” kind of effect in tracks like That 178 Thing, and Harm And Half-Time Baking Shuffle. The moving pitches and pauses really mimic speech. This is where words fail me, because something this erratic, with huge jumps in pitch and seemingly no structure should not sound this good, or be this memorable, or this satisfying. I mean, that's just it, most of the time I actually tend to hate this kind of music – in anyone else's hands, this would be audio wankery in it's most intolerable form – but Ron makes the songs stick, they groove (of course, that's more thanks to Bobby), they get me mean-mugging, they're so damn intense in their own weird way.

I suppose overall what this music is most similar to is a true improvised jazz jam session – it's feel is that of something unrehearsed and crafted on the spot – with a levity, and ethereal free-flowing character that normally can only come from improvisation – which is all the more crazy considering Ron actually transcribed this whole album. It's kind of as if this seemingly spur-of-the-moment magic was then metalized, with a metal punch in the drums and the occasional aggression and darkness that qualifies it for being metal in the end.

Anyone can step outside of the conventions of popular Western music. It's not hard. However, take two big steps away from it, and make music anyone wants to listen to – that's a task. But to be this advanced, and this damn groovy, this fun, this engaging; I think that might take a genius.

The only weak spot of the album is probably the last two tracks, especially Eighths is Enough which has that vaguely uninteresting typical prog feel with leisurely plucked clean chords, and feels more like someone kicking a can down the road than someone kicking you in your brain like the rest of the album. The closing track plays it too loose, and doesn't really hold my interest like the rest, falling into the more typical “wanky” sound at times. I guess the only other draw back is that Ron doesn't seem to take the music seriously; I think it might make it more listenable, but ultimately it doesn't have the feeling of gravity and have the feeling that this recording is supremely special, like Crimson II, for example.

My favorite tracks are probably Just A Little Dirty and That 178 Thing.

Describing this music might be the most difficult of any album I've reviewed, and putting into words what makes it so good, is even more elusive. But I guess what's really important is this: if you like progressive music in any capacity this is an absolute must. If you're an aspiring musician that cares at all to take a look at advanced music, this is an absolute must. I guess I was drawn back to this album by how unimpressed I was when delving into other experimental, progressive or avante-garde bands; few make such crazy music sound so effortless and natural. Bobby's drum playing is awe-inspiring, and his skill is second to none. Ron Jarzombek is a once-in-a-lifetime talent, and this album contains some of his best work.