It always seems unfair when progressive-rock haters toss out the word pretentious as a catchall way to denounce the genre. Fact is, prog only works when the listener is utterly convinced of the sincerity of the players’ devotion to musical adventure. Say what you want about Selling England by the Pound or Tarkus, but the members of Genesis and ELP (respectively) were deep into the exploded rock arrangements, mythical subject matter, and cinematic soundscapes that the form provided—at least before those bands lost their way (ELP) or found a new one (Genesis).
These examples are used intentionally here: Rather than the metallic aggressiveness of latter-day prog icons like, say, Dream Theater or Mudvayne, New York’s IZZ recalls the more gentile, romantic, and lush vibe of early British art rock. In fact, Gary Green, guitarist with Gentle Giant—an old-school progressive band whose proclivity for complex yet highly musical melodies (and harmonies!) IZZ shares—appears as a guest here on “Words and Miracles” and on the title track.
And IZZ certainly comes across as long-term classic-prog loyalists—epic track lengths, Rick Wakeman–esque keyboard solos, and all. But don’t let that make you think the band is strictly living in the past. “You’ve Got a Time” and “This Reality” contain some nearly clubby keyboard sounds, and the tandem-drummer lineup features one player (GREG DIMICELI) on acoustics and another (BRIAN CORALIAN) who incorporates electronics. They’re pretty subtle in practice, though, and that restraint can be felt throughout the album. Rather than engaging in manly percussive battles, the duo would rather focus on cool moments like the hard-panned back-and-forth snare volley on the title track or the textural intro of “Solid Ground.” As with any good progressive rock, repeated listens reveal a sophisticated, well-thought-out approach to how the drums fit within the tracks’ rhythmic matrices, and the lack of overwrought solos keeps attention firmly on the songs—as it should be, even if those songs are thirteen minutes long. (Doone Records)