The influence of religion and the corruption of money go together like aliens and abductions. They are topics widely circulated in the world of metallic-infused prog ever since Rush made it part of their de-facto well of narrative choices.
The Jelly Jam consists of three hard rock and prog masterminds. These three members are Ty Tabor, John Myung, and Rod Morgenstein. A particular group of well-versed metal fans should recognize these names. Ty Tabor is a bizarre character in music, most famous for his lead guitar and vocal work as a member of King’s X. King’s X is not underappreciated by any stretch of the imagination. Considering the group’s sound is so weirdly decisive and eccentric, it makes sense that they have cultivated a vivacious and deserved cult following.
John Myung is the acclaimed bassist for Dream Theater. He helps deliver a bombastic vitality to the group, something his main work with Dream Theater has done sometimes wonderfully and sometimes to almost paradoxical levels.Rod Morgenstein is best known for his work in the rock group, Winger.
A whole book could be written about the collective catalogs of these three men. The Jelly Jam is not as frantically self-absorbed as Dream Theater, as expansive as King’s X, or as Winger-ish as Winger. In all, The Jelly Jam is its own entity, borrowing brief elements of all these sounds while never quite mimicking one over another.
The group’s fourth album is their most adhesive to date. Prophet Profit wears its message on its sleeve. The result is a legitimate album in an age where albums are often considered counter-intuitive. The tracks have a dragging sense of weight to them, as opposed to the fast-paced free-spiritedness of many of the member’s other works. The record teeters between heady and reflective. “Perfect Lines (Flyin)” features a gorgeous guitar solo, as the song plods weightily. “Stain on the Sun” has a moody echo and haunting breathes that mixes well with the lyrics. “We drift alone in space, to the sound of the marketplace,” utters Tabor. The character is lost amidst chaos, drowned out by the excess. A slightly lighter energy is found in the instrumental, “Permanent Hold.” It’s only a brief back from the often daunting largeness of the record. The album’s most accomplished track is “Fallen,” a sensational ballad that lets every instrumentalist shine across vivid lyrics of fighting through to the end- and failing.
The discussion of money within religion is not a new thought, and the erosion of society through Biblical texts that enforce some kind of higher morality is contemporary, albeit pretty straightforward. The band’s lyrics are directly confrontational, as Ty Tabor coldly declares on the album’s opener, Care. “I try to lift the veil to show the beast feeding on my nation. Now we have chosen sides, and faith won’t let you have that conversation.”
Faith is a force of limitation and not openness. A culture partly suffocated and manipulated to feed on something not quite as sincere as it professes to be. All of these things have circulated for years, so The Jelly Jam’s dissection of them is charmingly aloof. But, just because these conversations are commonplace, the group remarks on them in such a direct manner- it can be refreshing. Tabor is not mincing words. He has something to say. Though the album itself is a fictional narrative and concept, it can be easily relayed to what is happening right now.
Of course, there is a whole group of people that listen to the music first- the message second. Not every Iron Maiden fan has openly sought after the classic satanic (and satirical) imagery before enjoying good classic riffing first.
So, what does The Jelly Jam accomplish here? A record that has one main message- cultivated decidedly over 12 big brooding tracks. The speed is slow and weighty, setting the perfect tone for a message that is relayed with depressing self-admittance. It’s a thought-provoking progressive listen, but one that could offer many satisfying rewards for one able to indulge on the same wavelength.
Ryan Merkel is a cool writer guy and contributor all over the internet, from blogs on music to magazines about music to sites about playing music. He is currently founder of SunState Investing and is head editor of the music entertainment magazine, CultureTease. He has written two novels, and is currently working on a third full-length novel, surprisingly, not about music. His novel “Splatter the Noise” earned accolades for independent publishing. Be sure to check out: www.sunstateinvesting.com
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