Stratospheerius – Headspace
By Greg Olma
Stratospheerius is really a vehicle for the talents of Joe Deninzon. His electric violin is the main focal point of the music and although the other musicians in the band definitely hold their own, it would be hard to take him out of the equation. I am reviewing this after just seeing my first concert by Stratospheerius so some of the tracks are still fresh in my mind. What I find captivating about the CD is that although many styles are brought to the table, they somehow live comfortably together within the context of the songs. There is a little jazz mixed in with rock on some tracks while on other tunes, the band melds in some country and funk parts that give the whole album a little bit of a prog feel. With that odd mix of styles, this project could have gone horribly wrong but Deninzon and company keep things musical so that the listener is kept interested but not overwhelmed with styles and sounds. Only 4 out of the 10 songs on offer here are instrumentals so it really is an album for the masses (not just the musos out there). My recommendation is to put away your pre-conceived notions of the violin (this is not The Charlie Daniels Band) and give the record a shot.
Track by Track Review
New Material: The album starts off with an almost country feel but during the verses, a little bit of The Police comes through. The chorus goes into a totally different direction making it almost 3 different songs. It all somehow fits seamlessly making it the perfect opening track. There is also a nice electric violin/guitar interplay during the solo section.
Old Ghosts: It’s the second song and I’m already hooked. This track has a little mix of Steely Dan and later day Toto but most importantly, it has an effortless feel that is contagious. I guarantee that you will be tapping your foot to this tune before it finishes.
Sold Out: As mentioned earlier, this cut really has a jazz rock sound to it. There is a nice violin solo that fits the cut without being over the top. Deninzon’s restraint really shows that he is true musician by making sure the song comes first, then showing his talents second. Had he over did it on the solo, it would have ruined the track.
Today is Tomorrow: This song starts off slowly but builds until the chorus where it gets quite heavy. During the verses, it has a very Police-like sound, especially in the vocal delivery.
Mental Floss: Instrumentals are not always my “cup of tea” but Stratospheerius know how to keep it interesting. The tune starts off with a Jethro Tull/Joe Satriani hybrid that even adds in some Pink Floyd sounds. Even though the track goes in a few directions, it all comes back to where it started wrapping things up nicely. It is hard to believe that the cut is 6 and ½ minutes long because it goes by quickly.
Gutterpunk Blues: This instrumental cut has a mandolin intro but once it gets going has some heavy Black Sabbath style riffing. There are some Jethro Tull sounds thrown in there for good measure making this one of the heavier pieces on the album.
Driven to Tears: If you guessed that this is a Police cover, you would be correct. Stratospheerius does the song justice by staying close enough to the original but adding their own flavor to it. It is not a straight cover of the song and that is why it works. If you are going to pull out a popular track, then you have to add something of yourself to it; and that is precisely what the band does.
Yulia: This cut is definitely the showcase for Joe Deninzon’s talents. At times, it has a little bit of a classical feel but it builds into a heavier tune as it moves along. Because most of the music on this CD is upbeat, this instrumental somehow feels sad; as though the violin is mourning the loss of someone.
Long Rd.: Aside from the chorus this track is pure funk. The chorus is repetitive but the rest of the tune has a nice groove.
Heavy Shtettle Part II: Heavier Shtettle: The name makes you think of Led Zeppelin and that is precisely what this tune gives you. This is Stratospheerius’ version of “Kashmir” which is heavy in a different way to let’s say Black Sabbath. It makes me want to go and hear what Part I sounds like.