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Album Reviews : Quandary – Ready to Fail

By on September 1, 2010

Brisbane’s Quandary is a band who has been lying on the periphery of the Australian Progressive Rock scene for some time now with their album ‘Ready To Fail’ being in the back of the minds that pray for the imminent release of quality prog.

From the get go, the listener is greeted with a velvety guitar intro reminiscent of only Steve Vai, set over some of the most tranquil and heavenly pads you will ever here. From this moment on, I knew that guitarist Sam Vallen lived past his YouTube guitar instructional videos and showed that he could apply his blinding technique to soulful and creative progressive fusion.

The opener ‘Out Of Time’ is a great way to capture the ear of any listener giving the album a go without scaring off any non-musicians. The vocal melodies and energy stick in your head and make you want to put the CD back in at the most random of times. The metric modulation in this track left even a proghead like myself tapping along trying to feel if it was in 7, 9 or 75. The rhythm section provided by Dave Couper on bass and Geoff Irish on drums pounds through each track giving the album the backbone it needs for melodic and harmonic instruments to cut through. Don’t get me wrong though, the bass takes the forefront to provide some excellent counterpoint work with the drums playing off and across the lead work on many occasions.

One of the mysteries of annoyance is that I don’t actually know who sings each line on the album. This frustrates me as I cannot point who is responsible for some of the great vocal deliveries on the record, sometimes reminding me of Declan Burke (Darwin’s Radio, Frost*). Although I thoroughly enjoy much of the vocal work, especially the melodies, I believe this is the biggest area of improvement for the boys of Quandary to develop on their next record. The catchiness and intensity of the vocals is surely present, however the refined tone colour of many Progressive Rock/Metal vocalists is not completely there at all times. This is however a minor distraction and does not detract from my thorough appreciation of this great work.

I wholeheartedly recommend this album to fans of Liquid Tension Experiment, Pagan’s Mind, Frost*, Planet X and any other experimental fusionesque Progressive Rock and Metal listeners as there is surely something here to sate your taste for virtuosity, melody and fun.

Perhaps my favourite track, and I believe I may quite possible be in the minority with this one is the Chroma Key channelling title track ‘Ready To Fail’ which truly highlights the band’s ability to write an amazing melody through a variety of key changes. The moment at 1:14 is possibly my favourite as it gives me goosebumps on each and every listen.

‘Cloud Shapes’ and ‘Stepping Stones’, the penultimate and final track , are some of the most exceptional progressive songs I have heard and I believe any review of these cannot capture the feelings of sorrow, joy and mystery that are conjured when listening to the song will not be conveyed well enough through any other language than the language of music itself.

Do yourself a favour and get this CD. I do however give one disclaimer to any musicians listening – after listening to this album, the next time you go to play your instrument you will truly feel “Ready To Fail”. 9/10

Band: Quandary
Album: Ready to Fail
Year: 2010
Genre: Progressive rock/metal
Label: Independent
Origin: Brisbane, Australia

Track listing:
1. Out of Time
2. Illusion of Progress
3. Umbra
4. Ready to Fail
5. Waiting for Change
6. Penumbra
7. Disconnect
8. Cloud Shapes
9. Stepping Stones

Reviewed by Douglas Skene


Mitch Booth is the owner, designer and grand overlord of Metal Obsession. In the few seconds of spare time he has outside of this site, he also hosts a metal radio show over on PBS 106.7fm in Melbourne (Australia) and organises shows under the name Untitled Touring. You should follow him on Twitter.