Mike Prete    19-July-2002 Maelstrom

Holy shit. What more can I say about an album that grabs you by the balls and won't let go for the first ten minutes? And if this wasn't enough, the grip is loosened for only the occasionally brief respite, leaving the listener in the wake of the pummeling aural assault for the remainder. Make no mistake, these guys are out to kick your ass. Don't take it personally though - they only have the best intentions in unleashing this hybrid of psychedelia and jazz-rock.

"Dragon Feed" starts the proceedings with massive guitar riffage and sax honking, leading into a steady groove before again exploding. Steady interplay between guitar and sax advances the piece along, aided and abetted by the deft rhythm section. The overall sound here is fairly reminiscent of the intense moments of Trilogy-era Gong, or Hillage's Fish Rising, taking the best of the fiery instrumental passages. Certain parts are not unlike Ozric Tentacles minus the sequencers. While the instrumental flair is instantly captivating, there is no lack of well crafted writing underneath. The songs stay perfectly focused and dynamic, while still allowing for the loose feel necessary for the searing passages that threaten to burn a hole in the speakers.

The beautiful intro to "Oceania" shows the band knows when to shift gears, with lucid flute and acoustic guitar strumming. The later part of the song features ethnic flair courtesy of Steve Roach on didgeridoo and assorted hand percussion, adding another distinctive element to the sound. "Into The Maelstrom" is the most successful in striking a balance between the dichotomy of frenetic and tranquil, with Sorvari providing the impetus for the chosen direction, echoing the spine tingling sax tones of "Master Builder" during the chaos, and switching to flute to ease off the climactic highs.

A breath of fresh air breathed into a retro sound, Avant Garden are waiting to give you a sonic beating. Embrace it.

Joe Fischer 19-July-2002 Maelstrom

Don't be put off by the name. This is a high-energy album of fiery playing. An all-instrumental effort is what we have here from this California quartet's debut release. Five lengthy tracks, served up with some blistering guitar, sax and flute solos. While they "jam", they are in no way a "jam" band. There is a strong sense of melody present amongst all of the ripping. I'm hard pressed to say they sound like this or that, but if one were to make comparisons, one might say that they operate in the same area as Spaced Out sans the keyboards, although there is less of the fusion slant apparent. Maybe a less quirky version of Boud Deun, with sax and flute replacing the violin, would be a better starting point. I'm also reminded a little bit of later Kraan.

They kick the album off with a couple of stellar numbers, "Dragon Feed" and "Archemedes Tub". Both of these songs kick it into high gear right away showing that band has chops. The playing is tight and energetic all the way through both of these tracks.

They do take a breather here and there, like at the beginning of the third track "Oceania". Some nice rolling guitar and flute give way to a subtle intensity that builds up to a melodic guitar solo. The song finally breaks forth into mayhem and a nice guitar solo interspersed with sax flurries only to wind down into a nice percussive outro, featuring none other than Mr. Ambient himself, Steve Roach.

They close out the album with an 18-minute tune, "Path Of The Farwinds". This is another track that starts off with some nice guitar and flute interplay. Shades of Gong creep in with the addition of some glissando guitar work, though it soon breaks into the speedy breakneck pace that drives a lot of the album.

All in all, there is some great, tight playing, with enough variety to keep you interested for the duration of the disc's 60 or so minutes. I like it.

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