Tom Hayes 7-Aug-2006 Beyond Jargon

Variant are a new band from the Dallas area, who true to their name, play a variety of hard edged song based styles. Overall I’d categorize this as modern rock, with a progressive outlook and edgy instrumentation. The tracks are extended, and there are quite a bit of changes within each composition. The band call out a nice cross-sampling of well known influences including King Crimson, Opeth, Porcupine Tree, Rush, Pink Floyd and Nevermore. Each of the tracks are “Chapters”, so we can guess Saga are in play as well. Variant are a forward looking group who are relevant for the day, and don’t appear to be seeking favor with the 70s retro crowd, except in the creativity department. Still, I would say Variant are probably a bit more musically conservative than what I typically prefer (note to band: Don’t listen to me, it’s commercial suicide). Interesting enough, I felt their best two tracks are the heavy ones, even though I wouldn’t consider Variant a hard rock band by any means. The opener recalls early Manilla Road circa “Mark of the Beast”, right down to Mark Shelton’s vocal style and evil guitar chord structures. No one, I mean NO ONE, sounds like Wichita’s Manilla Road, especially from their pre-metal period. Even the title evokes the Road: “March to War”. So that was a treat to hear. The best, though, has to be “Carrin’ Carrion” which really amps up the energy and complexity. They follow this epic with a funky Eastern tinged number called “Going” which has a memorable melody in the vocal lines. That’s Variant in a nutshell. No way to easily pigeonhole. However, one can definitely hear the Crimson influence (current era) throughout the disc. Overall, Variant write above average insightful lyrics, no surprise given how vocal intensive the group is. I feel Variant are a bit limited with the two guitar/bass/drum lineup, though they do mix up the sounds quite a bit including piccolo bass and some wonderful psychedelic guitar sounds. What I believe this band really needs is more exposure, because they have all the right tools to build a large audience around.

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