4.5 out of 5 Stars!
In the world of music, one sad fact remains consistent through the years—way too many bands disappear before their time. Whether it be record company interference or the general lack of publicity, personality clashes between band members or personal hardships, financial burdens, or a band playing the wrong trend of music during the wrong era, leading to an apathetic audience, it’s a shameful state of affairs when a group of individuals with extraordinary talents are forced to disband after one meager release.
One such group that fell victim to this sad fact is Quandary, an exciting band from Australia that, on its single album, successfully straddled the line between Prog-Rock and Prog-Metal before unfortunately breaking up soon after the album’s release. Also, one can’t help but wonder if the band sealed its own fate when electing to christen its debut album with the title Ready to Fail.
Regardless, this album should appeal to Prog-Rock fans like myself who savor ultra-heavy bits (mostly when it comes to guitar tones) tossed into their melodic and highly intricate Prog. Indeed, this band was gifted at shifting moods at a moment’s notice, which only increased the excitement factor. Most of the instrumental sections on this album are nothing short of awesome. Imagine the often-complicated instrumental passages of a band such as Yes or Gentle Giant played in metal style, with wildly wicked guitar and keyboard leads atop swirling and whirling background textures and thundering percussion. During many of these passages (such as in the mid-section of the track “Illusion Of Progress” or on the two instrumentals “Umbra” and “Penumbra”), the band features impressive dual guitar/keyboard solos (quite similar in sound and style to Ian Crichton/Jim Gilmour of Saga fame), along with complex arrangements and snappy, jaw-dropping changes in tempo that would make each track seem quite comfortable on albums by Thought Chamber, Distorted Harmony, or Haken.
The band was also quite adept at creating some intricate and often-catchy vocal melodies, as on the tracks “Waiting For Change,” “Disconnect,” and “Stepping Stones,” which occasionally remind me of bands such as Aztec Jade, Proteo, or Dreamscape.
And to show the depth of Quandary’s creativity, the two closing tracks (“Cloud Shapes”—an instrumental at more than twelve minutes in length—and the aforementioned “Stepping Stones”—a vocal track surpassing the twenty-minute mark) are both exquisite examples of what this group could achieve when given the freedom to fully explore. Both tracks contain magnificent instrumentation (as usual), delightful shifts in mood and tempo, and impressively demanding and diverse arrangements that would easily rival any of the band’s most seasoned contemporaries. It’s difficult to believe this is only a debut album and not a release by a band that had been recording for decades.
Therefore, fans of groups such as Circus Maximus, Dream Theater, and Andromeda—or perhaps Vox Tempus, Sphere of Souls, and Altura (three other talented, short-lived groups with only single albums) will likely enjoy this release.
Yes, with each of the four musicians in Quandary being undeniable masters of their individual instruments, it’s a shame this talented bunch didn’t last longer to deliver additional material. A damned shame! In my eyes, if any band could be given a chance to reform with substantial financial backing to support it, Quandary would be the perfect candidate. (Thankfully most of the band members went on to form Caligula’s Horse, another terrific Prog-Rock group, so all is not lost.)
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