Chicago is establishing itself as a home for quality modern progressive rock, with The Cyberiam becoming one of the primary players. This quartet wields extremely talented musicianship, skilled songwriting and a blueprint drawing from some of the genre’s most beloved bands: Rush, Dream Theater, Tool and Porcupine Tree. “Connected” is only their second full-length album (an EP and a live album have also been released subsequent to their debut) but already the buzz surrounding this band is building exponentially from all who discover them, and rightfully so. Simply put, if you’re a fan of the above-mentioned bands, you owe it to yourself to at least check out The Cyberiam and see what results from their amalgamation of influences.
The core strength of The Cyberiam is clearly rooted in its personnel. As a drummer who channels Gavin Harrison and Neil Peart among others, Tommy Murray threatens to overshadow the band with his skills but fortunately each member holds their own. Combined with Brian Kovacs’ Geddy Lee bass approach, it’s hard not to be completely mesmerized by the rhythm section. Keyboardist Frank Lucas follows more of an atmospheric Richard Barbieri approach than that of his teacher Jordan Rudess, so he generally stays in the background providing more subtle supportive textures which don’t come to the limelight as much but strategically add to the overall vibe of the pieces. Keith Semple’s lead vocals carry the songs with melodic grace, his guitar primarily offering rhythmic patterns and crunch with occasional solos. When taken all together, it’s a very satisfying combination.
The album opens with a run of three stellar songs in a row which play on the band’s strengths. “Interrogation Room B” starts by weaving its spell slowly as it snakes around the listener’s head. Keith Semple’s acoustic guitar strums and clean vocals deliver melody and mood to draw us in before the rest of the band takes the song to the next level. There are lengthy instrumental diversions in this nearly 10-minute piece including drum solos, bass riffing and an acoustic flamenco-styled guitar solo rather than taking an obvious direction of an electric Lifeson solo spot. As good as the production is, one gets the sense that this song will catch additional life when performed in concert; such can be the limitations of studio recording.
“The Moral Landscape” follows, an album highlight. Kovacs’ muscular bass propels the initial verses, while Semple’s voice approaches Geddy Lee’s tone before going into a very Rush-like chorus. Still, there’s plenty of crunching moments and instrumental passages which build up the tension a la Steven Wilson. “Wakeup Call” floats on a melodic verse set to acoustic guitar, buoyant bass rumbling below alongside well-placed drum fills, atmospheric keys and vibes. Boasting the strongest songwriting and arrangement on the album, this piece offers a perfect six-minutes which aren’t overly flashy but completely captivate and satisfy the listener.
We then head to celestial realms in “Sunset on Mars”, again featuring strong melodic vocal lines including a section sung by bassist Kovacs. Astronaut monolog is interspersed throughout the instrumental sections before leading into a raging (and too infrequent) guitar solo from Semple. “Here we are, four rocks from the star, come so far, sunset on Mars.” Indeed. The hard-hitting “In SaN1tY” then wakes up the listener where groove is king and the attack more pronounced. Despite the onslaught, the chorus still retains the smooth signature-style of The Cyberiam.
The title track “Be Connected” is a lengthy ballad which stops just short of becoming an anthem. This gorgeous piece also features lead vocals from Kovacs in the second half of the song, who surprises with a voice that would be considered as front-man material by most bands. At one point there is a hypnotic counterpoint sung by the two singers for just a brief passage. If there were a place The Cyberiam should flesh out further in the future, it’s this kind of vocal interplay.
Three additional songs close the album and at this point the structure of The Cyberiam songs is clear: strong melodic verses and choruses with lots of muso moments underneath, generous on the virtuosic drum and bass fills. At over 70 minutes running time, the album does feel a little long but there aren’t any filler tracks which could obviously have been cut. Seems the boys can’t help themselves in writing an abundance of quality material which leads one to conclude we’ll be hearing a lot more from them in coming years, too. Judging by “Connected”, there’s no shortage of inspiration and more than enough talent to go around.
Released by: Independent
Released on: June 25th, 2021
Genre: Progressive Rock
- Keith Semple / Vocals, Guitars
- Brian Kovacs / Vocals, Bass
- Frank Lucas / Keyboards and Vocals
- Tommy Murray / Drums and Vocals
- Interrogation Room B
- The Moral Landscape
- Wakeup Call
- Sunset on Mars
- In SaN1tY
- Be Connected
- Wilde Things
- Miles Away
- Bigger Questions
Sophomore slump will never be a phrase used for The Cyberiam’s second full-length studio album “Connected” as they easily match or surpass their well-received 2018 debut. This Chicago-based quartet knows how to wield their considerable talent into accessible, engaging songwriting filled with virtuosic musicianship. Taking their influences from many of the most lauded bands of the past decades, The Cyberiam serve up sleek, modern prog at its best.