VIDEO REVIEW: STRATOSPHEERIUS Continue to Impress With “Storm Surge”

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Imagine this.  You own a very expensive, very sleek, very powerful car.  You love that car, which handles so well when you slip into the driver’s seat and turn on the ignition.  She’s your baby, and you are a jealous and possessive owner.

Now, imagine that someone comes along who also has the chops to handle the car.  And several other folks can add their own expertise to the proceedings—servicing the car, providing directions, etc. Would you turn the keys over?  Or refuse to share?

That sort of decision faced Joe Deninzon of the band Stratospheerius.  His group is incredibly tight, sleek, capable of amazing things when the engine purrs to life and the gears are switched into drive.  But he had this idea, one in which he and his bandmates would take a backseat to some guest musicians.  So Deninzon took a bold step and invited a remarkable collection of talent to take a test drive.  And the result: “Storm Surge.”  The winds are at their back on this one.

The idea came when Deninzon heard his son playing “The Storm” by 19th century composer and pianist Friederich Burgmuller.  The music and the theme stuck in his head, and Joe re-envisioned it as a rock power-ballad.  He began imagining certain instrumentations and soloists who would fit the piece and arrangement. 

And what a collection it is.  Guitarist Fernando Perdomo.  Cellist Ruti Celli.  Multi-instrumentalist Rachel Flowers.  Violinist Yulia Ziskel.  And powerhouse Saga singer Michael Sadler.  Most of those folks have connections with Cruise to the Edge and/or Dave Kerzner.  Ziskel is Deninzon’s wife and a member of the New York Philharmonic.

Pretty much everybody gets their turn to shine on “Storm Surge,” either with solos or strong fills. And that holds true for the Stratospheerius stalwarts: guitarist Michelangelo Quirinale, bass player Paul Ranieri, drummer Jason Gianni—and, of course, the maestro bringing all the elements together, singer and violinist Joe Deninzon.

Visually, you might call this the “Hollywood Squares” approach to videos in the time of pandemic.  Lots of boxes, showing the musicians in performance.  The shots highlight who is taking a lead or solo at any given time.  But the star, the person who gets the best closeups, is lead singer Michael Sadler.  And it’s deserved.  Visually and musically, he makes this song his own.  He is the star.  He’s driving the Stratospheerius car on this highway.

Musically, as Deninzon planned, this is a power ballad.  What really makes it stand out is the musicianship, which is top notch (as you might guess from such a lineup).  And as I said, the real focus is on Sadler, who’s been doing this sort of thing for more than 40 years but hasn’t lost anything.  Actually, perhaps age and experience have added a bit of world-weariness to his chops, very suitable for “Storm Surge.”

Lyrically, this is a song for our times.  A world turned upside down.  Upheaval and upset.  Destruction and decay and disease.  Fear and confusion and hopelessness.

“Caught in a storm surge
shackled and submerged 
restless dreams they haunt me
drowning in this mad sea
The storm raging inside me
I reach for you but I can’t breathe
mouth wide open I can’t scream
my life flashing by me”

And there’s no happy ending…at least in the words.

“Storm Surge” is the third release (video and audio) of what’s planned to be a new album, although a date for its drop is still unknown.  But the current trinity that includes “Impostor” and “Frame by Frame” shows a wide variety of styles and influences.  This is a band that can do pretty much anything—but it doesn’t lose its identity and personality in the process.

But back to the video.  Remember how I said that there was no happy ending in the lyrics?  That’s true…but…the last shot is poignant and pointed.  Rachel Flowers takes her hands from the piano, turns toward the camera with a beautiful, beaming smile.  It’s more than just a celebration of a job well done.  Even in the storm, one can smile and find grace.  And the fact that she has been blind since she was three months old merely serves to prove the point.

Stratospheerius is a fine craft, winding its way through the tumult with power, determination and intensity.  They have not lost hope in these treacherous times. And with a little help from their friends—okay, a lot of help—they have weathered the “Storm Surge.”  And Joe Deninzon and company invite us along as well.  It’s smooth cruising ahead.

Released by: Melodic Revolution Records
Release Date: August 8, 2020
Genre:  Prog/Eclectic

Musicians:

  • Joe Deninzon/electric violin, vocals
  • Jason Gianni/drums
  • Paul Ranieri/bass
  • Michelangelo Quirinale/guitars

Special guests:

  • Michael Sadler/ lead vocals
  • Fernando Perdomo/guitars
  • Rachel Flowers/flute,piano
  • Ruti Celli/cello

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