By Scott BernsteinFebruary 22, 2010
What do you get when you combine large doses of jam, untz and prog with a dash of Broadway? Look no further than U-Melt’s latest album – and first for Harmonized Records – Perfect World. The group’s third studio album shows off the strong songwriting, unorthodox harmonies and instrumental prowess that are the hallmark of U-Melt’s sound.
The dash of Broadway comes from the dramatic vocals of U-Melt keyboardist and Perfect World co-producer Zac Lasher. Lasher’s background in theater comes through in his passionate and highly-articulated vocals. Some of the album’s best moments come when Lasher is harmonizing with himself including on the anthemic “Question Matters”. Instrumentally, Lasher provides swirling synth lines a plenty on “Disillusion”, brash organ runs on “Clear Light” and a layered attack of various keyboards on “Elysian Fields.”
Perfect World features a number of tracks that contain highly-structured, composed segments before giving way to a disco beat-based groove provided by drummer George Miller and bassist Adam Bendy. The 12-minute-plus “Panacea” follows this template as does “Clear Light.” With these elements so proudly and prominently displayed, there’s no mistaking U-Melt is a jamband from the first track to the last. It’s nice to see a band that embraces the genre instead of runs from it.
While live, most U-Melt tunes easily clear the ten-minute mark and are high-energy affairs, the title track proves they are capable of writing a beautiful five-minute ballad. Drummer George Miller’s earnest vocal delivery, the delicate soundscapes Lasher creates, guitarist Rob Salzer’s shred-heavy solo and the haunting harmonies all help make “Perfect World” stand out from the more structurally-complex compositions that fill the rest of the album.
The I’s Mind, U-Melt’s last LP, came out in 2006, so the band has written and developed dozens of songs over the past four years giving them the luxury – and challenge – of choosing one disc worth of the best tunes for Perfect World. They succeeded not only in presenting a group of 10 exceptionally varied compositions but also in truncating the songs enough to appeal to a casual listener while not cutting out any of the key moments that shine in concert. Even though the group has replaced Salzer with new guitarist Kevin Griffin since recording the album, Perfect World gives listeners an accurate aural picture of what U-Melt is all about, i.e. - if you like this album, odds are you'll like U-Melt's live shows.