Asleep Next to Science

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Now that prog is just as young and punked up as anything else out there, the existence of Orbs makes perfect sense, right down to the utterly garish orange-tinted cover that's the afterglow of someone's intense trip. Asleep Next to Science, the group's first full release, is both a familiar enough supergroup-styled effort thanks to the bandmembers' various backgrounds in acts like Between the Buried and Me and Abigail Williams and a modern version of it given that their work grew out of Internet-based collaboration. The album almost resists criticism in a way, though, because it is exactly all that -- come in expecting theatrical compositions, metal-tinged and emo-tinged and more besides, and you'll get it down to the concluding piano flourishes on "Sayer of the Law," not to mention plenty of keyboard breaks throughout courtesy of Ashley Ellyllon. The descending break and coda to "Something Beautiful" show that the quintet can hit the epically melancholy heights with the best of them, and if such moments aren't always constant throughout the album, they happen enough times to set a good tone. Adam Fisher's vocals are the make-or-break point throughout -- there's something sweetly, strangely inspirational about hearing his thin, almost dorky whine riding the arrangements on songs like "A Man of Science," and a few times he makes it work unexpectedly, much like Billy Corgan did with his own out-of-place singing. At other points it's more hair-pulling, however, though song titles like "Megaloblastic Madness" and the two-part "The Northwestern Bearitories" might cause more double takes in the end -- or the line "Chupacabras on the wing" in "People Will Read Again."

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