Drummer Previte and cast bring us fine candied sturm und drang high-velocity instrumental rock combining edginess with listener-friendly themes. Swaddled in faux-agitprop graphics and packaging, the â€œsuper bar bandâ€ surges across rock fusion terrain with respectable fervor or moody exuberance, depending on your age. Think Arcana lite, laced with traces of psychedelia and blues; metal Mahavishnu Orchestra.
The Coalition recently opened a show in Portland, OR with Previteâ€™s declaration â€œwe play what we want.â€ A local critic also wrote what he wanted the next day, which was a mildly scathing admonishment for being too atonal, generally droning, and making compromised use of guitarist Charlie Hunterâ€™s formidable talents (Mr. Hunter, who has established a deservedly unique niche in the guitar world for his remarkable eight-string guitar virtuosity, plays six-string guitar with The Coalition.) Perhaps Previteâ€™s Portland set was just misunderstood in the provinces, perhaps the Coalition didnâ€™t quite coalesce that evening.
Inconsistencies of live performance aside, the new CD is an exciting sonic romp from the crunch power opener â€œMinistry of Truthâ€ to the closing fused energy of â€œAnthem for Andrea,â€ with huge tenor riffing from Skerik. (Tenor blowing reminiscent of Pharaoh Sandersâ€™s intergalactic soloing from the 1997 Bill Laswell Arcana bandâ€™s Arc of the Testimony: the Arcana projects with the late, lamented improv masters Derek Bailey and Tony Williams set the standard for this kind of music clear into the 25th century; itâ€™s doubtful anyone will ever outdo the monster they created.) Charlie Hunterâ€™s refreshingly rocking, maxed-out guitar munches up the soundscape, and is certainly more accessible than Baileyâ€™s impenetrable skronk. Hunterâ€™s 12-string electric astro-sonic intro on â€œVersificatorâ€ hooks up with heavy tom work from Previte and deeply bottomed bass chords, morphing from moody fusion to a crunch boogie excursion with shades of Sonny Sharrock. The Coalition slims down to an inferno of an organ-drums-guitar power trio for â€œMinistry of Love,â€ with Hunter furiously dialoging with himself on shredding guitars. â€œThe Inner Party,â€ with its clever mysterioso blend of slide guitars, and â€œMemory Hole,â€ seven minutes of genre-wandering coolness, provide a bit of relatively low-key respite from the setâ€™s primarily high-decibel immersion. Keyboardist Jamie Saft works with a broad palate including vintage Farfisa, Moog, and Mellotron sounds. Members also include Steven Bernstein (Sex Mob) on trumpet, Stew Cutler on harp and slide guitar, and â€“ on one track â€“ additional drummer Stanton Moore.
The Coalition of the Willing, while not quite as startlingly innovative as the self-aggrandizing hype huffs on about, has most certainly created a powerful homage to great metallic fusion, with little compromise and a good measure of pleasant surprises. - Tali Madden
Mr. Madden escaped New York a few decades ago, and still misses his egg creams. Aside from a brief flirtation with the Desert Southwest, he's been damply ensconced for half his life in Portland, Oregon. The freelance writer has written extensively on blues and jazz for outlets including the late Blues Access magazine, contributed to the MusicHound Blues and Jazz album guides, and produced and programmed jazz broadcasts for public radio.