The Final Verdict
Review February 2002
Ironia is a progressive hard rock band. Their music is unusual yet still accessible (for the most part)--a balance that is sometimes hard to achieve. As often happens, one must listen to a progressive CD several times to fully digest and appreciate it. And while listening to Ironia's debut album, A Granite Scale, over and over again will reveal more and more depth to the music, it only took one spin on the CD player for me to like this album. Unusual indeed. Few are the progressive CDs that I liked after only playing once. It is difficult to describe Ironia's sound. It most definitely is hard rock. But it is a form of hard rock that isn't simply hard rock. Not that there would be anything wrong with straight-ahead hard rock, but Ironia has a definite progressive edge to the music. This isn't prog in the way most think of prog. Too many think that to be a prog band you must either be a Dream Theater clone or a Yes clone or a Rush clone, etc.. Few so-called progheads realize that the Dream Theater clones and the Yes clones of the world are most definitely not progressive. Progressive music should be about creating your own unique musical identity (within the boundaries of rock-we are talking about progressive rock, after all) instead of following a blueprint laid down by classic prog bands. In other words, every true prog band is relatively unique and original. No cloning allowed. Ironia isn't a clone of any prog or hard rock band I've ever heard. In fact, they don't even clone themselves. No two songs on A Granite Scale are alike: Variety is the key to Ironia's music.
Track one, "Chemical Moses", is a flat-out rocker with an eerie, quirky beginning, thanks to guitarist Nick Delonas. And Paul Zartler immediately shows his range and skill as a vocalist. Zartler sounds like a natural higher-range singer. Yet his range isn't limited. We're off to a good start. "Chemical Moses" rocks! The second track, "Underground Stealing", is a somewhat dark tune, but it is also playful at the same time. Zartler sounds like he's having fun on this one. This song is out there and may not be for everyone. But I like it and it is certainly an interesting ride. "Song of Parting" is what some would call a ballad. But this isn't an ordinary ballad in this sense: It isn't predictable. The vocal melodies are beautiful, no doubt, but they aren't sappy and they move in unexpected directions. This is a very impressive song. The fourth track, the excellent "A Shepherd of Eagles", is a very upbeat tune while "Crash", the fifth track on the CD is somewhat harsh and chaotic-like a car crash. There's a bit too much noodling on "Crash" for my taste. But the main riff coupled with the vocals are solid. Number six, "Around The Bend", is another unusual song. It moves in unexpected directions. And it is a damn, difficult song to describe: It is a vaguely haunting tune and a pretty good one a that. Track seven, "Rhino Racing", is a completely weird instrumental, quite unlike anything I've ever heard before. It isn't really my thing. But I'll live. Track eight, "God's Song", is a bit better. But it never really takes off for me. It is kind of a mid tempo rocker/ballad. The ninth song on the CD, "Shackleton Perseveres", is a fairly catchy, medium-paced rocker. The vocals are solid and the song has a good rhythm and flow to it. "Toe Jam", the tenth song on the disc, is mostly an instrumental with some spoken word parts here and there. Not really my thing. Number eleven, "Life is Hard", is a nine minute epic that sounds like some sort of cross between a Broadway musical ballad and church hymn (not the most accurate description, but I tried). I don't really care for "Life is Hard". The last song on the CD, "Ocean of Love", is a bit too laid back for me. It seems a little too long, even though it only lasts five minutes and twenty-two seconds. Comparisons to other bands are hard to make, though Ironia does remind me of Extreme. Extreme was often dismissed as a hair band, but Extreme was a progressive band in many respects. And Extreme did not often repeat themselves. Like Extreme, the key to Ironia is variety and the willingness to take chances. Ironia also reminds me a bit of the progressive rock band Spock's Beard because both bands have a lot of instrumental kookiness. A Granite Scale is a good, solid release. I urge anyone out there looking for something truly different, challenging and, yes, progressive to give Ironia - A Granite Scale a shot. It isn't the greatest album I've ever heard. But it is among the most interesting albums I've ever heard. I look forward to future releases from Ironia.
The Best - Guitarist Nick Delonas and his quirky, unusual style of playing--Steve Stevens meets Steve Vai.
The Worst - The second half of the CD didn't really do much for me.
The Weird - Most of the album is weird!
The Rest - Ironia's future looks good.