Side projects for prog bands are common, to say the least. And yet, they usually still manage to create a buzz, and more often than not are well worth exploring. Such is the case with Pattern Seeking Animals, comprised of members and ex-members of Spock’s Beard. Consisting of Ted Leonard (lead vocals/guitar), Jimmy Keegan (drums/vocals), Dave Meros (bass), and longtime Spock’s collaborator/songwriter/producer John Boegehold (keys), who formed the group and is the primary songwriter as well. The self-titled album is set to drop in early July.
Given the lineup and main writer it will come as no surprise that the album has a strong Spock’s Beard sound and flavor to it, and a healthy dose of Enchant as well. But that is not to say it’s a rehash of sounds and songs that they’d already done. The music is a bit more straightforward and has a slightly poppier sound. Another noticeable difference is the guitar sound and style. Lenoard is well known for his vocal skills, but much less so for his guitar playing. This is really a shame as he quickly proves to be a very skilled guitarist and has a tone all his own; it would be cool to see him pick up some more guitar duties with Spock’s.
Things start off with “No Burden Left to Carry” which has also been released as a single. The track is the classic modern prog that the members’ main band is known for, albeit with a very different key tone. Boegehold has a different style of playing and flair that fans are familiar with when these guys are playing with Spock’s, but that shouldn’t be surprising. The song is very melodic; indeed writing ear-catching hooks was one of Boegehold’s main goals in the writing process. A little after the 5-minute mark the music gets a bit heavier and picks up speed considerably, and Leonard gets to show off some of his guitar skills. It was well chosen as an opening track and a good representation of what the band has to offer.
Things get softer with the ballad “The Same Mistakes Again,” which is a classic post break up type song about moving forward. It’s slow but has an incredibly memorable chorus with the nice vocal interplay between Leonard and Keegan. The heavier prog picks up again with the 10-minute “Orphans of the Universe” which is both catchy in its melody and morphs into some of the heavier, darker prog territories; a little something for everyone.
Things get a bit more playful with “These Are My Things,” which pokes gentle fun at collectors of innumerable knick-knacks until they become an all-consuming obsession and a “museum of me.” It’s a rather memorable track. The album is finished with another mini-epic, and my favorite from the album, “Stars Along the Way.” Beginning with pulsing bass and manipulated electronic sounds before it begins in full, it deals with loss and the pain of life as we strive for answers and some semblance of peace. The music builds in tension and power as it grows close to the 5-minute mark, before erupting into a full-blown prog instrumental section where the boys can really open up and show off their chops. Still, what makes this track so memorable and emotional is the vocal performance by Leonard. He utilizes his full range and brings a weight and gravity to the whole affair. It’s probably my favorite thing that he’s done.
Pattern Seeking Animals have with this, their eponymous debut, crafted a highly enjoyable example of modern progressive rock. Although it is similar to their music with Spock’s Beard, it is still very much its own entity and one that allows its members to show sides of themselves that are often pushed into the background. Fan’s of Spock’s or Enchant will find a lot to enjoy here, as should fans of modern prog in general.