RUBYCONE — Pictures of Susceptible Housewives (review)

RUBYCONE — Pictures of Susceptible Housewives album cover Album · 2009 · Progressive Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
4/5 ·
Raff
Even a casual listener will immediately notice the album's quirky title and the matching, Fifties-style cover artwork. The tracklist will then reveal titles that bring the Canterbury scene to mind, displaying a sense of humour that is none too frequent in the world of progressive rock - let alone progressive metal. The actual listening experience, however, may turn out to be disappointing for those expecting a series of avant-garde-tinged, amusing stories - "Pictures for Susceptible Housewives" is a wholly instrumental album, and the only vocals heard come in the shape of voice-overs. Though the album was conceived as a series of sonic vignettes, loosely based on the effect of consumerism on ordinary people, its instrumental nature makes the connection between the concept and the music somewhat elusive, unless one is possessed of a very fertile imagination. It was nevertheless a bold move on the part of the band, and one that could lead to interesting developments .

Musically speaking, Rubycone occupy that grey area between prog-metal and hard-edged 'classic' prog à la King Crimson. The prog-metal inspiration is most evident in the second half of the album, in the crushingly heavy riffs and rapid-fire drumming of the likes of "Cry Baby, You Are a Machine" and "Don't Stop, Michael". Echoes of King Crimson surface instead in the guitar tone of "Children and Funny Earthquake". Most of the tracks alternate slower, mid-paced sections with hectic riffing and spiky, shred-like lead work - as exemplified by "Vikings Love Horses", which features some tasteful, Spanish-style guitar licks alongside the unleashed riffage, and the drum-powered "Fisherman's Story".

As the whole album runs at 41 minutes, the tracks are short and to the point - the longest, album closer "When the Rain Is Over, I'll Say to You Hasta la Vista", is for more than half made up of sound effects (rain, thunder and lightning), plus a snippet of dialogue from the "Terminator 2" movie, while the rest is a full-throttle metal cavalcade. Given the nature of the music, the disc's short running time is definitely a bonus point ? something a lot of modern bands still have to learn. There are also a couple of mainly acoustic, very short interludes, "Midnight Broken Heart" and the funnily-named "Porcupine Tree Alone".

As can be expected from such an ambitious album, the musicianship is excellent throughout. Thankfully, the collective members of Rubycone avoid bludgeoning the listener over the head with their technical chops, and the outstanding production values make it possible for each musician to be heard and appreciated in his own right. On the other hand, it should also be said that "Pictures for Susceptible Housewives", though an undeniably solid effort, is not always completely successful in the originality department, and that the frequent shredding can get somewhat tiresome at times. A bit more melody in the guitar department would definitely be an improvement for the future, especially if the band choose to pursue the path of instrumental music.
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