3RDEGREE is a prog band that's musically very sound, with hints of metal, strong melodies, complex but solidly-structured song composition and, yes – hooks. Ones & Zeros Volume 1 has it all, along with some great vocals.
Ones & Zeros: Vol. 1
10 tracks / 50:26
I think it was in John 1:46 where we read, “New Jersey! Can anything good come out of New Jersey?!” No, wait a minute – that was Nazareth, not Jersey.... But there might be just as many that would ask the same question about New York's close neighbor across the river. So how did a modern progressive rock band as good as 3RDEGREE manage to evade our notice until Ones & Zeros: Volume 1 – their fifth release – came about? Chances are, you're still saying, '3RDEGREE? - So who are they?' Well, imagine The Neal Morse Band and Glass Hammer had a baby...
Ones & Zeros: Volume 1 is a prog concept album – I know, I know... so what else is new? Well, not really all that much except that this is a very, very listenable, hook-filled project with lots of excellent musicianship and some fantastic vocals. A big difference with 3RDEGREE is that they know when to switch gears and keep things musically interesting at all times. The music moves along at an intelligent and logical pace, not bogged down by an overload of themes or an avalanche of verbiage in the lyrics (come on – even those of us who are prog fans know that those are issues, even with some of our favorites).
The band is musically very sound, with hints of metal, strong melodies, complex but solidly-structured song composition and, yes – hooks. Every member of the band does fine work on their instruments, never becoming over-indulgent but also never failing to impress. For the record, Ones & Zeros: Vol. 1 features George Dobbs (lead vocals, keyboards), Robert James Pashman (bass, keyboards, backing vocals), Patrick Kliesch (guitar, backing vocals), Eric Pseja (guitar, backing vocals), Aaron Nobel (drums), and Bryan Zeigler (lead guitar, backing vocals). The band really shows their chops on the jazz-inflected “Circuit Court,” a song that features some inspired work on drums, keys, guitar, and a strong, supportive bass line.
Particularly strong are the lead, background and harmony vocals. Right from the Beatles/Queen influenced opening moments of “The Gravity,” fans of powerful pop/rock vocals will know they're in for a treat (and vocals sometimes become the weak point of a lot of prog, so this is a very welcome element). George Dobbs has just enough grittiness to keep it earthy and has all of the range and flexibility to pull off some outstanding vocal work throughout the project.
What's not totally surprising is the album's theme – a good, solid idea but one that's been done many times in various types of pop/SciFi media: the dehumanization of society by increasingly-invasive technology. The robotic computer voice that appears from time-to-time is well done and quite convincing, yet you feel like you've been there before. That 3RDEGREE still manages to pull this off, though, is a credit to the strength of the project. There's nothing new under the sun,anyway – so enjoy.
Over all, Ones & Zeros: Vol. 1 is a winner, and an album that no prog fan should overlook. The song transitions are smooth and make musical sense, the lyrics are sound, the musicianship is first-rate and the vocals are exceptional. I'd say it's worth at least one more trip to our scary digital future.