I have been a friend of Mark Trueack’s online since I first heard Unitopia’s The Garden album. He and the band created a world of new progressive music that I think shook up the neo-prog that was dominant at the time, with that album.
Trueack has moved on now beyond Unitopia to assemble the United Progressive Fraternity. A group of musicians that love making progressive rock music, but also love the cause of preventing climate change and alerting the world to the damage we as humans are doing to our Earth.
They have already released their debut album, Fall in Love with the World, in 2014. It was a great debut and introduced the world to what could happen if a huge collection of progressive artists came together to work on such an important project.
Now, they return with the follow up Planetary Overload – Loss Part 1. This is the first part of a group of albums coming with additional guest artists that will surprise many fans.
The collection of artists on this album would take a couple of pages to fill. The main members of the fraternity include: Mark Trueack, on lead vocals, composer, and co-producer; Steve Unruh, on violin, guitars (electric, acoustic 12-string, slide), sitar, mandolin, flute, keyboards, congas, kalimba, floor tom, tabla, percussion, composer, and co-producer; Christophe Lebled, on keyboards, piano, synths, and soundscapes; Cornel Wilczek, on orchestration and conducting; Matthew Atherton, on synth, soundscapes, and backing vocals; Marek Arnold, on sax; Daniel Mash, on bass; Mark Franco, on fretted & fretless basses; and Joe Toscano, on drums, drum programming, and backing vocals.
Guest artists include, (the short list): Jon Davison, lead vocals, (tracks: 1,11); Lisa Wetton, vocals, (tracks:1,3,10,11); Hasse Fröberg; vocals (track:5); Matt Williams, on electric & acoustic guitars, bass, synth & vocals (track:7); Steve Hackett / nylon-string acoustic guitar (track:11); and Michel St-Père, on guitar (track:11).
As always, the out of this world artwork was created in the mind of Ed Unitsky!
The album opens with “Loss Anthem”, and its slow strummed guitar with haunting female vocals from beyond. Narration and synths surround the soundscape as flutes and chimes welcome the listener to the what almost sounds like a morning awakening. Then Trueack and Lisa Wetton duet as a symphonic Lion King like orchestral production rises from the jungle.
Then Jethro Tull like flute and more of that Lion King level orchestration. Trueack sings, “Down, but not out! A world in drought!” Violin supporting as “What Happens Now?” gets in full swing. Lots of interesting guitar and bass soloing. Kind of a jazzy, beat poet, kind of mix of multi-talented musicians chiming in at different times. An amalgam of choruses and music compelling a feeling of excitement.
More narration and mixed soundbites, before a powerful guitar solo. Then Trueack begins to lay out the album’s story and theme, on the third track, “Cruel Times”. “These are cruel times. We are the ones who can make this right. The shining light”, he sings. Interesting guest violins and instrumental insertions meant to keep you on your toes and listening. Trueack’s voice is low and sounds full of sadness. A rambling caravan of guest musician virtuosity. Hints of ELO, maybe an attempt at later Yes. Great piano solo work mixed well with powerful drumming. Great high-pitched synth augmented with Kansas-like violin.
“What are we doing to Ourselves”, opens with kind of a jazzy rap from Trueack, “Hey you, what are we doing to ourselves”. A funky little beat not heard on most prog albums, innovative and sounding more like an orchestrated movie soundtrack.
“Stop Time”, opens with narration, water, and then the sound of plastic wrinkled. A heavy synth and drum extravaganza. Fun rhymes with Trueack singing. It is full of many time sig changes, definitely alternative prog. The middle has cool funky synths, but I wish for more The Garden level of musicianship. At times this sounds a little like a stab at Kino’s Radio Voltaire.
“One More”, opens with more narration and birdsong. Pink Floyd, Wall – like guitar, then Trueack, “One more drop. One more glacier caves into the seas”. Then, the best lyric on the whole album, Trueack sings, “Take a look around you, don’t hide behind some wall”. Trump needed that, thanks.
“Mercenaries” is my favorite song on the album. Narration and loads of sound effects that Unitopia was famous for using. More sound waves and synthesized music. Powerful lead guitar and some of the best keyboards and synths I have heard on an Unitopia or UPF album yet. A little Tull with flute and synth, before Kansas and violin. The launching violin solo that follows is one of the best on many an album I can remember recently. The Middle eastern rhythm that picks up speed is wonderful, but it is cut off too soon. Then, almost like a Marx Brothers movie, too much gets thrown into the pot near the end. Rather than hearing the refrain again, I wish they would play more of that Middle eastern music.
“What if” is a lead vocal with horns and soft guitar. This song contains some of the best lyrics on the album.
“Forgive Me My Son” opens with gunfire and soft guitar. The momentum builds preparing for Trueack to unleash the words, “Forgive Me My Son”. A plea for no more war. Trueack’s most dramatic vocal in years. The musicianship is some of the best on the album.
“Dying to be Reborn” opens with Trueack singing to quiet accompaniment of guitar and drums.
“Seeds for Life” tells the story of how seeds have been preserved to repopulate the planet with crops that may die during climate change. The Svalbard Global Seed Vault is a safeguard for the world to be able to recreate what may or will be lost. A good portion of the song is narration and the story, with synths and keyboards filling the air. The bubbling synths that start after the narration are great. A Noah’s Ark type story lyrically.
This song is probably the second-best track because it includes a blistering guitar solo by Steve Hackett. No one can match Hackett on guitar. He is the master and all boats rise with his presence…even in spirit. A 19:34 minute epic song, that should have been the closer. The piano work is excellent and dreamy.
“Loss to Lost”, is the closer. Piano opens the sound, with sitar and flute. Then back to the power of orchestration, a, la Lion King.
Planetary Overload – Loss Part 1 is another great project from the creator of Unitopia and the United Progressive Fraternity and its members. It captures some of the power of the debut album, but also makes me nostalgic for Unitopia’s past.
Although the UPF is full of incredibly talented musicians, the quirky lyrics, narration, and sound effects take up too much space on this album. The story is important though, and a strong foundation is laid out well, with wonderful music supporting.
The support the band has received from so many scientists and influential people in the field of climate change has been wonderful. The fact that any one band is making climate change such an important issue that they would write an entire album to support and tell the story of its nature is enough to earn your support.
This is a good album in that it was made with wonderful good intentions. Please give it a listen and show your support for protecting the world we share.
Planetary Overload – Loss Part 1 is available for purchase on their label GEP – Giant Electric Pea:
- Loss Anthem – 3:26
- What Happens Now? – 4:04
- Cruel Times – 8:06
- What Are We Doing to Ourselves – 3:19
- Stop Time – 6:56
- One More – 2:37
- Mercenaries – 6:49
- What If – 1:45
- Forgive Me, My Son – 7:47
- Dying to be Reborn – 5:20
- Seeds for Life – 19:34
- Loss to Lost – 5:16