So as you may know, I have been listening to alot of progressive metal/rock of late. While I did take a break for a while, I'm getting back into the swing of things with re-listening to the works of 3. This is my third or fourth listen through most of their stuff and I've just noticed something: I believe that 3 qualifies as the first (that I've found) progressive metal-funk crossover. Now, I don't say this lightly, I am not a person who feels just because they have two songs in a different genre then the norm, that they should be also qualified in this alternate genre. This group has a strong funk influence in at least half of their songs, often times to the diminishment of the prog feel. I would almost call them a funk rock band, except there is still a very strong prog feel in their albums and in most songs, with almost every song having a breakdown that is straight metal or rock. Also, alot of their songs either have an intro or a background guitar riff that is very reminiscent of a Latin or Spanish theme (this is more prevalent in their earlier work, and has faded out of recent). These guys merge styles to create something new - and they do it well.
3's first album, 1999's Paint By Number, was the most directly funk-oriented album that they have released. The first three or four songs are straight-forward progressive metal, in the vein of Dream Theater, but after that the album takes a hard right turn and moves to almost solely funk. This strong sudden variation surprised me. At the time when I was first listening to this album, I had already listened to the rest of their studio albums (all which came after), so I thought I knew what this album was going to be like. I really liked the funk-half of the album alot more then the prog-half, but the whole album is solid. My favorite tracks off this album are "You Call Me Baby" (which is my favorite off of all their albums) and "Paint By Number."
Their next album was a live release, called Half-Life. It consisted of their first CD as well as un-released material, most of which that would be re-recorded on future releases. It is, for the most part uneventful, except for the fact that almost every song on this album is an alternate version of their studio tracks. I like this idea alot, because I dislike live albums as a whole, but this one puts a different spin on it. This release gives you something new to listen to, something different yet familiar (although I dislike that they changed "You Call Me Baby" to a more rock version, taking away alot of the funk elements that I liked so much).
Summercamp Nightmare, released in 2003, was 3's next release. It contained studio tracks from their previous album, as well as new material. This album was (in my view) was their weakest release. It moves back on the funk, and even some on the prog. One interesting thing is that the vocals are altered a little for this album. While the light, wispy lyrics are still there, for alot of the songs it sounds as if it was guest sung by David Bowie. Alot of the choruses have that odd, light British bite to them, that is prevalent in Bowie's work. Just a little tidbit there for ya. My favorite songs off it are "Halloween" and "Broadway Alien."
After Summercamp Nightmare, 3 was picked up by a major label, Metal Blade, for 2005's Wake Pig. This was the first album I heard from them, and as so, it is my favorite. I've listened through it the most, so I am the most comfortable with it. This albums continues the funk-feel, but in a much lighter sense. Instead it amps up the heavy metal into a more contemporary prog album. Some of these songs are re-recording of tracks off of Summercamp Nightmare, which for a person who has their entire discography, gets annoying fast. But as I said this is my favorite album, all of the songs are strong and well put together. The stand out tracks are "Alien Angel, "Bramfatura" (an instrumental Latin-themed track), and "Amazing Disgrace."
3's latest album, The End Is Begun, begins to ease back into the funk sound, while keeping the heavy progressive themes. This album I have only listened through once, so I can't remark too much on it. It is another solid album, with an underlying "ending" theme (hinted by the title) as well as a slightly morbid feel. This is definitely one of their darkest albums, second maybe only to Summercamp Nightmare. My favorite songs are "The End Is Begun," "All That Remains," and "These Iron Bones."