Beardfish before. Not only that but before about a year ago, I hadn't even heard of them in the first place. I stumbled upon the group trolling through the ProgArchives archives (kind of a pun), found their album artwork interesting and they had some decent reviews on the site. I did some more research, and found that either you love the group or hate it, with little heard from anything between. On top of all this, each group is very vocal of their particular view, making for some pretty interesting (and at times funny) articles/forum posts/flame wars. Alright Beardfish, I am intrigued, you pulled me in. Now either wow me or let me hate you, seeing as that is the only two possibilities...
...And I am wowed. Mammoth, Beardfish's latest release (just this past week) is an amazing display of eclectic progressive rock, delicately dancing into progressive metal occasionally but still keeping the lighter side of things firmly grasped. I say it's eclectic progressive because almost each song is a part of a different subgenre of the progressive movement; there are long, outlandish pieces with movements and frequent time-signature changes, there are more straight-forward rock n' roll style songs, jazzy tacks incorporating the saxophone, and even a light a fluffy piano piece. All of this and more, summed up into one word: eclectic. Which to me translates to 'fun.'
The one song that perhaps perfectly embodies this view of shifting styles is the second one, "And The Stone Said If I Could Speak," a song that forced me to re-think my view-point mid-song. It is the longest song of the album by far, almost twice the length of the closest, which is great because they use the whole amount of time to draw you in. I wasn't too impressed with the song at the beginning, and by the half-way point I relented, thinking it was just ok, but by the time the last third of the song hit I was sold. This song that I found a tad dull initially was now full of power and energy, and quite frankly, one of my favorite of Mammoth. "Akakabotu" is the jazz-track, removing all vocals in favor for the saxophone taking a lead role, almost 'speaking' out a story, with the previous song, "Outside Inside," framing it with it's elegant piano. It almost acts as a stylistic intermission, before the album returns to the vocalized heavy-prog.
Mammoth is my first introduction to the odd genius that is Beardfish. Listing to it all, I hear snippets that remind me at times of other acts within the progressive rock/metal genre: the poetic (at times) vocals are reminiscent of Jethro Tull, their more grand songs remind me of Dream Theater (especially their Scenes From A Memory album), meanwhile the more rockin' songs sound like something from the 90s rock n' roll scene - with just a touch of power through layered vocals and guitars. It all flows and balances together very well.
In several of the reviews/comments about the band I saw a connection of style between Beardfish and acts like Yes and Genesis, but I don't hear it. Maybe their other albums hit upon this more, but Mammoth is of a much more modern prog style. It's not as crazy or outlandish as some of the new prog acts out there (Read: djent bands), but it is a superb look into the possibilities of what musicians can do. I think I'll have to continue my Beardfish education through their earlier works, I'm sure I won't be disappointed.