CD Review - Into the Presence

Friday, April 24, 2009

INTO THE PRESENCE "Into the Presence" Razor & Tie

IT'S PROBABLY too much to hope that one record could restore the word "prog" as a compliment rather than a pejorative, but let's try anyway: "Into the Presence" is superlative progressive rock and one of the best rock albums of the year.

It's a coming-out party for Luis Carlos Maldonado, a session guitar virtuoso who is finally making his solo debut. The drummer is Tim Alexander of Primus and A Perfect Circle, but he's the solid, professional complement: The crunching riffs, soaring voice and wall-to-wall guitars are all Maldonado -- no synthesizers required.

Maldonado's tremolo and preference for a high vocal range are obviously reminiscent of Queen, but that's hard to fault. His skill as a rhythm guitarist is established on the first track, "End Game," in which he does a call-and-answer with acoustic arpeggios and electrified riffs.

The highlight of the 10-song set is in the middle, where the majestic "The Garden" is followed by classic rock nugget "Broken Words." There's a bit of Spanish guitar in the love song "My Only Crime," which also has bilingual lyrics.

While bands such as the Darkness ironically parody Queen's falsetto, "Into the Presence" resurrects the monstrous power of a cranked-up guitar amp behind a full-blast love song. If there's still such a thing as rock-and-roll radio, this album should be in heavy rotation.

-- Alexander F. Remington

Appearing Monday at the Velvet Lounge (202-462-3213, Show starts at 10 p.m.

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