DEC, 2017 REVIEW BY Strings Magazine
With herky-jerky momentum, the sinister yet jolly “Behind the Curtain” kicks o Joe Den-inzon & Stratospheerius’ exhilarating fifth album Guilty of Innocence. Chunky guitars, a battery of drums, and a seesawing Jacob’s lad- der of electric violin battle for supremacy as Deninzon’s piercing tenor equates American exceptionalism with the fraudulent Wizard of Oz. e metaphor has been employed before, but seldom with such panache.
Deninzon has been called the Jimi Hen- drix of electric violin, and that comparison seems apt on “Dream Diary Cadenza,” an excerpt of Deninzon’s solo concerto, where his violin swoops, howls, and dive bombs amid quickening arpeggios.
Elsewhere, Deninzon nods to Jean-Luc Ponty and George Clinton’s Funkadelic while charting an eccentric course that conjoins whiplash funk, spacey electronic, and pro- gressive rock. Vocals adopt a snarky tone, but the lyrics convey anything but cynicism. Deninzon is a moralist raising an alarm and pointing out insanity.
“Take Your Medicine,” a revenge fantasy aimed at scam artists, entangles Deninzon’s hyperkinetic bowing and a rubbery bass line in a muscular groove. The set’s title track lambasts the United States court system with squawking guitar, wiseacre lyrics, and Den- inzon’s dust-devil ostinatos.
On “Face,” coiled percussion, crunchy gui- tars, and whirlpooling violin entangle in a grand slalom of power chords, syncopation, and distortion. e 12-minute progressive rock epic “Soul Food” reels out vertiginous violin switchbacks, operatic choruses, and pummeling panzer division drums before galloping to a nale that combines crescendo and cacophony.
Splashy and theatrical, Guilty of Innocence is a howl for justice delivered by virtuosos completely in synch with one another. It’s a darkly comic clarion call to combat a u- enza, self-delusion, and the commoditiza- tion of daily life. Otherwise, Deninzon seems to say, we’re just another brick in the mall.
MORE CRITICAL ACCLAIM!
“When you put distorted guitars up against a violin you get magic. When you put a violin solo in a metal song, you get Fucking amazing shit! I love it when artists push the boundaries of what is perceived as the norm….. And I love it even more when it’s pure magic… I tip my hat and bow my head in awe ..”-Act/one Magazine. Read full review HERE
“Stratospheerius music is otherworldly!”They can tear out ear hairs and stomp them flat!…sounding both ahead of the curve and accessible at the same time. ”-#cirdecsongs. (www.proglodytes.com) Read full review HERE
“Guilty of Innocence is not only great, but one of the most hectic and heart-stopping albums I’ve listened to.-Zachary Nathanson
MUSIC FROM THE OTHER SIDE OF THE ROOM
“Joe Deninzon’s virtuosity is undeniable….It’s progressive music that’s not afraid of a catchy chorus. The 12 minute closing track, ”Soul Food” is a well crafted multi-tempo road trip. It ventures into magnum opus territory where 70’s rockers Kansas were at home…”
-Haydn Seek SkeletonPete.com
“Deninzon’s perfect vocal delivery and skills as a violinist. Stratospheerius is as tight as ever and really create a strong organic melody. Bravo! This is music!”
–Warlock Asylum International News
Roxy and Dukes in Dunellen usually presents pretty earthy, straightforward music — blues and country and rockabilly and hard-rock — as well as the occasional burlesque show. But it also hosts the NJ Proghouse series, devoted to the more sonically adventurous sounds of progressive rock. The next show in the series takes place Saturday, and features The Levin Brothers (led by bassist Tony Levin of King Crimson, and his piano-playing brother Pete) and the New Jersey quartet, Stratospheerius.
“(NJ Proghouse founder) Jim Robertson has been carrying the torch of progressive rock music for many years, with NEARfest and all the other stuff he’s been doing,” says Stratospheerius’ frontman, singer-violinist Joe Deninzon of Dumont. “We’re honored to be a part of it.”
Stratospheerius was originally formed in 2001, and has released four albums since then. It improvises like a jam band in concert, and its latest single, “Guilty of Innocence,” is as catchy as is is forward-looking, with echoes of The Police and Talking Heads.
In the current lineup, Deninzon is joined by guitarist Aurelien Budynek, bassist Jamie Bishop and drummer Lucianna Padmore. The band’s name, by the way, is a play on Stradivarius, the name for the highly regarded violins and other string instruments made by Antonio Stradivari and other members of his family in the 17th and 18th centuries.
Deninzon was once playing in an orchestra at a Smokey Robinson concert, he said, and another violinist had a high solo, and said, “That’s up in the stratosphere. I should have brought my Stratospheerius.”
“I just took that word and ran with it,” says Deninzon, “because our music is up in the stratosphere. It’s very trippy and spacey, and the violin is doing crazy things.”
Deninzon is also doing a lot of writing these days, having been commissioned to compose a piece for violinist Rachel Barton Pine, and having premiered an electric violin concerto with the Muncie Symphony Orchestra in Indiana in September.
He also is doing some prog rock organizing, putting together a traveling festival, Sonic Voyages, that hits New England in May and may come to New Jersey at some later point.
He believes this is a good time, in general, for progressive rock.
“I see a lot of mainstream acts incorporating elements of prog music, even though they’re not known as prog acts. The last few Coldplay albums, there was some really interesting stuff going on with arrangements and time signatures and production. Muse is a band that really blew up, especially in Europe, and became a mainstream act that had hits, but they’re really, technically, a progressive rock band in a lot of ways.
“More and more bands are hitting the mainstream and reviving an interest in prog-rock, especially among younger generations, and as a result you’re seeing groups like Thank You Scientist and Tea Club coming up that are really doing some cool, innovative stuff; they’re rooted in the history of progressive-rock music, but taking it somewhere else.”