Stratospheerius – The Next World
I’m just gonna say it, no one stop me, please: This album drove me absolutely nuts. So, why the good rating? It’s well done, I simply can’t argue with that. Stratospheerius is a unique band, melding blugrass, rock, prog, jazz, and funk. It’s really hard to describe. It’s got great violin happening all over the place, it breaks down to these blugrass and country moments all of a sudden, then this weird electronic bit, and all of a sudden there’s a funk guitar going, followed by classic rock guitars and vocals. Then, of course, there’s the prog elements on a variety of tracks, which prove to be quite well done (check out “Fleshbot” and “Road Rage” great instrumental driven violin rock madness). I’m not gonna lie, this violinist is really good, and really fun. If I were supersticious, I’d have to say that the devil came down and made a deal with Mr. Denizon for sure. Stratospheerius is all over the map on The Next World. Great band, not my style, but still a great band. This one’s worth checking out to see whether you love it or hate it.
-Matt Di Giordano
The Next World
Review by G. W. Hill
You just can’t go wrong with this outfit. Nor can
you assume what you are going to hear when they
release a new disc. While the fusion elements of
previous releases are still present, this one has
more pure rock in it, too. Frankly, this might be the
best Stratospheerius disc yet. At least until the
next world, err time.
Track by Track Review
Starting in a fusion way, this turns out to a killer, accessible prog rock tune.
It’s very much in an AOR motif and the peace lyrics are cool. There’s a great
non-lyrical vocal section as a bridge. There’s also a bouncy sort of section
that reminds me a bit of the reggae influenced period of Rush. There’s also
an intriguing space rock meets jam band instrumental section later. As one
might guess, there is also some tasty violin playing on this.
The Missing Link
The early sections of this have an almost modern alternative rock texture.
From there, though, it turns more unusual. Perhaps the most obvious
reference is King’s X, but it has more of a fusion element than that conveys.
As this cut continues the vocal arrangement becomes very noteworthy. In
addition, some of the changes start to feel more like some classic progressive
rock from the 1970s. This is another awesome tune on a disc that’s turning
out to be exceptional by this point.
Frantic and funky, this is a short song, but what a monster it is. It’s definitely
more like jazz, but there’s even a vibe to it that feels almost like Red Hot
Chili Peppers. While this might not be the prog powerhouse that the first two
cuts represented, this thing is full of energy and the instrumental section is a
While this cut is good, and presents a definite change of pace, it’s not nearly
as strong as the rest of the disc. The bulk of this fits somewhere between an
alternative rock sound and country music. Still, there is a smoking hot
instrumental section that’s more prog meets fusion and manages to save this
from pure mediocrity. Honestly, the problem isn’t weakness with this
particular number. It’s just that compared to the rest it’s a bit lackluster.
After a gong blast, the violin heralds a killer fusion jam. This is angular in its
progression and mid-tempo in its pace. Its shifts this way and that and really
rocks like crazy. At times I’m reminded of some of the most adventurous
music from Yes. They take it out into some world music after a while. Then it
becomes more pure jazz for a short time. They drop it to a weird percussive
bit and then move back into the song proper. It gebit and then move back into the song proper. It gets pretty crazed after a time. Other than some found sound type voices, thie tune is an instrumental.
This one is certainly proof that the disc is back on track after the last one.
The House Always Wins
While this cut is a big change, it’s far from a let down. It’s sort of like a jazz
ballad with a lot of New Orleans and some blues in the mix. It’s a weird little
tune and features some small oddities in the arrangement. It’s also very
tasty and has loads of charm and style. It’s probably not really a progressive
rock number, but there’s enough fusion here to make it a close call.
What a powerhouse this one is. It comes in hard rocking with a modern
progressive rock sound. As it continues it just gets more potent. The vocals
are among the best on the disc and the music also stands out. At times this
leans towards metal. At other points it’s closer to fusion. There’s almost a
Jimi Hendrix goes fusion feeling to it at times. The guitar solo is especially
powerful as it soars over the top of the mix. There’s a full on progressive rock
interlude that serves to link the instrumental movement back to the song
proper. This is arguably the standout number on show here.
Ballad for Ding Bang
This instrumental starts out much more like pure jazz. It gets more rock
infused as it continues and it has some particularly inspiring musical interplay
and soloing. It suffers from having to follow the masterpiece that “Gods” was,
but it manages to pull it off very well by not occupying similar space.
The frantic jam that opens this allows Joe Deninzon lots of room to simply
scream out his violin soloing. This is a high energy cut that’s part Charlie
Daniels and part Kansas, but all Stratospheerius. The guitar also gets a
chance to shine and this thing is a crunchy crazed progressive rock meets
fusion instrumental that’s another highlight of the set.
One Foot in the Next World
While the first parts of this have that alternative rock turned modern
progressive rock sound and seem a bit lackluster compared to some of the
rest of the music here, this includes plenty of powerhouse jamming later. It’s
another standout tune. It’s got strong vocals, killer instrumentation and a
They saved a winner to close the set. The progression of this cut includes
some Eastern tones, and I’m a sucker for that sound. It’s also powerful and
features some killer instrumental work alongside the vocals. This is another
that has a bit of a Kansas element to it, but it also seems to lean on some
modern epic metal in some ways. Still, this is Stratospheerius, so it’s got
plenty of prog and fusion built into it. This is definitely a great way to end the
disc in style and power. There’s even a little symphonic turn that actually
closes the track.
John Wilcox Progsheet review The Next World 5/11/12
Stratospheerius – The Next World… (Fiddlefunk Music)
Take violinist / vocalist Joe Deninzon, add guitarist Aurelien Budynek, bassist Jamie Bishop, and drummer Lucianna Padmore and you get the genre-busting quartet Stratospheerius. One moment you get a Police vibe; another song might fit in with that gonzo Tubes feel; the next some Jeff Beck-ish; yet another would be at home in the Zappa family. Sometimes all at once. The one common factor is that every number is full of invention and feels alive.
The biggest jump since the last Stratospheerius album is the depth and maturity Deninzon’s voice has gained. His vocal on The House Always Wins is playful and a bit of a tease. On Gods it’s got an urgent edge. Earthy and open on Climbing. As for the playing, every member plays with passion and invention. Budynek is tight and bright in rhythm mode and soars when the song calls for it. Bishop, who prog fans might recall from stints with the Syn and with Francis Dunnery, is a flat out low end monster and perfectly matched with the fiery Padmore. She is that drummer every musician wants in their ensemble: a player that can blow your mind one moment, then tenderly hold your hand the next. As for Deninzon – the sounds he gets out of that violin are inhuman. His speed, precision, color, and character are just off the charts!
Not a bum song to be found here. Today Ballad For Ding Bang, the Morse-era Spock’s Beard-ish One Foot In The Next World, The House Always Wins, and Tech Support win the highlight honors. If you dig funk/prog/rock/jazz/jam/fusion/pretty-much-everything-but-opera – it’s all right here. The Next World… is a disc you’ll never get tired of spinning! Much love to dear departed Stratospheerian Bob Bowen who also provided the cover art.
A Superbly Gifted Violinist
– MAY 4, 2012POSTED IN: CD REVIEWS
Stratospheerius – The Next World
The Next World (Digital Nations, 2012)
A leading candidate for best rock album of 2012 is the deliciously addictive album The Next World by Stratospheerius. The wide-ranging New York-based band is the brainchild of electric violin sensation Joe Deninzon.
Stratospheerius displays violin virtuoso, mandolinist and vocalist Joe Deninzon at his prime, accompanied by three outstanding musicians: Lucianna Padmore on drums, Aurelien Budynek on guitar and vocals, and Jamie Bishop on bass and vocals.
The Next World mixes state of the art progressive rock, jazz fusion, Dave Matthews Band-style jam band rock, contemporary bluegrass, cutting edge electronica, blues, folk-rock vocals harmonies, and even Balkan Gypsy music. Joe Deninzon’s dazzling violin solos, creative loops and effects are clearly spectacular and demonstrate that is one of the most talented instrumentalists in the current rock scene.
The Next World is dedicated to the late Bob Bowen, the bassist in both Stratospheerius and the Joe Deninzon Trio. Bob was killed in a bicycle accident in Manhattan (New York) in 2010. Bob’s bass appears on the track “The House Always Wins.” Bob Bowen also created the cover artwork for the album.
The Next World combines solid songwriting and tradition with extraordinary electric violin work and the sounds of the future.
Have you ever been to electric violin land? A master of four-string wonder crystallizes his vision
Over the five years that have passed since Joe Deninzon carved a personal niche in the rock domain with his band’s debut, “Headspace”, he made forays into jazz territory with a trio of his own on the instrumental covers collection which is “Exuberance”, but it’s in STRATOSPHEERIUS that the violinist holds the richest palette to take colors from. And this time he goes for a big picture, even though tango “The House Always Wins” and punky yelp of “Tech Support” might throw things to the humorous side to dissolve the wah-wah-adorned cerebral swipe of “The Missing Link” or the heavy “Gods” idiosyncrasy and, thus, blur the intent.
So while “Release” opens the lookout in quite pathetic manner, planting a folk dance onto proggy stem – a trick that works miracles in the vocal-free rave “Fleshbot” – when the full view comes into focus with the guitar-and-fiddle rage of “Climbing” a fabulous vibe goes down the listener’s spine. Ignited by Aurelien Budynek’s axe, “Road Rage”, the most classically-burdened piece on offer and at the same time the sharpest, marries its riff-fest to Balkan swirl, whereas “One Foot In The Next World” thrives on its fusion sensibilities, but “The Prism” is where the Eastern-hued vibe turns triumphal and the purest release reveals itself. After that, another five years would make a cruel wait.
The Next World blogcritics.org
By Wesley Britton
Perhaps despite themselves, Joe Deninzon & Stratospheerius are proving the sub-genre of ’70s progressive rock is very much alive and well in 2012. While Stratospheerius describes itself as a “psychojazz trip funk” band, The Next World is squarely in the linage of works from bands like Yes, King Crimson, and Genesis, along with nods to jazz/rock fusion. While Deninzon doesn’t claim any of these groups as influences, citing instead musicians like Frank Zappa and Jean-Luc Ponty, The Next World seems grounded in the conventions of progressive rock, which gives Stratospheerius the ideal format to showcase their musicianship and songwriting abilities.
For example, one trend in old school prog rock was the tendency to feature lead singers with high-register tenor voices. That’s certainly true of Russian-born bandleader Deninzon. But few other frontmen also excel as masters of the electric violin. A high-flying rock band also usually requires a guitarist capable of both soaring leads and inventive and energetic chord support. For the current incarnation of the group, French fretman Aurelien Budynek does just that. In prog rock, the ensembles are normally built on the tight performances of a rhythm section capable of unusual time signatures and quick tempo changes. Bassist Jamie Bishop and drummer Lucianna Padmore fit that bill to a T.
Their The Next World album opens with the jubilant “Release,” which is about letting go of old restrictions. Tricky time signatures and interwoven vocal lines mark “The Missing Link,” showcasing an extremely psychedelic guitar solo from Budynek. The entire band becomes hopped-up speed demons on “Tech Support,” with appropriate electronic sounds to deliver the message that the singers need that elusive technical support and, “You’re my last resort.”
Offering different moods and approaches, Stratospheerius goes Appalachian on “Climbing,” which erupts into King Crimsonesque rising and falling scales, reflecting the lyrics by a singer who is “still climbing” while he ages and is “looking over my shoulder.” Crashing gongs punctuate the fusion-jazz of “Fleshbot,” which might have fit on Wired if Jeff Beck had been a fiddle master with a streak of humor.
Speaking of humor, “The House Always Wins” goes even further back in time for influences, with a bouncy, swingin’ tribute to the breed of blues you might expect in a MGM musical-that is, if violinists had been plugged in back in the day. (The bassist for this track is former band member Bob Bowen. The album is dedicated to his memory, as he died in a bicycle accident in 2010.)
The variety of styles continue to range from the rough-edged “Gods,” in which “the more the pain, the more gods we need,” to the gentle instrumental, “Ballad for Ding Bang.” After the rock jam of “Road Rage,” we get one song seemingly deliberately crafted for radio airplay, the poppy “One Foot in the Next World.” The song from which the album drew its title has the listener part in the next world, part in this life, and one part twisting the knife. To close off the album, why not add a touch of ELO-style exuberance in “The Prism”? It’s a dramatic echo of “Release” with lyrics calling for the audience to break free from what imprisons us.
Some of the publicity for The Next World might suggest the album is a Deninzon project with Stratospheerius essentially his backing band. That’s far from the case. The album does have ample samplings of Deninzon’s accomplished violin work, but Budynek’s guitars are on display in equal measure. None of the “jams” sound like spontaneous improvisations, but are rather tightly crafted studio pieces including intricately produced vocal articulations, electronic effects, and multi-tracked instrumentation. Most of the songs are five minutes or less, meaning there are few opportunities for extended demonstrations of virtuosity. It’s an album with bright, vibrant tones from four players who aren’t competing, but rather congealing.
For this release, you’re not likely to think Zappa or
Mahavishnu Orchestra, but rather Trevor Rabin, Jon Anderson, or perhaps Robert Fripp. In the end, The Next World is an album for fellow musicians to appreciate and prog rock fans to enjoy.
View the original article on blogcritics.org