The third album from Christian Progressive rockers Torman Maxt is the first of a two part concept piece entitled ‘The Problem of Pain Part I’. Part II is apparently already written and will be released sometime in 2008. Anyhow, despite their own admission as being progressive rock, this offering is not your run-of-the-mill ‘progressive’ cd. In fact – the term doesn’t truly bely the style or nature of the work at all. To me, their sound is more of an interesting mix of classic rock (such as admitted influences Rush, King’s X and possibly old Styx) with a dash of southern rock, some decent oldschool metal and even maybe a little electronic/ambient thrown in for good measure.
The disc is inspired by the book of the same name by C.S. Lewis and is a musical retelling of the story of Job from the Old Testament. Lewis is even quoted on the back of the cd case, in case there was any lingering doubt. However, the band’s approach is accessible whatever your religious orientation as they’re not preachy but instead focus on emotion and the well. . . spiritual. This is a thinking man’s band, make no mistake, and if you’re hoping to just ‘rock out’ – you’ll be missing their point entirely. Rather, you’d be better served to put on your headphones, relax in a chair and let the songs play.
Torman Maxt (and I can find nothing to explain what the name is about) consists of the brothers Massaro – Tony on guitar & vocals, Dominic on bass & keyboards and Vincent on drums. Musically, they’re a tight, incredibly talented trio owing much to Geddy Lee and co. while still striking out with a sound that’s really all their own, and somewhat difficult to describe.
Like the two earlier albums “Just Talking About the Universe. . .so far” & “The Foolishness of God”, “Problem of Pain part I” is broken down into segments that each tell a portion of the story. Chapter One (“Prologue”) starts off with the intriguing electronic/guitar jam instrumental “Overture”, which for all the world reminds me of ‘Come Sail Away’ by Styx – and I mean that as a good thing. Many layered guitar parts and a nice energy level make this one hard not to groove along with. Next is “Job’s Song” which also features some excellent riffs and has Tony channeling a nasally Geddy Lee. This one will haunt your mind after you’ve heard it a time or two, so be warned.
The next chapter (“Job’s First Test”) starts with “The Angel’s First Song”, a happy little ditty featuring a nice multi-vocal arrangement and some good acoustic work. Following that is my favorite song on the cd, “Satan’s First Song” (surprised?). Don’t let the slower intro fool you, this song gets to jamming and is probably the best showcase for how well the brothers play as a cohesive unit. There is also an unusual bridge in the middle with strange guitar echos and a sinister bassline.
Chapter 3 (“Job’s First Response”) starts off with “Job’s Initial Shock”, another one of my favorites – what can I say, I’m a sucker for the minor key stuff. Like ‘Satan’s First Song” before it, this has some really great fretwork as well as an infectious drum beat. Next, “Job’s Resolve” has a more 70’s classic rock sound and a pretty catchy chorus.
“Job’s Commitment” and the following chapter (“Job’s Second Test”), consisting of the songs “The Angel’s Second Song” & “Satan’s Second Song”, are intentionally remniscent of the earlier “Job’s Song”, “The Angel’s First Song” and “Satan’s First Song”. There are minor variations both musically and lyrically (different intros, or no creepy echoes as in “Satan’s Second Song”) but one does get a strong sense of deja vu’ that might be considered a drawback. It does, however underline the repetition of the second set of tests to which Job was subjected – a kind of “here we go again” in the story.
Chapter five (“Job’s Second Response”) begins with “Job’s Contemplation”, a nice albeit short, instrumental interlude. Then we have “Job’s Second Response”, wherein Job explains why he will not curse God’s name despite the challenges before him. This song starts out with a dual guitar intro but transitions midway into a softer acoustic piece which reminds me of early rock opera (and Tony’s voice reminds me of actor/songwriter Richard O’brien’s here, for some reason). “Job’s Wife” follows, a slower paced piece sung from the perspective of . . .you guessed it, Job’s wife as she questions her husband’s blind loyalty. Lastly is “A Great Silence”, a slow starting jammer that at first echoes influences by Jesus Christ Superstar and Alex Lifeson, then stops on a dime, morphing into a somber Vangelis-like electronic finale (excellently played by Dominic).
In fact, many of the songs seem to have two halves, and one can be misled by the tone in the first only to find something totally new in the second. This is so much the case that the entire disc bears repeat listenings to appreciate the subtle, complicated structure that has been crafted around well written and thoughtful lyrics.
I have to commend Torman Maxt for taking a different approach to a story where it would be easy to fall into cliche’. On the contrary, what is presented is a professionally produced journey into the testing of faith that defies easy categorization, or dismissal. Without wearing religion on their sleeves, the band takes their rock and roll message and makes it palatible for larger consumption. And they’re not hurting C.S. Lewis’ sales either – I just ordered the book off of Amazon!
I look forward to hearing part II. . .and you should too! But in the meantime, to hear a sample of Torman Maxt for yourself, I encourage you to go their homepage (www.tormanmaxt.com) or their myspace (myspace.com/tormanmaxt) and indulge.