Although it cannot necessarily be considered a follow-up to their second album ‘Delayed Reaction’, Bolus’ ‘Watch Your Step’ witnesses a noted improvement of the band’s craft. Not so much a new album as it is a re-release, ‘Watch Your Step’ was actually their first album back in 2005, now rerecorded and benefiting from the experience gained over the six years in between. It may be safely assumed then that the 2011 version is much closer to the way that Bolus would have wanted the music to sound. Treating it as a continuation of Bolus’ work, this Canadian duo ventures into more technically proficient territory than they did on ‘Delayed Reaction’. Although Rush is still certainly an influence, Bolus have stepped out from underneath the shadow and indifferent distinction as an emulator, and into something pretty great. Once again, the songwriting may not be quite new, but fans of Rush and melodically-inclined prog will find ‘Watch Your Step’ a fine piece of Canadian rock.
Use of more conventional song structures in prog has become much less taboo in recent decades, and Bolus capitalizes on this, reinforcing strong performance standards with pleasant melody and concise compositions. Although classic progressive hard rock is the driving influence between Bolus’ music, there is a sense of the more modern alternative rock derivative, seeping into the way their vocal leads are formed. The single-worthy ‘Shadow Stalker’ would not sound out of place on a college rock station; a to-the-point song built around its instantly memorable chorus. The band does make a stab at longer-form compositions with the atmospheric ‘Vow’ and prog metal finale ‘In Conclusion…’, but Bolus focus most of their album on more rock-oriented numbers. Rush’s ‘Fly By Night’ is a good reference point for where these guys take their songwriting.
The most impressive thing this time around is not so much the songwriting, but moreso how Bolus are able to cram so much prog into what would otherwise be decent 3-5 minute rock songs. To clarify, the duo will often break into excellent instrumental fury in between verses and choruses. Surprisingly, this almost always pays off in the music’s favour, helped in no small part due to the fact that Nick Karch and Mat Keselman are both great musicians. At times, their instrumental performance can feel a little cold and mechanical, but this is offset by their vocal work, which fits the music perfectly.
It seems strange to say- considering that this music has technically been around for years before ‘Delayed Reaction’- but it does feel as if Bolus have taken a proud step forward with ‘Watch Your Step’. Their performance and production both pull a tighter standard here, and while I cannot find the original to compare it to, I’ll place my bets and say that the 2011 version probably trumps their debut in every way they strove for. With this skill now demonstrated, all that’s left is to hear if this high quality will carry over to fresh material.
1. Day of Discovery (4:44)
2. Blockout (5:46)
3. Shadow Stalker (3:01)
4. Vow (7:00)
5. Going Up (0:55)
6. Faced (3:16)
7. Magistrate (6:18)
8. Never Wish Again (5:32)
9. In Conclusion… (9:26)
* Nick Karch – guitars, bass, lead vocals, keyboards, sequencing
* Mat Keselman – drums, percussion, backing vocals