Meeting at a crossroads halfway between progressive metal and jazz fusion, it’s virtually taken for granted that Relocator would have to be a technically proficient act in order to perform this style. Indeed, this German act has chops that put many even within the prog world to shame. Although this band had been around for several years before this, the self- titled debut is the only official output the band has released, and yet it still gives a very precise measurement of what these musicians are aiming for. Think Dream Theater if they took the advice of Pat Metheny or even Cynic, and you will have an approximation of what this band sounds like. Suffice to say, Relocator’s sound may rest in the uncomfortable area that is too heavy for jazzmen and too light for metalheads, but for those unopposed to that midground, Relocator makes for an easy recommendation.
As a listener, I have always been more into metal than jazz, although I have had great respect in turn for jazz, even adoring a handful of jazz artists. Relocator leans somewhat to the jazz side of their sound, but there is a metallic, synth-laden edge to the fusion they play. Early Dream Theater is the go-to comparison here, and it’s perhaps not a coincidence that ex-Dream Theater keyboardist Derek Sherinian lends his talents here. Although Derek’s appearance here may be Relocator’s biggest selling point, the most impressive aspect of the sound is the acrobatic guitar work of Stefan Artwin. He provides both metal sweeps and dreamy jazz observations here, and executes both impressively. Frank Tinge’s drums are perhaps lean more towards the metal side of things, although there’s a nice range. Michael Pruchnicki’s bass work on the other hand sticks to jazz, a mellow, but evident and present element to the band. Derek Sherinian and violinist Bartek Strycharski both give the jazz- metal fusion a new dimension. Sherinian sticks to prog metal keyboard proper, but Strycharski’s electric violin the moments it’s involved in an exotic vibe, as best demonstrated in the mini-epic ‘Aavishkar’. The violin is the most surprising element of the band, and it would have been nice to hear a little more from it on ‘Relocator’, although its absence by no means detracts from the rest of the album.
Although its more a staple of the jazz fusion approach than Relocator themselves, the songwriting on this album is loose, and perhaps too much so for my tastes. Although the music is played with expertise, there is a lack of structure and proper hooks, aspects that I look for even in the most challenging music. Although the way the band plays as one clearly indicates that these compositions were carefully arranged, Relocator’s focus on the virtuosic elements of progressive metal and jazz could have been nicely balanced off with more melodic passages to ground the listener down. That being said, the choice Relocator made for their work to be instrumental is all in their favour; their performances are able to run free without having to worry about dealing with a singer. Really, the bottom line here is that Relocator have crafted a fine album that impresses on many levels, but the lack of a distinct sound or signature style keeps this debut from reaching excellence or mastery. The performance art has been refined to a science, but it would be even more impressive still to hear this talented group find a unique blend of fusion to call their own.
1. Red Vibes (6:15)
2. Biosphere (8:02)
3. Relocator (5:26)
4. Proxima (6:18)
5. Aavishkar (10:32)
6. 13 Reasons (6:33)
7. Urban Blue (6:35)
8. The Alchemist (11:32)
* Stefan Artwin – guitars, programming
* Michael Pruchnicki – bass, bass
* Frank Tinge – drums, percussion
* Bartek Strycharski – electric violin
* Derek Sherinian – keyboards