Seven tracks, over fifty minutes of music, and plethora of skilled guest musician is what you get with the second album from Australia’s progressive fusion outfit Elias, managed by guitarist and songwriter Carl Belle. “Atlas” is a follow-up to 2020’s “1997” Party, and sees the musician exploring more experimental realms of the Jazz Fusion and Progressive Rock/Metal.
On “Atlas,” Belle proves to be a skilled musician who understands being in a band setting that largely relies on improvisation. The guitar and electronic textures are astonishing; the drums are usually heavy and grasped with the prowess of a master craftsman, great tone and very vibrant, sometimes leading the songs through complex instrumental workouts. The same can be said of the bass. Carl often delivers a fuzzy tone, giving the tunes a heavy bottom end when there is a need for that. Usually the main issue with this kind of albums is with melody, because it often gets lost in the predominant experimentation, but Elias answers that challenge flawlessly. Carl Belle is to be commended for making challenging music completely outside the box.
“Blind Mary” kicks off the album with a soothing acoustic intro, but it does not take too long before the electric guitar takes the main stage. The song comes along with energetic motives and gentler, almost ambient atmospheres. This fine piece features guest appearances from guitarists Alex Machackek and Joshua Meader, who are adding the well needed depth. Follows “Drongo,” which is more fast paced than its predecessor, and enters the prog metal territory. Michael Kennett and Dylan Reavey, with Rhodes and guitar solos respectively, take care of the tune’s dynamic. Belle and the company often take different directions with spaced out fusion approach. On the title track, Belle engages into another improvisational affair with equal amounts of heavy eccentrics and multi-coulourness, courtesy of three guest musicians, including guitar solo contributions from Dewa Budjana, David Soong and Connor Kaminski.
“Bletchley Park,” crossing the 9-minute mark, is in a world of its own combining atmospheric/ambient elements with progressive metal eccentrics, courtesy of guitarist extraordinaire Wes Thrailkill. “This Anxiety” comes forth with a steadier pace at the beginning, but Belle wastes no time before another prog metal cannonball is served. This time we have a master keyboardist Derek Sherinian doing what Derek Sherinian does the best.
“An Apology to My Teachers” is the only song on “Atlas” which does not feature any guest musicians, making it probably the most “personal” out of the bunch. Belle embraces more atmospheric, fusion-y approach on this one. “Atlas” ends with “Bob Dudeface,” featuring Michael Kennett playing a piano interlude, and Amadeo Corbalán serving another guitar solo. The interplay between the bass, guitar and piano is a well needed moment on “Atlas,” which doesn’t stall at any given moment.
If you are a fan of experimental music, Elias‘ “Atlas” is definitely an album that you’ll find enjoyable. There’s plenty that’s likely to appeal to jazz and rock fans alike and one would imagine that Elias is a very exciting live act, capable of delivering this music convincingly in either a jazz or a rock environment.