Dean Watson – Imposing Elements

A couple of years ago, I was introduced to the music of Dean Watson through a promo of his debut, the impressive ‘Unsettled’. Although the jazzier side of progressive rock had rarely been something I was really engaged with, there was something about Dean’s highly composition-based style of jazz guitar that kept me coming back to ‘Unsettled’, an album I still think upon fondly today. Although there may have been scarcely a sound out of media in anticipation for Dean Watson’s second record, it was something I was quite excited for. As a successful sophomore is prone to do, his 2012 effort ‘Imposing Elements’ develops upon the themes offered by the debut, fleshing out the ambition and providing an even more stirring experience than the first. Dean Watson has fashioned another highly emotional and captivating piece of music with ‘Imposing Elements’.

For the many who may not have yet heard Dean Watson’s music, the ‘prog fusion’ label his work has received does it a fundamental justice, although it does not get across the sort of dreamlike emotions his music is filled with. Dean is a guitarist first and foremost, and it may not be out of place to liken him to a more composition-oriented Joe Satriani, or Steve Vai-type player. I have rarely personally been a fan of the ‘guitar virtuoso’ albums, often finding them to be expressions of the artist’s ego rather than their soul. It’s refreshing that Watson is such a laid player, only occasionally letting his guitar rip through the rest of the sound, but most often sitting back while the rest of his instrumentation does the work.

Composition really is the heart, soul, blood, liver, and gastrointestinal tract of ‘Imposing Elements’. The song structures have a preference for exploring many different ideas in a single song, but very little in a given composition feels as if it could be rightfully amputated from the rest. Whether Dean Watson is leading the music through his guitar or synthesizer, the melodies are each unique and powerful, even sounding a tad weird over the jazzy chord structures. The greatest evidence to Watson’s excellence as a composer is that each song manages to sound unique from the others, each leaving its own impression on the listener before it’s done. ’16 Feet Below’ is a particularly engaging track, opening with an only slightly unsettling jazz line before diving into a darkly surreal mesh of melodic tenderness and King Crimson-like dissonance. ‘Of Age’ is another of my favourite cuts from the record, fusing progressive metal with some of his most beautiful guitar leads.

Dean Watson is a master of rock composition with ‘Imposing Elements’, although- as was also true for the debut- the execution is not quite as brilliant. As a musician, Watson is a fantastic guitarist with a real ear for merging melody and technical flair effortlessly. The piano and synth tracks are also executed admirably. The rest of the sound however- with particular regards to the programmed drums- sounds like a backing track that you might find in a guitar exercise booklet. For such inspiring writing, it feels like something of a letdown to hear the dull thud of a drum machine, convenience and budgetary concerns regardless. To his credit, the drum machine is programmed very well, with plenty of intriguing switches and fills to lift it above mere pacemaking duty. Even so, Watson bears the brunt of the natural setbacks of home recording; the sound feels inconsistent and dulled in parts, although Dean cannot be held to blame for this.

As I was expecting, ‘Imposing Elements’ is an impressive album that finds an easy recommendation from me to fans of instrumental rock. Although a few unfortunate limitations keep the album from resonating as an ‘essential’ prog fusion album, Watson’s talent for composition is nothing short of excellent. ‘Imposing Elements’ overshadows his previous work with ‘Unsettled’, and rightfully takes its place as one of the most acclaimed progressive releases of the year.


1. Past Present 6:46
2. 16 Feet Below 5:42
3. Underpass 5:33
4. Push Too 5:05
5. Pendulum 6:31
6. Depth Charge 6:20
7. Of Age 6:40
8. New Resolution 8:37


* Dean Watson – all instruments, production, mastering



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