Hailing from the Holy City(Charleston, SC), the progressive and experimental rock group Man On Fire return with their hypnotizing new album, Chrysalis. For this, their fourth album, they have expanded to a six piece band. They incorporate various instruments such as the trumpet, violin, and piano into their music, and each one is right at home in their sound. It becomes evident early on that Man On Fire step outside of influence. They are their own band with their own sound. With Chrysalis they put a unique stamp on what we consider progressive music.
The album opens with “Repeat It.” This is a great introduction to the band for first time listeners(like me) and to Chrysalis. The bass is singing right off the bat and continues to be a prominent part of the sound on this album. Eric Sands does a great job of really making it stand out as he works both fretless and fretted basses. Jeff Hodges comes forth with his heartfelt vocals as he leads you into a catchy chorus. The lyrics written by Steve Carroll fit the music just right. They’re intelligent and don’t put a finger directly on their subject matter which allows the listener to create their own story as they enjoy the music.
This captivating and multi-faceted blend of music is really showcased on the massive four-part “Chrysalis.” Each part is a unique leg of the journey it takes you on. I really love the trumpet parts on “Part 2: The Pundits.” ”In a Sense” sees the violin stepping in to mix things up early and help things live up to the high bar set by “Repeat It.” Hodges’ piano work really builds the atmosphere for the hauntingly melodic “A (post-apocalyptic) Bedtime Story.” The trumpet kicks in again here really adding to the song. This is an excellent example of their use of each instrument at precisely the right time.
Quite possibly my favorite addition to the band on Chrysalis is Elise Testone on co-lead and backing vocals. Early this year I was shown a few videos of her performing live and I immediately fell in love with her soulful and passionate vocals. She really makes her presence known with a powerful performance on “Gravity.” Not only is “Gravity” my favorite track overall, but Elise’s part is really a shining moment on the album. This song has that magical quality that few songs have where I can listen to it over and over without getting tired of it. The entire album is like that. It can be listened to repeatedly without fear of boredom. Songs in which Hodges and Testone sing together, like “In a Sense,” are a real treat. With the duality created by Jeff’s grittier vocals and Elise’s strong clear clean vocals they compliment each other nicely This fits the nature of the music quite well.
Despite it’s many layers, Chrysalis, is instantly accessible. I knew I liked it immediately, and I like it even more with each listen. As any good album should, it gets better and better. The musicianship is rock solid. Each band member seems to know their way around their instruments and then some. I urge fans of any style of progressive rock or metal to check out Chrysalis seeing as it is one of the best of the year. I can see this album being nestled in many prog enthusiasts year-end lists.