HGR CD Review: The Arts

THE ARTS – SPIRIT WORLD (no label) Formed six years ago, Greensburg-based studio project The Arts is the brainchild of composers, multi-instrumentalists and graphic novelists Joel Sanders and Chris Vottero. As was the case with their previous album, 2012’s The Trinity System, The Arts’ newest set, Spirit World, provides a freewheeling and detailed instrumental listening adventure, as Sanders and Vottero explore frontiers of progressive rock, jazz, classical, folk and more. Each composition takes listeners into its own self-contained world, setting mood, atmosphere, plot and resolution; with the musicians’ varied instrumental mixtures providing colorations and tone. The majority of the disc’s seven tracks are expansive excursions; the shortest composition, the dreamy disc closer “The Secret,” clocks in at 4:08. Referencing a stone cross in France that symbolizes the world’s impending doom, “Cross of Hendaye” establishes a captivating mystique as it opens the disc, before erupting into an explosive, Dream Theater-like prog-metal arrangement. With its cavernous and atmospheric arrangement, the title track “Spirit World” sonically transports listeners into a supernatural scape. The Arts weave Emerald Isle folk flavors into the picturesque and angular “Celtic Tale,” construct a dramatic and cosmic arrangement on “Phantom Frequencies,” and seek out ghosts in the pseudo-funky “Haunted Carousel.” The disc’s most ambitious work, “Dreamcatcher,” takes participants into a world of Native American symbolism, rapidly-evolving and shifting prog/jazz/rock segments, ethereal new age interludes and more. Sanders and Vottero masterfully blend melody, dynamics, plot and variation into each composition to keep Spirit World interesting and moving; each passage and plot twist serves a purpose. The performances are skillful and tight, from precision guitar solos to full-bodied key and electronic fills and effects, rumbling and thunderous rhythmic passages and more. Produced by The Arts, the sound is clean and full, enabling these works to achieve their full power and majesty. A visit to The Arts’ Spirit World will yield an exciting and vibrant listening adventure from start to finish, and fans of progressive rock and metal flavors will find plenty to savor here. (To obtain the disc, email Chris Vottero at cvottero@comcast.net.)