By Jacob Brown
Mile Marker Zero is a New Haven, Connecticut-based quintet. After releasing a couple EPs, the band independently released the full-length Out Of the Ground, Into the Fire. The latest album, a self-titled effort, includes the strongest tracks from the previous album in addition to almost 30 minutes of new material. While the previous album was solid on its own, the new material builds off of the original release and captures the band at its best.
Rather than rephrase or rehash what has already been succinctly and, more importantly, accurately provided by the band, Mile Marker Zero has the following sound: “[Mile Marker Zero’s] songs are epic and ambitious, filled with unconventional arrangements and challenging rhythms yet they also flow with powerful melodies and memorable choruses.” To provide some additional perspective, take the hard rock and catchiness of Nickelback, the arrangements and atmosphere of Tool and Pink Floyd, and a pinch of Hammers of Misfortune. Still Mile Marker Zero remains distinctly unique.
While progressive music has always leaned heavily on technical musicianship, it seems current trends have many bands constantly bombarding the listener with gobs of complex melodies from every instrument all at once, all the time. Comprised of members with a strong background in music theory and classical performance, Mile Marker Zero has the ability to produce such an assault of instrumental wankery. However, where other bands place musicianship ahead of composition, the instrumental proficiency and collective education here brings a certain amount of class to the performances and tastefulness to the arrangements.
In what comes across as a huge breath of fresh air, Mile Marker Zero takes the “less-is-more” approach by crafting surprisingly spacey arrangements while giving each instrument its proper space and spotlight yet never losing focus of the direction of the music. This is not to suggest the album lacks moments where the whole band comes together in stunning fashion, as portions of every song perfectly weave each instrument together for very powerful results. This is to suggest, however, that clearly the band has no intention of following the popular approach to progressive music.
The album starts out as one might expect with a couple modern hard rock tunes in “A Thousand Nights” and “Laceration”. The former is relatively short and serves as a nice introduction to the band while the latter greater explores the depths of the band by spacing things out and building to a nice climax in the middle with a couple of groovy passages thrown into the mix. These tracks, like so many on the album, ebb and flow as the presence of certain instruments become more pronounced or diminished. “A Kiss to Fix” is simply a well-written song starting with one thought and reaching an entirely different place by its conclusion. Guitarist John Touhy, who regularly steals the show, shreds on the front half of this track and shines on the back half as his gorgeous solos continue as the song slowly fades out.
“Passive” and “Hush” compete for the most beautiful tracks on the album with the former slowly building throughout its duration and the latter an acoustic number. Both are the epitome of “less-is-more” executed to perfection! The epic and personal favorites, “Crimson Red” and “Peril Aerial” combine for nearly 20 minutes of proggy excellence as both seamlessly combine heavier sections with pomp and more majestic passages. A serious nod must also be given to the subtle piano lines and atmospheres Mark Forcarile provides throughout the album. These add so much weight to the material without ever dominating another instrument. This is partly due to the arrangement and partly due to the superb production. The absolute showstopper, however, is “The Reaping Tide” with the perfect combination of metal-tinged rock, dramatic atmospheres, and lyrical thoughtfulness.
Overall, Mile Marker Zero simply knows how to write great music – a skill that is on full display throughout the album. Whether it is radio friendly modern rock or 10 minute epics, the album is largely successful start to finish. Those fortunate enough to have obtained a copy of the previous album would be strongly advised to pick up the latest album. Mile Marker Zero has clearly used the time between albums to solidify and expand on its strengths while diminishing its flaws. Make sure to check out the official Mile Marker Zero website or iTunes to pick up a copy of the album.