Vegas prog quartet DINNER MUSIC FOR THE GODS proves that instrumental music is more affecting in the hands of a collective, not necessarily a lone gun. What's gotten boring about modern prog, specifically prog metal, is the subscription that chops, theory and multi-instrument proficiency are all what's needed to create it. Hence the plague of individual artists who do sometimes decent, mostly fair-to-midland albums filled with hyper, scales-driven flash and little glue. Even Steve Vai and Frank Zappa had the smarts to surround themselves with extra talent to help do their music justice.
It's refreshing that each member of DINNER MUSIC FOR THE GODS sounds like Julliard or Peabody alumni, which gives their second album "Beautiful and Treacherous" the excuse to spin it more than a few times. Really, the only thing in these guys' way is a tendency for repetition in their work, but the execution DINNER MUSIC FOR THE GODS serves to their audience is impeccable and that says a great deal about them. Plus, they really know how to work a cover tune.
For the metalhead savant, DINNER MUSIC FOR THE GODS takes a ride back to Eighties power metal on "Winterfell", only they decorate their galloping tempo with tied-down neoclassical lines from Andy Heilman and Darrin Pappa. Drummer Matt Muntean is a total maniac on this song as he is everywhere on "Beautiful and Treacherous". While each component of DINNER MUSIC FOR THE GODS is extremely talented, Muntean is the best of the gifted lot. His rolls coincide with his flailing triplicates on "Winterfell" and he dishes a cymbal ride bonanza that'll have horns flickering from anyone encountering this song.
Later, "The Tower" erupts multiple times on the brink of rolling fusion guitar and bass lines, charging forward with climaxing metallic outbursts and then clever jerk-backs into mid-tempo Latin grooves. The slammed-down thrash section within the final minutes of "The Tower" is a freaking blast, ditto for the heavier sections of "Queenshead" that boom all over the place on the heels of prog and yes, subliminal cha cha segments.
The band's take on LED ZEPPELIN's "Kashmir" isn't so much a cover as it is a freestyle interpretation. They grab only the most familiar bits of the original including incrementally laying down the main riff for a few bars before integrating jazz, samba and later, metal in-between the acquainted sections of "Kashmir". On the first listen, it comes off a bit cheesy, to be honest, but repeated listens reveal the pretty impressive originality DINNER MUSIC FOR THE GODS throws into their version, including a cymbal-splashing gala from Matt Muntean and busy bass scales from Jimmy Pappa.
"Wind Through the Trees", an instrumental ballad, gives Jimmy Pappa a chance to shine with exquisite strokes that become protected tastefully by Andy Heilman and Darrin Pappa's soothing melody. The song does hit agitated strides before drawing back into its comforting planes.
"Ghost Troopers of the Sky" is another gutsy maneuver on the band's part, merging Stan Jones' country ode of old, "(Ghost) Riders in the Sky: A Cowboy Legend" with, of all things, IRON MAIDEN's "The Trooper". It is and isn't what you're expecting. It's best to leave this one to your imagination and discover if you're right. What can be said about "Ghost Troopers of the Sky" is that DINNER MUSIC FOR THE GODS have a ton of music smarts about them and it's wildly entertaining, just like the rest of this album. They may be officially underground at the moment, but any fan with a smidge of appreciation for effective, group-oriented prog ought to be checking these guys out.