If you’ve never heard of Presto Ballet, that’s okay, I didn’t either until I came across them as a suggested band on iTunes about a year ago. Presto Ballet is a progressive rock band formed by Kurt Vanderhoof, guitarist for Metal Church. He wanted to pay homage to the prog bands from the 70s so he put a band together to create some music music that emulated the bands he admired from the era. I will say that he accomplished his mission, but maybe a little too well.
The lineup for Invisible Places includes; Ronny Munroe (Vocals), Kerry Shacklett (Keyboards), Bobby Ferkovich (Bass) and Vanderhoof (Guitars and Keyboards). Aside for Vanderhoof, this is a completely different lineup from their last two albums. According to their website, Vanderhoof picked these guys because they were completely dedicated to his vision for this homage to the classic progressive rock bands. I’m not sure what that means, but my guess is there was some discussion over the direction of the band by the former members.
First, the positives. Overall, Invisible Places turns out to be exactly what Presto Ballet wanted. This album sounds like it is straight out of the 70’s progressive rock scene. They have the classic organs, some long compositions, tempo and mood changes and an overall analog sound that you don’t hear anymore. If I could travel back in time with this album and give it to a teenager in the late 70s, he’d have no idea Invisible Places came out in 2011. Look at the album cover, the kid is listening to the album on a turntable with giant headphones, which is what you did back then.
The strongest songs are Sundancer and The Puzzle. Neither are too long, nor do they sound too forced. It feels like the band is in a good groove here and it make for a more enjoyable listen. Munroe does try to hit a couple of notes that are out of his range on The Puzzle, but overall he does the best job on these two songs.
Now, the negatives. When I first heard this album I really didn’t like it at all. I had trouble figuring out what the problem was at first. On paper, this album was made for me. You had a metal guitarist playing prog music, what’s not to like? After a few more listens, I figured out the problem. At times, Presto Ballet seems as if they are so determined to stick to their script of creating a 70s sounding progressive rock album that they are sticking parts in the album even if it doesn’t fit into the song.
At some points, like the intro to Of Grand Design, the song suffers for it. The first part Of Grand Design feels forced and stiff like they had a plan to put certain sounds into the intro of the song whether or not it ruined the flow. There are several sections of almost every song that feel that way. While listening to Invisible Places you could almost feel the point in each song when they felt like they were drifting too far from the script and the song abruptly changes to get back to what they wanted, or just to add an organ section to make it sound more like a prog song. Part of this could be chalked up to this being almost an entirely new band this time around, maybe they didn’t have had enough time together to iron out everything. I think with more time playing together they can put out a great album.
Having said that, Invisible Places is not a bad album, certainly not as bad as I first thought, but it could be better. While I was disappointed in Invisible Places, I’m very interested to hear what Presto Ballet puts out after having some more time working together. They have a lot of potential.