Guthrie Govan,Marco Minnemann,Bryan Beller: Culture Clash - highly recommended for fusion and jazz fans from anywhere on Planet Earth!

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Resident reviewer J Mercer takes the Aristocrats for a spin to see if there is a culture clash!

The Aristocrats is a multi-national band with diverse influences. Marco Minnemann (Necrophagist, Kreator) hails from Germany, Guthrie Govan (Steven Wilson, Asia) calls the UK his home, and American Bryan Beller (Steve Vai, Dethlok) rounds out this power trio. A young band, The Aristocrats released its eponymous debut in 2011. The band's sophomore album, Culture Clash, was released in 2013. Culture Clash is 'proggy', but it also rocks, and is jazzy, mellow, bluesy, and just plain fun.

The band updated fans early with good news: "...Culture Clash cracked the Billboard Contemporary Jazz Chart Top 10 this week! The album hit #8 on that chart, and also debuted at #16 on the Billboard Jazz Albums chart." This clean, crisply-produced, instrumental album is a crazy journey into and through the world of rock fusion. It easily meets and exceeds the challenge of holding a listener's attention without a vocalist, by presenting listeners with nearly an hour of fluid tempo shifts, a variety of genre influences, and of course, elite musicianship or 'near perfect' technique. It is a 'muso's inspiration', an album that ought to motivate modern rock, jazz, and fusion musicians to greater heights on their instrument(s) of choice. It's not really what would be called an accessible album, but it's much more listenable (to a rock fan) then some free jazz. Very little time is spent in traditional rock song territory, but the band manages to retain some of that allure. Of course, to a fusion or jazz fan, this kinetic record is truly sublime. It's avant-garde, very well-done fusion: a melding or blurring of the genres of rock, jazz, and blues with hints of even more.

The Aristocrats - "Culture Clash" Full Album Preview Montage

Of the nine, two songs on Culture Clash stand out a bit. "Louisville Stomp" boasts a guitar intro that's very surf-rock influenced, with a prominent quavering vibrato. There's note doubling on the bass, a complex guitar lead, an interesting drum part: what's not to like? Here, we begin to hear the band's humor. That the tune shifts from a super fast surf-rock type lick to some sort of mellow bluesy 'clean electric' rock lick, then to almost a jazz trio sound, all in the same 30 second timespan, holds one's attention fast. The entire tune ends up a syncopation of ideas, not just licks. If you're looking for a 'fast guitar' song, without it also being 'hard rock/metal', this number ought to meet the bill. "Living The Dream" is very fast tempo, very rockin', high gain monster stuff. It flips to some offbeat rock and then right back to metal. That wackiness harkens back strongly to bands who perfected this 'near-crazy for crazy's sake' style 'back in the day': ZappaFaith No MoreScatterbrain, and others. This tune is incredibly heavy, but it vacillates to so many other tempos and moods that listeners simply have to check it out. The song boasts a false ending, where the mood fades into what seems to be a sonic dreamscape. After about 4 more teaser near-endings, the song does conclude on a screaming guitar note. The other seven tunes are just as good - elastic, fluid, experimental, expansive, well-crafted.

Other than the top-shelf musicianship, one consistent element on Culture Clash is the endings. Seven of nine tunes have sudden endings; eight if the send-off note in "Living The Dream" as counted as 'sudden'. The enigmatic genres of fusion and jazz seem to emphasize quirkiness and unpredictability, so it's ironic to find 'rock and roll level' consistency in the endings. As part of the album's elite avant-fusion bent, it's unknown if there are actually any major chords present. If you're interested in finding out this, and other musical mysteries, check out the Culture Clash Backings Package offered by JamTrackCentral, which contains backing tracks and full, Guthrie-checked and authorized tablature.
Culture Clash Backings Package 

Culture Clash is a fantastic, experiential journey through what is possible if various musical genres are fused with best in class musicianship. The album has plenty of syncopation, chordal bass work, 'adult chords', odd tempos, lightning speed, mellow funkiness, and whatever else a sophisticated listener seeks here. It's exciting in it's chops-buster virtuosity, it's relative restraint, and the sheer number of exploratory ideas it presents to receptive ears. The album didn't hit #8 on the US Billboard Contemporary Jazz chart because it's being promoted heavily, or the guys are clean-shaven and 22 years old: it got there because it's amazing. Music fans are taking notice of this exemplary trio. This is a highly recommended album for fusion and jazz fans from anywhere on Planet Earth.

- J. Mercer

Band Lineup:
Guthrie Govan -- Guitar
Bryan Beller -- Bass
Marco Minnemann -- Drums

Track Listing: 
1. Dance Of The Aristocrats
2. Culture Clash
3. Louisville Stomp
4. Ohhhh Noooo
5. Gaping Head Wound
6. Desert Tornado
7. Cocktail Umbrellas
8. Living The Dream
9. And Finally

Rating: 9.5/10

The Aristocrats - "Culture Clash" Complete Song Preview