I came to Gordian Knot in a roundabout sort of way. I first became familiar with Sean Malone due to his stellar bass work on the first OSI disc. I then came (far too late) to the party that was Cynic. I was blown away. I had to hear more.
Enter Emergent, the second album from Gordian Knot. The band really is Sean Malone's project, with a rotating cast of supporting players. At the heart of it, you have a jazz inspired rock/fusion. There is no shortage of electric guitars and dynamic bass playing.
However, Sean Malone isn't afraid to really embrace the jazz aspect. There are plenty of moments that have an organic, jam feel to them. Other moments feel very thought out and focused. And while there certainly is rock, rock isn't the only side to the music here. "Mutterspache" is a fantastic way to kick the album into high gear after a lovely bass intro in "Arsis". For me, though, the highlight is the achingly beautiful "Grace", a live version of a song off the first album. It is sweet, plaintive and simply one of the most memorable and sublime songs I have ever heard. While the first Gordian Knot album was lacking in a few areas, Emergent is a fully realized, moving and powerful record.
Final Verdict: Adore it (and make sure to take the time to let this sink in)
Everything Peter said about this album is true - it is a great fusion album, filled to the brim with impressive musicianship and meticulous songwriting. Malone is a bassist unlike most others, with a sense toward jazz style and improvisation that most rock bassists wish they could have and never will.
Moreover, the guest musicians that Malone brings in are cream of the crop people with years of experience in progressive rock and other media. We've got Steve Hackett of Genesis fame, Jim Matheos (mastermind behind that all-important archetype of progressive metal, Fates Warning), Bill Bruford - who has spent time playing with both Yes and King Crimson, among others. Each of their contributions can be felt in little ways in the overall style of the record, from the more psychedelic stuff to the heavier aspects.
And it all just works together so well. At heart, this album is truly a jazz record; the fact that they use rock instruments and musicians does nothing to deter the fact that it has all the style, grace, and sophistication of basically any other great jazz fusion album. In the classic tradition of Miles Davis' Bitches' Brew, the Weather Report's eponymous album, or Chick Corea and Return to Forever's seminal Light as a Feather, Emergent combines everything I love about jazz - the fluidity, the improvisation, the exploration - with the tropes of great rock.
Final verdict: Adore it (and sit back, zone out, and enjoy)