Ice Cycles hit me like a weakly thrown snowball. The impact I need from my rock just wasn't there. Lots of fluff and powder, but the explosion never blew my brain out of skull. There are great moments - mainly because you can't go wrong with Ty Tabor's guitar brilliance (King's X), the devastating multi-timbral attack of keyboardist Derek Sherinian (ex-Dream Theater), bassist John Myung (Dream Theater), and drummer extraordinaire Rod Morgenstein (of the Dixie Dregs, and...ahem...Winger). Ice Cycles simply lacks the solidity and sheer sonic candy of Platypus' first album, When Pus Comes To Shove.
Beginning with the end, the problem glares on the album's closing piece, "Partial To The Bean (a tragic american quintogy)." After one barn-burning instrumental and a host of solid songs that compose the bulk of Ice Cycles, this paint-by-numbers prog rock romp goes absolutely nowhere. Frankly, it bores the shit out of me. If you're going to do a seven part rock suite in the last year of the 20th century it better be transcendent! Instead this sucks ass, meandering through riffs that would be appropriate background music for SportsCenter baseball scores.
Fortunately the rest of the album is quite listenable. "I Need You" qualifies as the song that should be on the radio. It has some Jane's Addiction in the intro and as a whole is well put together. I think the band is too good for FM though - this song's competence might embarrass the little boys who play rock stars today.
Platypus is a "supergroup." But considering the overall anonymity of everyone in the band, I'm not sure Platypus lives up to the supergroup moniker, or would want to. I do know Rod Morgenstein drummed for Winger and that's pretty thuper if you ask me.
"The Tower" is a groovy, 70s tinged mid-tempo mother. The lyrics seem cool, and the song reminds me of antique-proggers Kansas. Morgenstein rips out beautiful bass drum kicks during the chorus and reaffirms his position as master blaster. Along the same tempo is "Oh God." "Oh God" opens with a deeply melancholy keyboard line that devolves into anticlimactic grunge; the sort you have heard fifty thousand times before. But Tabor's voice is sweet and the playing, as throughout, is stunning. Thankfully the keys return with that haunting opening line and really brings the song home with a cool multi-part harmony by Tabor (who handles all singing duties).
For a wonderful hook, look no further than "Better Left Unsaid." Great chorus with stellar understated guitar. My one complaint is the Hootie and the Blowfish organ sound during the verses. Unnecessary and sounds too slick. But it's a hot song - with a keyboard outro that really brings about a late-60s early 70s atmosphere in a heavy-metal kind of way.
There are some other tunes worth listening to on Ice Cycles, but nothing all that noteworthy. If you liked When Pus Comes To Shove you have to hear this; understand, in my somewhat-biased review mode this album's biggest fault is its lack of the elements that made When Pus Comes To Shove so great. Which means I'm a dumbass and I'm missing something here. But that's cool - I'll keep listening to it.
Obviously if you're into King's X, the Dixie Dregs, or Dream Theater you'll groove on this shiz. If you like Winger, all bets are off.