Terragram

Planet Earth

Calisto Music, 1997

REVIEW BY: Scott Floman

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 09/14/1997

When my father first asked me to review this album (he's in the same business as one of the guys in the band's dad), I wasn't exactly thrilled with the prospect. How good can they be, I thought? The first time I listened to the album was as background music (what I was doing I can't remember), but I remember being surprised at the band's accomplished playing; at the very least, I thought, this definitely wasn't a total dud. A couple of months later, after a couple more cursory spins, I was ready to give this album a fair shake and REALLY listen to it.

Fact is, the album doesn't immediately grab you by the throat. This is because Planet Earth move at their own relaxed pace. Upon repeated spins, however, the album exerts an impressive and addictive pull. The centerpiece of the band is guitarist Rob Mastrianni, a dextrous player with a melodic, ringing guitar tone. Joe Milazzo's rumbling bass and Rich Martin's tribal drum fills provide the necessary framework for Mastrianni's intense lead work, most memorably on "Creature Cantina."my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Though low budget, the production is quite capable, featuring a clear separation of instruments and bringing about a lonely, echoey quality to the soloing. This album showcases quite a bit of that, as each of the five tracks that are actual songs (more about that later) last about six minutes, giving the players (specifically Mastrianni) ample time to strut their stuff. These excursions are generally for the purpose of further developing their mid-tempo songs, and not merely exercises in showing off. Planet Earth expose themselves as talented individual instrumentalists who, when brought together, boast a fully developed and somewhat unsettling sound. Their vocalist's (I can't tell who does the singing since the liner notes don't say) distinctive voice adds another eerie element to their edgy mix; he sounds like a cross between Jim Morrison and Tool's Maynard James Keenan.

Though Terragram is a promising debut, it is not without some drawbacks. First of all, I wish the band would tighten up their songwriting and strengthen their (usually science fictional) lyrics. Secondly, I think the band needs to decide exactly what they're about: jarring juxtapositions such as the scream in "The Yorktown Syndrome" seem out of place, as if the band can't decide whether they want to be a bluesy jam band, progressive rock outfit, or a heavy metal combo; if they want to be an ambitious mixture more power to them, but the album could flow a little better. In addition, I find the nine indulgent minutes of percussion-led gibberish and noisy atonality tacked onto the end of "Drifting" monotonous and annoying.

Overall, though, I was pleasantly surprised by Terragram, and think that the band offers a unique hybrid of current sounds. Planet Earth's alternately heavy and quietly melodic sound evokes many other bands yet ultimately remains their own original vision. Should this obviously young band (their endearingly unpretentious liner notes read like something out of a high school yearbook) continue to grow as songwriters and further devlop their musical identity, I think they have a highly promising future.

Rating: B+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


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© 1997 Scott Floman and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Calisto Music, and is used for informational purposes only.