Conundrum – Physiognomy
While they may be new to your ears, this progressive rock power trio will not remain in the shadows for long. Milwaukee’s Conundrum is made up of Alex Klosterman (guitar), Charlie Celenza (drums) and Owen Benkowski (bass, vocals). Although the pride themselves on the live experience, providing intuitive improvisation, the band has now officially proven themselves in the studio as well. Their debut studio album, Physiognomy, was recorded on analog equipment at the Walls Have Ears Studio at the Miramar Theatre by Producer William Stace and is set to be released tomorrow, April 29, 2016.
“Have Know Anything” brings a warm and welcoming feeling to kick off the album. Swimming in aesthetically pleasing guitar chords, the drums and bass drive the tune into a swirling frenzy, until finally, it breaks open in a blur of straight-up rock & roll. “Phantom Gravitas” takes over next. With a fast, meticulous lead guitar line giving way to heavy chords, lead-style bass flying all over the spectrum, and ferocious drums, this tune is reminiscent of the great progressive rock pioneers Yes. The epic, euphoric crescendo in the final third of the song puts the icing on the cake, leaving ears ringing and heads spinning. “L.U.S.T.” opens up with a bit darker timbre, which is supplemented by somber, harmonic vocals. Even so, the underlying groove is infectious, leaving listeners powerless to resist, and the psychedelic bridge enhances the feeling of aural pleasure.
“Northern Lights” eases into the second half of the record, depicting a lazy-day type of feel. A funky bass line in the bridge transitions the band into a driving rock outro. Now we come to the real meat of the album. The epic armchair journey of “Configured Sabotage” starts off with fleeting harmonics but doesn’t take long to kick into high gear. After a driving verse, we are sent out into the ether. Fleeting vocals take hold and suck us into a Conundrum vacuum. Gradually, it builds, and screeching guitar leads us deeper into the rabbit hole until we are finally brought forth into a raging inferno of rock & roll. As we emerge from the madness, the groove picks up, and it is time to dance the tune through to the end! Finally, “Cops Are Here” closes out the album with an absolute rocker. A lighthearted middle section gives way to one last build, led by powerful bass and fueled by an angelic guitar solo.
Overall, this record is extremely well done, from the songwriting to the recording and production. The sonic mastery of each of the three members of Conundrum allows them to put forth a tremendous sound, as do the best of the great power trios. From start to finish, the album continues to tug at the heart and mind, making it almost painful to press the pause button. The world of progressive rock has truly gained a formidable band, and I, for one, cannot wait to see what the future holds for them. The band celebrates the release of Physiognomy tomorrow night at Linneman’s Riverwest Inn in their hometown of Milwaukee.