Shwizz, the enigmatic and thematic prog fusion duo that hold camp in Nyack, NY, consists of guitarist Ryan Liatsis and drummer Andrew Boxer, and today we’re taking a look at their newest album, Big Things.
Released last month via Color Red (the record label that also works currently with artists like The New Mastersounds, Freekbass, Star Kitchen, and others), Big Things is a creative, and decibel-intensive, addition to Shwizz’s studio repertoire of technically-driven, mind-melting prog rock. Echoing many great fusion creations before them, Big Things‘ spirited compositions have a power to transport listeners to cool musical realms even in its employment of the most sinister sounds and riffs.
The new album also boasts the skills of a number of superstar musicians that collaborated with Shwizz on various tracks. These include bass players John Ferrara of Consider The Source, Luke Bemand of Lespecial, and Chris DeAngelis of Kung Fu, as well as the latter band’s lead guitarist Tim Palmieri. The title track which closes out the album features a total of four special guests in Ed Mann, legendary mallet percussionist for Frank Zappa, along with actor David Krumholtz, guitarist Dan Rappaport, and vocalist Natasha DiMarco.
For today’s addition of “Track by Track,” here are some of our thoughts on each song from Swhizz’s Big Things.
Favorite Tracks: “Unnamed King,” “The Shwizzard,” “Weather or Not”
A reference to the character Splinter of TMNT, the first track wastes no time in showcasing the duo’s technical skills, as well as their sense of songcraft. The snappy drum work here is the first thing that really stands out, but alternatively when that first guitar solo hits halfway through and gives the opener its bluesy groove, our excitement about the record is ignited.
With a crunchy drum bass and drum riff setting the stage for some swing jazz, this is probably the track you can bop to the easiest on the record, except for its bludgeoning refrain section—that’s head banging time.
“Your Call Is Very Important To Us”
Its time someone turned the agony of waiting for a representative over the phone into a jazzy metal tune. “YCIVITU” adds a unique shade of color to the album, sounding like what you might get if Bela Fleck and The Flecktones wrote a progressive rock song. Liatsis flexes his chops on acoustic guitar with a graceful solo at this track’s midpoint.
If the album hasn’t knocked you on your ass yet, this track with special guest bassist John Ferrara of Consider The Source should do it. A straight rager whose dark chords are treated appropriately with a aggressive energy, the build of drama and intensity on this song through its end is one of the best things on this album.
Chiller than the last song, but with a bass sound that is no less formidable—this time done by special guest Luke Bemand of Lespecial. For this collaboration, Bemand’s bass playing is given more freedom, mirroring the melodic work of Liatsis and Boxer with his own really intriguing playing.
As if trying to not be outdone by the first two, Chris DeAngelis of Kung Fu kicks off this flat-out awesome track with the meatiest bass tone on the album. Meanwhile, that quintessential percussive chop roughly three minutes into the song, along with the devilish solo following it, is certainly the work of guitar mastermind Tim Palmieri. If there was a track off this album that was going to be the mega hit with fans, this might be it.
“Weather or Not”
What genre do you want to hear next—latin jazz? Dark dub? Dance rock? This fantastic, modern prog creation cruises through them all in theatrical, palindromic fashion, stringing together more than a few great grooves back to back. Quite possibly our favorite song on the record.
The album’s title track is a perfectly executed homage to the late, great Frank Zappa, being a catchy, vintage-colored rock tune set behind bizarrely eloquent narration (done by special guest David Krumholtz). It even takes the homage further with a terrific funk breakdown for its second half. The influence is fitting given the track’s other special guest, legendary mallet percussionist Ed Mann, who played for over a decade with Zappa. In true style, Mann’s vibraphone matches note for note some epic guitar work, which gets help from third special guest Dan Rappaport. Backup vocals from guest Natasha DiMarco gives the tribute the little bow on top.
Stream a sample track from Shwizz’s Big Things below, and for more information about the band, head to their website here.