3.2 – The Rules Have Changed

I must admit that I’m not that conversant in Prog, whether its Prog Rock or Prog Metal. I just haven’t listened enough to it so I really can’t say that I’m a big fan of it either. Sure, there are the usual suspects like Queensrÿche and Dream Theater and there are also bands like Fates Warning, Opeth, Shadow Gallery, Ayreon and Bigelf that I really like a lot but for the most, Prog Rock/Metal has passed me by without making that much of an impression on me – Yes, ELP and King Crimson for example are all icons in Prog but they’re just not for me, not that I think that what I have heard is bad. That said, I also like to find new bands in genres I usually don’t wander around in so there have been some Prog reviews here. And with that introduction, here’s another record that is supposed to be sorted into the Prog file.

The background to this project is another project simply called 3 that came to life back in 1988 when the ELP guys, keyboarder Keith Emerson and drummer Carl Palmer teamed up with singer and multi-instrumentalist Robert Berry and the threesome released The Power Of Three, to which Perry contributed with vocals and bass. Despite the fact that the album was a commercial success and its single “Talkin’ ‘Bout” climbed up to # 9 on the US charts – which makes it a hit – a continuation of the project didn’t happen. Instead Emerson and Palmer teamed up with Greg Lake for an ELP reunion and that was that. But in 2015, Perry was contacted by Frontiers as the news that he and Emerson had been talking about a follow-up. With no Palmer involved, the name 3.2 was chosen off they went to work. But tragedy struck in 2016 when Emerson took his own life and Berry was left with the ideas that the couple had been working on. Berry decided to complete the work and plays all instruments on this record.

Opener “One By One” starts out with a piece of classical piano before it goes into a heavier and slower progressive Rock direction where smooth melodies that clearly comes from AOR lies on top. The tune speeds up a bit in the middle and a 70’s sounding keyboard sets in and makes the tune both a bit pompous and orchestrated. As a whole, I find the song memorable and I like it but it’s not like it floored me completely. A good song, no more, no less. Leading single “Powerful Man” follows and it comes across as a more straight-forward rocker in an uptempo pace. It’s on the prog side, of course, with a big keyboard arrangement and a very catchy, Pop-laden melody-line. Speaking of keyboards, the keyboard strut in the refrain reminds me not so little of Asia, especially their self-titled debut. It’s a very catchy tune with lots of hooks and a big AOR influence – and the refrain is nothing but irresistible. Brilliant!

The title-track takes us into ballad-land, but it is a ballad on the progressive side. It’s a bit softer and holds a very colorful soundscape. The keyboard and piano arrangements are huge which make the song grandiose and magnifical. The song takes a turn in its middle section where things heavies up remarkably and sends a nod towards Metal still with the big keyboards intact. The song holds a very melodic and Pop-laden refrain that’s very memorable without being radio-friendly at all. A very good number. “Our Bond” is slow, progressive and symphonic and at times it reminds me of old Magnum. It’s on the border to a ballad but with a darker feel and also brings on a very memorable vocal melody. Part of the song is sung in Spanish which brings on a different dynamic and it works splendidly. The song takes an upbeat and heavy route with a lot of rhythm changes towards the end before it ends with a gorgeous piano piece.

“What You’re Dreamin’ Now” starts out a bit noisy, like a cacophony, with a Yes-like keyboard sound but soon turns into a bonafide, straight-forward prog-pop-rock tune, very rhythmic big and pompous. It also combines the big wall of keyboards with some heavy guitar riffing. Apparently, this is an oldie, written by Emerson for the debut album. A very good tune. “Somebody’s Watching” is uptempo and groovy and holds some big, catchy keyboard riffs. Big Hard Rock sounding guitars shares room with widdly keyboards and a large Pop feel in the melodies that brings them into AOR territory. But the proggy elements are very present and it also brings on a symphonic influence over a quite heavy rhythm. A catchy song with a big refrain that’s incredibly memorable – this tune is clearly single material if he decides to release another one – very good.

“This Letter” starts out as an acoustic guitar fronted Pop song that comes across as almost folky, stripped and earthy. A piano joins in after a while and after two verses and choruses, a string section and keyboards pops up. After a while the song speeds up and even brings along a tango-like rhythm-mode before it takes on a steady beat and even gets bouncy where all instruments – guitar, bass, drums, keyboards – are present. A brilliant Prog Rock tune! Closing track “Your Mark On The World” starts out with some kicking riffs and a pretty rough guitar. It’s a total Prog tune that goes in a mid-pace a with a lot of rhythm changes everywhere and when. But it comes with a whole lot of memorable melodies and the rhythms are all punchy and bouncy. But there is catchiness all over and especially the verses’ vocal melodies are full of AOR influences – a worthy closer!

For a progressive album, I would say that it is quite easy-listening as the focus seems to have been more on memorable melodies and catchiness than anything else – something I applaud. But this is a Prog/Pomp album with everything that goes with that but I would also say I find it quite unpredictable – especially as I have never heard the 3 album. Elements of AOR, Hard Rock, Pop, Melodic Rock, Pomp/Symphonic Rock and even twists of Metal blends in very well among all the progressive stuff like lots of instrumental passages, tempo and rhythm changes and that makes for an interesting listen. With a big production, big arrangements, even bigger melodies and well-written and well-performed songs, Berry has brought this project home and even someone who’s not very linked into the Prog world like myself is quite impressed by that. A job well done!

7/10

Tracklist:

1. One By One
2. Powerful Man
3. The Rules Have Changed
4. Our Bond
5. What You’re Dreamin’ Now
6. Somebody’s Watching
7. This Letter
8. Your Mark On The World

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