By Adrien Begrand
It’s hard to think of any other contemporary progressive rock band that combines complexity, discipline, and catchiness better than 3. The upstate New York band has been steadily improving with each record, but it was their fifth album, 2007’s The End is Begun, that established them as one of the more promising prog acts today, the kind of band that could easily make the jump from King Crimson-esque dexterity to the kind of sweeping melodic hooks and economical beats that Rush excelled at back in the mid-’80s. Led by the smooth tenor voice of guitarist/singer Joey Eppard, 3 brings an element that bands like Coheed and Cambria, Porcupine Tree, and the gawd-awful Dream Theater (‘scuse the blasphemy, prog geeks) never quite had: enormous crossover appeal.
Granted, when you share a label with Cannibal Corpse, Job For a Cowboy, and GWAR, you’re an obvious square peg in a pentagram-shaped hole, and despite a strong push by the label and some plum tour slots, 3 never did click with an audience wider than their small cult following. So they’re on the move to a new label again (Roadrunner? Really?) as they finish album number six, and you know what that means. Yep, it’s Contractual Obligation Album time, kids.
Not only that, but 3 has decided to take the tired old “let’s re-record a bunch of old stuff” route for their final Metal Blade release. Surprisingly, though, this band’s idea is rather novel, focusing primarily on lesser-known rarities, ranging from a few deep cuts from their early albums to a slew of previously unreleased material that was only known by fans via live bootlegs and cassette-only recordings. And what we get is a very cohesive record for a collection of leftovers. More than usual, the pop element is heavily emphasized on Revisions, the ebullient “The Better Half of Me” bordering on pop metal, “Fable” tinkering with R&B without coming off as smarmy (and just plain terrible) as something like Maroon 5. That said, the band’s performances are focused on these well-sequenced eleven tracks, the odd stylistic departure reined in just enough to keep things from flying off the handle. And we get plenty of glimpses of quintessential 3, as on the colourful “Rabid Animals”, the confident re-interpretation of “You’ve Been Shot” that tops the 1999 original, and the typically spacey “The Emerald Undertow”. If anything, it’s a good way to whet fans’ appetites before the new album comes out. Whatever their record label, we know these fellas will always deliver.