Led from behind the drum kit of Norfolk native, Michael Mahgerefteh, Galaxy Dynamite features E.J. Toudt on bass and Eric Tuthill on guitar with each member taking various turns on synths and other electronically triggered devices.
The band has seen a number of lineup changes over the years, so the current cast might not be immediately familiar to folks who caught them pre-2016. This past May saw the long awaited release of a sophomore album backed by an impressive promotional campaign and an all-around great deal of overall fanfare.
There’s a whole Rock Opera thing going on here. A conceptual story that runs throughout the album centered around an hegemonic corporation, it’s chief executive, robot aliens bent on universal fascism, and a weapon capable of rending apart all of existence on a Galactic level. Add something about getting caught in a time loop that begins and ends with the utter obliteration of the universe — you’ve get both the underlying mythology of the band and the name of its associated ongoing festival series: Starfire. There’s a comic book and everything, which is.. Well.. Whatever really. All of this is value added material and it falls flat if the music isn’t any good.
Which of course begs the question: Is this music any good?
“Forward Into Oblivion” isn’t an easy record. While they bill themselves as Electronic Psychedelic, really — to my mind this is is Prog Rock. And Prog Rock isn’t always the most accessible genre — though to be fair, folks who love Prog Rock **really** love Prog Rock. I’ll be honest: when this first landed on my desk last year I gave a cursory listen and then mostly ignored it. But Mahgerefteh is insanely driven to spread word of his music and it seemed like I couldn’t turn around without seeing a sticker or a gig date or whatever. I caught them over at Charlies last October, and I grew to understand why people care about this group.
Their live show is fantastic. It communicates a power and electricity that I wasn’t getting from the studio tracks initially. So I pulled them out of a dusty folder and listened again. And again. And again. This is a album that may take some time to grow on you — but if you give it the chance it will, in fact, grow on you. Only the best has the ability to do that. Music that makes you love it despite yourself is a rare bird, indeed. I’m really not a Prog Rock fan — I come from Punk roots. And seven minute songs really aren’t my bag, but in spite of myself I know half the lyrics off this record.
So the answer is, “Yes.” This music is pretty damn good. But why? What makes it so?
There’s a density to their sound that isn’t apparent at first glance. There are sneaky hooks that burrow their way into your skull. The drumming is top notch. Really, the whole band is tight as hell. The texture and feel of each song comes off as the result of fine, meticulous craftsmanship. And like all the best Rock Operas? After a while you start to care more and more about the underlying story. While the group inherits characteristics of Prog Rock legends like early Genesis before they turned into a top 40 machine, Happy the Man, or even the Moody Blues — here the sound is reborn in a hail of synth fire and driving beats. Spiritually, I consider this release to be a successor to the kind of concept album that Rush wowed with all the way back in 1976 with “2112.”
My advice? Go see this band live first, and then pick up the record. It might be different than what you’re used to — but different is hard to come by these days. This is a project worthy of support.
Ultimately, I think it’s work I’ll return to again and again as time moves on.