SCENES FROM THE FLOOD (2019)
What do we keep, and what do we let go?
Bassist/composer Bryan Beller (The Aristocrats, Joe Satriani, Dethklok, Steve Vai) presents a sweeping, epic-scale modern progressive double concept album that asks the question: When the storm comes for us, the big one after which things will not be the same, who are we and what do we become in those defining moments? Scenes From The Flood explores themes of ambition and loss, intentionality and reality, hope and disillusionment, and uses every second of its 18-song, 88-minute running order to tell an emotionally consuming and unforgettable musical story.
Available in 2CD (with two 20-page deluxe booklets) and 2LP vinyl (with one full-size 24-page deluxe booklet) formats, as well as high-res and standard digital.
Featuring an all-star cast of 26 musicians including (in alphabetical order):
Nili Brosh (Michael Jackson ONE, Tony MacAlpine, solo artist)
Darran Charles (Godsticks, The Pineapple Thief)
Mike Dawes (solo artist)
Janet Feder (solo artist, Fred Frith)
Guthrie Govan (The Aristocrats, Hans Zimmer, Steven Wilson)
Mike Keneally (Frank Zappa, Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, solo artist)
Jamie Kime (Zappa Plays Zappa, Jewel, Dr. John)
Teddy Kumpel (Joe Jackson, solo artist)
Jake Howsam Lowe (Plini, The Helix Nebula)
Rick Musallam (Mike Keneally, Ben Taylor)
Mike Olekshy (Max Morgan, Alison Ray)
Griff Peters (Mike Keneally, Billie Myers)
John Petrucci (Dream Theater)
Joe Satriani (Joe Satriani!)
Ray Hearne (Haken)
Gene Hoglan (Dethklok, Strapping Young Lad, Testament, Death)
Nate Morton (Cher, The Voice, American Idol house band)
Joe Travers (Joe Satriani, Eric Johnson, Zappa Plays Zappa)
KEYS, STRINGS, ACCORDION, SITAR, PERCUSSION, AND MORE
Christopher Allis (Deana Carter, Denny Laine)
Paul Cartwright (Portugal The Man, Cee Lo Green, Mary J. Blige)
Julian Coryell (Alanis Morrissette, Jewel, Aimee Mann)
Fred Kron (Colin Hay, Donna Summer, Anchorman 2)
Evan Mazunik (Carla Bley, Anthony Braxton, solo artist)
Matt Rohde (Christina Aguilera, Jane’s Addiction)
Rishabh Seen (Arijit Singh, Mute The Saint, solo artist)
Leah Zeger (Stevie Wonder, Annie Lennox, Hans Zimmer)
and Bryan Beller on bass, keyboards, guitars and lead vocals.
Produced and composed by Bryan Beller
(* one song written by Janet Feder)
Mixed and mastered by Forrester Savell
Check out “Volunteer State” featuring Joe Satriani on guitars and Joe Travers on drums.
Check out “The Storm” featuring Gene Hoglan on drums; and Mike Dawes, Jamie Kime/Darran Charles and Jake Howsam Lowe on guitars.
VINYL SEQUENCE TRACK LISTING
The Scouring Of Three & Seventeen
Everything And Nothing
Steiner In Ellipses
Always Worth it
Army Of The Black Rectangles
The Outer Boundary
Angles & Exits *
The Inner Boundary
Let Go Of Everything
SCENES FROM THE FLOOD
(the long version)
What do we keep, and what do we let go?
As a bassist and composer, Bryan Beller (The Aristocrats, Joe Satriani, Dethklok, Steve Vai) has never been accused of being insufficiently driven. But nothing he’s done before can truly prepare you for his newest release, the massively ambitious and unapologetically progressive double concept album Scenes From The Flood.
A work so sweeping in scale that it took Beller nearly a decade to conceive, compose, and now fully realize, the album grapples with an existential question: When the storm comes for us, the big one after which things will not be the same, who are we and what do we become in those defining moments? Scenes From The Flood employs an all-star cast of 26 musicians to explore themes of ambition and loss, intentionality and reality, hope and disillusionment, and uses every second of its 18-song, 88-minute running order to tell an emotionally consuming and unforgettable musical story.
Presented in the classic format of four vinyl sides (or four “parts” on two CD’s), Scenes From The Flood was inspired by hallowed progressive double-albums like Pink Floyd’s The Wall and Yes’ Tales From Topographic Oceans, as well as more modern expanded works, such as Nine Inch Nails’ The Fragile. Several melodies and themes interweave and interact throughout the course of the album, a connective tissue through 88 minutes of emotional peaks and valleys. The deluxe packaging (two 20-page double-CD booklets, and a 24-page full-size LP booklet) reveals not just album artwork, but unique cover-style artwork for each of the eighteen songs, or “scenes”. The resulting sense of story urgency and dramatic narrative presents like a soundtrack to a movie suspense thriller as much as it does a double album.
“The Wall was the very first album I ever owned. It was a gift from my grandparents for my ninth birthday,” says Beller, now 47. “I completely absorbed the story, the visuals, the long form double-vinyl structure, and the repeating themes that defined it as a concept album. Ever since, my favorite albums always felt like they were telling a story. So when I realized I had that much music in my head, and something to say along with it, I got over my initial fear of tackling something so conceptually audacious, and finally just said, yeah, I’m actually doing this.”
“Doing this” meant enlisting 26 musicians, three visual artists, and three key engineers – all spread across four continents – to bring Scenes From The Flood to life. Special guests on guitar include legends Joe Satriani (on the optimistic, “road trip” vibed opening track “Volunteer State”), John Petrucci (who lays down a screaming lead on the 9-minute story-climactic progressive epic “World Class”), Guthrie Govan (taking the lead on the album’s closing ballad “Sweet Water”), and Mike Keneally (going from layered acoustics on one track to furious metal riffing on another), just four of fourteen total guitarists who appear on the album. Drummers include veterans Joe Travers (Zappa Plays Zappa, Joe Satriani), Gene Hoglan (Dethklok, Strapping Young Lad, Death), Ray Hearne (Haken), and Nate Morton (Cher, The Voice). Los Angeles TV/film scene insiders Matt Rohde (Prince, Alanis Morrisette, American Idol) and Fred Kron (Colin Hay, Donna Summer, When We First Met) contribute on keys and sound design. Paul Cartwright (Portugal The Man, Cee Lo Green) and Leah Zeger (Stevie Wonder, Annie Lennox) provide an orchestra’s worth of live strings. The combined experience of the musicians involved is dizzying to even contemplate. But with such stylistic diversity from song to song – including straight ahead rock, extreme metal, layered ambient interludes, extended progressive rock and metal, dance/electronica, acoustic showpieces, solo piano, and more – it’s just what was needed in order to pull it all off.
So, what is Bryan Beller’s first solo album in ten years really about, specifically? Beller demurs. “I’m fairly convinced that, at the detail level, it doesn’t matter. Like, when I listen to the late period Roger Waters/Pink Floyd stuff, am I really sitting there thinking about how his father died in that plane crash in World War II? Is it really necessary for me to know exactly what’s pissing off Trent Reznor at any particular moment to have an emotional connection to that music? Or to know the true spiritual philosophy behind all of Yes’ lyrics to feel those grandiose arrangements in my own way? Not for me, and I’m going to guess, that’s not how most people process this stuff. It’s there for them to have their own personal emotional journey – that’s what I’d hope, anyway. Are there specifics in terms of what originally inspired what? And are there some intended thematic messages throughout the work? Of course there are. But me going into them bit by bloody bit would only devalue the experience. I’d rather a careful listener enjoy finding the common threads and repeated themes throughout the record upon repeated listens. Because there’s plenty of that, and it won’t all show up at once. That’s the key to truly ‘getting’ the record at a deeper level – which is my hope for anyone who wants to go there, on their own, in their own way, so they can have their own emotional experience with it, not mine.
That said, if you listen closely, and take in the song titles, and the lyrics on the few songs that have them, and the music itself…it’s all there, waiting to be uncovered.”
* * * * * * * *
Beller also takes a surprising turn himself on guitar on several tracks, contributing foundational rhythm guitars throughout the album, and even leads on two songs: A clean, melodic solo on the sweet, light groove of “Bunkistan”, and a time-warped, overdriven scorcher on the meticulously layered “As Advertised”. Going further out of his comfort zone, Beller performs spoken word on the hypnotic dance track “Everything And Nothing”; a lead vocal of barely controlled rage on “Army Of The Black Rectangles”; and a vulnerable, exposed vocal on the album’s only cover: Janet Feder’s dark and surreal ballad, “Angles & Exits”. Feder’s T H I S C L O S E [Brainbox, 2015] was a cornerstone influence on this album, with Feder herself appearing on the sparse, haunting track “The Flood”. Other key influences include the extreme metal of Strapping Young Lad’s short but hyper-powerful Alien, and Hans Zimmer’s brooding motion picture soundtrack for The Dark Knight Rises.
With such an ambitious and diverse production at hand, Beller knew he would need a first-class sonic shepherd. He found one from the most remote city on earth, by way of a random event in America’s heartland. “In 2013 I walked into a music store in Kansas City, for a bass clinic. They had music playing over the P.A., and this song came on that stopped me dead in my tracks. It was the hugest overdriven bass and drum sound I think I’d ever heard. Just amazing.” The band was Karnivool, a modern prog-minded vocal hard rock outfit from Perth, Australia, and the album was 2009’s Sound Awake. Three years later, Beller found himself in Perth on tour with Joe Satriani, and met the band’s bassist Jon Stockman. One conversation led to another, and soon Beller was in direct contact with that album’s engineer, Forrester Savell. “We had a quick talk about concept albums, and going deep into mix details, and it quickly became clear that he was the man.”
A Perth native now based on Australia’s Gold Coast, Savell – whose additional mix/mastering credits include Animals As Leaders, Twelve Foot Ninja, and The Butterfly Effect – took on the gargantuan task sonically unifying this disparate collection of arrangements and styles with considerable relish. Still, Beller combined the new blood with veterans of his past productions. Nashville’s Mark Niemiec, who mixed Beller’s previous two solo releases (as well as the first two Aristocrats studio albums), played an essential role in editing and managing the myriad performances from around the globe that comprised the album. “Without Mark Niemiec,” Beller insists, “this record wouldn’t exist, period.” And L.A.’s Erich Gobel, who mixed The Aristocrats’ Tres Caballeros, was a key album tracking engineer as well.
And as Beller remembered from his youth, no double concept album is truly complete without artwork and packaging to match the scale of the music. Beller commissioned the unique artwork for each of the 18 song “scenes” from graphic designer Daniel Wagner (through Nightowl Studios LTD), who had previously done album covers for Intervals and Tesseract. “It’s not every day that you’re talking to a graphic artist and you’re like, ‘Ok, I want to do eighteen album covers, what do you think?’ But I dug his vibe, and we worked through them in detail, one by one, until we had this amazing collection of artwork that I thought could fill a nice booklet for the listener to absorb while taking in all the music.” Another key contribution was the photography and design treatment of Manuela Hauessler. A native of eastern Germany, Hauessler employed a combination of digital and analog pictures (including shots taken on a vintage film camera from the GDR era), to provide some of the artwork’s most striking images. To bring the entire artwork concept together, Beller once again brought on industry veteran Mike Mesker (Frank Zappa, Steve Vai) to guide, refine, and finalize the elegant, ultra-deluxe 2CD and 2LP packages – a fitting physical form for such a massive work.
“Some people will absolutely have to have the full deluxe physical versions, and god bless those folks! But I also know that it’s not 1995 anymore. I’m all for people finding out about this work on streaming services, and listening to it and enjoying it on their own time, in their own way. I think that plays a key role in the ‘everything right now’ world in which we live, and that’s fine. I’m not here to tell anyone that’s wrong. I would just say, if you get into it that way, and you find that it moves you, I invite you to consider taking the extra step of actually owning this album, setting aside some time, and absorbing it the way that the people who inspired this work would do when they got new albums. We were limited in how we could do that twenty and thirty years ago, but that limitation also provided a kind of freedom. That’s still available to us – freedom from distraction, devices, and modern life, even just for 90 minutes at a time – if we choose it.”