SCENES FROM THE FLOOD (2019)

 


CLICK HERE to order “Scenes From The Flood” on 2CD, 2LP 180-gram vinyl, or digital! 

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):

GUITAR
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!)

DRUMS
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

PART ONE
The Scouring Of Three & Seventeen
Volunteer State
Everything And Nothing
A Quickening
Steiner In Ellipses

PART TWO
Always Worth it
Lookout Mountain
The Storm
The Flood

PART THREE
Bunkistan
As Advertised
Army Of The Black Rectangles
The Outer Boundary
Angles & Exits *

PART FOUR
The Inner Boundary
World Class
Sweet Water
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.”

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12 hours ago

Bryan Beller

BEHIND THE SCENES FROM THE FLOOD - STEINER IN ELLIPSES: Every story needs conflict, and here we introduce a new element in the narrative, one that possesses extremely powerful energy. Benevolent? Malevolent? Both? Yet to be determined. But it’s going to have an impact either way. We’ve all encountered something like that, right?

To represent this sonically, I knew I wanted it to be (ahem) fast and furious. I also always wanted to wrote a true thrash/extreme metal tune. And I knew this was the conclusion of the first of four parts of the album, so it needed a grandeur in its climax. For me, this all pointed towards Devin Townsend/Dethklok world, and that’s when I realized I needed Gene Hoglan slaying everywhere in order to make this track’s brutal sprint to the end of Part 1 come to life.

Making the demo was a blast, except for the guitar solo. There was no way I could approximate the metal shredding it needed, and I believe in Complete Demos. So I called for…the soulful, funky stylings of Rick Musallam?! Somehow I just thought it would be fun to give him a whack at it. Sure enough, he came in and shredded it with a slightly bluesy edge (a bit of Hammett/Mustaine, perhaps), and the demo solo ended up being the album’s most unlikely keeper.

I also wanted the riffing to feel more “dangerous” and slightly loose as opposed to “modern/tight”. More 1986 thrash than 2018 djent. So I called…Mike Keneally? Yes! The riffs were actually quite difficult *mentally*, and the odd-time intro/outro was a bitch and a half, as was the ascending climb riff leading up to the ending (my nod to Strapping Young Lad’s “Shitstorm”). MK ate those tough runs for breakfast, and gave the track a whole different feel than “Awesome Metal Guitarist X” would have been able to provide.

Overall, even though “Steiner In Ellipses” was only 2:23 in duration, it was one of the hardest pieces of the album to bring into a finality that really worked. There are 17 mixes of the demo and 22 mixes of the final studio version. (No joke!) Mixing extreme metal has “rules” in order to avoid low frequency muddle problems generated by super fast kick drums and low-tuned guitars in unison with bass. “…And Justice For All” aside, there *are* real benefits to reducing low end and increasing compression in metal mixes. And yet, this song had to fit on an album where the low end was, in general, fat AF. Balancing the needs of the song with the needs of the album was something that Forrester Savell and I were working on right up until the very, very end. It was the second to last mix to come home - only “World Class” took longer.

Finally, the song - and Part 1 - ends with a nod to the coming Storm. A few people caught that. Did you?
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1 day ago

Bryan Beller

JANET FEDER SPEAKS: I’ve said plenty about her - now it’s time to hear from her in her own words. Let’s Rock catches up to guitarist/composer Janet Feder (author of “Angles & Exits”) in her first interview since the release of “Scenes From The Flood”. How did a classically trained (and degree'd) acoustic guitarist end up using roach clips, split rings and plastic “superballs” to create unique sounds on a baritone? Janet explains it all in this 30-minute interview. ... See MoreSee Less

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3 days ago

Bryan Beller

TWO BRAZILIAN GIRLS TALK PROG: I thought that might get your attention. I know I’ve posted a lot of interviews lately but this one is absolutely unique, thanks to the clever editing and the 65-SONG PROG PLAYLIST (in 16 minutes?!) curated by Lorena Coelho and Nina Goulart of Desordem Progressiva. Come for the lo-fi hipster fashion, stay for the Deep Prog Questions. And make sure to watch to the end to see how to debase yourself with a writing utensil after playing “Marry Fuck Kill” with Emerson Lake & Palmer. ... See MoreSee Less

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4 days ago

Bryan Beller

BEHIND THE SCENES FROM THE FLOOD - "A QUICKENING": As I set out to build "Scenes From The Flood", I really studied Pink Floyd's "The Wall" from a sequential standpoint, and how it flowed and why I thought it worked. Some of what kept it interesting for me were the (pardon the pun) numerous sudden scene changes. From the helicopter end of "Another Brick In The Wall Part One" to the thudding opening chord of "The Happiest Days of Our Lives"; the buzzing end fall of "Empty Spaces" into the funk groove of "Young Lust"; that sort of thing.

This is what inspired the thinking behind the two-minute "story time jump" that comprised SFTF's fourth track, "A Quickening". A couple of expositional elements have been established - an optimistic start, a query on reality - and now events happen quickly. More important than what those events are is the idea that they *can* happen quickly, more so than ever (insert value judgment on that here), thanks to...well, we're going to go meta here, but what platform are you reading this on?

Musically, I'd never before tried to do anything remotely "drum and bass"-y, so this was a plunge. The Korg Kronos' onboard drum loops and patterns provided a near limitless palette of chop-sy bit-sy grooves, and I just went for it. I looked for a better bass synth sound than the SWR Mo' Bass but I just couldn't find one, so I went with that...which gave it a bit of a Mike Keneally "Physics" vibe. It's an homage, right? After that, I just piled on the layers, and always knew that the purpose of this song was to jangle the nerves, move the story forward, and get to the blistering climactic song of Part One, "Steiner In Ellipses". The crazed double-time ending is another homage (non MK) - anyone able to ID it?

Speaking of Keneally, I ended up doing everything on this track except these two really high guitar arpeggios which my clubby bass fingers just could not make sound good. So Keneally was kind enough to cut those for me. As always, thank you MK!
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BEHIND THE SCENES FROM THE FLOOD: Here's a deep dive into the climactic song of Part 1, the extreme/thrash metal fireball that is "Steiner In Ellipses", featuring @GeneHoglan, @MikeKeneally & Rick Musallam. 22 mixes until it was final. 22! Read (top post): https://t.co/W0IOfDV3q6

JANET FEDER SPEAKS: I’ve said plenty about her - now it’s time to hear from her in her own words. Let’s Rock catches up to guitarist/composer @JanetFeder (author of “Angles & Exits”) in her first interview since the release of “Scenes From The Flood”. https://t.co/VpY1qqRqlt

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