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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1 week ago

Bryan Beller

YOU JUST NEVER KNOW: 10 YEARS OF THE ARISTOCRATS

Today, exactly 10 years ago, I played a gig at the Anaheim Bass Bash with Guthrie Govan and Marco Minnemann. It ended up being The Aristocrats’ very first live gig. 10 years later, we’re celebrating appropriately by announcing the upcoming release of our live album “FREEZE! Live In Europe 2020”. I think (and hope!) it shows we’ve come a long way, while at the same time staying true to what made our “rowdy musical democracy” work in the first place.

And yet, that first gig almost didn’t happen in about 6 different ways. Some of you know this story, some of you may not. I thought today was a good time to (re)tell it as any.

The annual Bass Bash event was designed as a bassist feature (kind of obvious, I know) and I was kindly asked by the event’s organizer, Pete Decuir, if I wanted to participate. Slightly uncomfortable, as always, with the idea of me being featured as anything other than the bassist in (hopefully) a really good band playing good music, I thought, “Hey, I just played a gig with Marco Minnemann and Greg Howe in Russia, we’ve got a set ready to go, how about that?” Marco had organized it, and we all had a lot of fun. So we talked it through and booked it for January 14, 2011. The bill was:

* Steve Lawson (solo)
* Norm Stockton (with band)
* Brian Bromberg (solo)
* “Nameless Pre-Aristocrats Trio”
* Scott Ambush (of Spyro Gyra, with band)

I’m pretty sure we had it confirmed by late September 2010. But then, in early December, something came up for Greg and he could no longer do the gig. Marco and I went back and forth a bit on what to do.

Then I remembered that, on October 15, a guy from Texas I’d met at a show named Colin Green had been messaging me on Facebook about a guitarist named Guthrie Govan, who I’d never heard of. Colin reminded me on November 3 to watch the Guthrie videos because I hadn’t yet responded. On November 8, I finally watched them, and wrote back to Colin about how amazing Guthrie was. I hadn’t thought much of it beyond that.

And now Marco and I needed a guitarist.

Marco had also been hearing good things on his own about Guthrie, and liked the videos, but he didn’t know him either. So I went looking online. Guthrie had no social media presence *at all*. There was an old MySpace page, no longer monitored. He had a personal website that consisted of a front page with a picture of him…and *no links* on it. I mean, who did that, even in 2010?! I ended up going back to Greg Howe himself, who happened to have Guthrie’s e-mail address.

The original e-mail exchange between Guthrie and me/Marco is on an old computer somewhere, but I remember that it took a few days for Guthrie to respond. When he did, it was in prose befitting of an English professor from the mid-20th century. I felt like I was reading a letter from a Cold War-era head of state or something. I can only imagine what Marco thought of it, with English being his second language. Anyway, we were able to nail down the particulars inside of a week. We would do a six-song set consisting of two songs from each of our solo catalogs.

I remember when we announced the gig that there was an unusual amount of online buzz about it. It’s hard to describe, but I remember it. Then the holidays came, and everything seemed pretty much on track for a fun NAMM gig.

And then it all went crazy.

A little over a week before the gig, the event’s longtime organizer, Pete Decuir, called me and told me that he had just been diagnosed with leukemia. An emergency surgery was scheduled for just days later. He wanted to cancel the whole show. We went through a couple of different scenarios, but he was pretty clear about not wanting the gig to go forward without him. Of course, I understood - it was his production, and with that kind of health issue, I didn’t want to question his wishes. I gave him my best vibes for the difficult journey ahead, and thought the gig was probably gone.

But I get stubborn about things sometimes. People were buzzing pretty hard about it, and I just…I can’t describe it, but I had a feeling it should go forward somehow. Guthrie and Marco agreed to let me take a shot at it. So I scrambled to find another venue in Anaheim that wasn’t booked, one week ahead of the NAMM show. Not an easy task, but I did find one. The owner was skeptical we could pull off a successful show on only 3-4 days’ notice. I insisted it was possible. We figured it out, Guthrie and Marco signed on, and I announced it through my e-mail newsletter, BellerBytes. I also announced *why* the venue was changing.

As it turns out, there was a miscommunication of some kind, and I was the only one outside of Pete Decuir’s very close circle who knew the whole Anaheim Bass Bash show was being cancelled - and more importantly, about Pete’s health emergency. That was, until I sent that mailing list e-mail.

My phone and e-mail inbox instantly erupted with “WTF?!” responses, including longtime friends of Pete and fellow organizers of the show. I explained the conversation I’d had with Pete as best I could, and how he’d wanted the show cancelled. But his friends weren’t taking no for an answer. Within *hours*, they had re-booked the show at the same venue (JT Schmid’s) and wanted to turn it into a benefit concert for Pete. By the next day, it was official. It was Monday of NAMM week and lots of industry folk were already on the scene. Word travelled quickly.

And there we were, booked to play at a different venue.

The organizers of the benefit concert then reached back out to me, and invited our group to rejoin the lineup. Actually, they implored us to do so, for the cause. I told them of our dilemma - we’d already rebooked and I had twisted someone’s arm to make it happen at all - but I quickly realized it was an untenable position, both practically and morally. Poor Guthrie and Marco were now receiving e-mails from me once an hour, keeping them posted.

I called the owner of the venue I’d rebooked and told him we needed to cancel and move back to the original venue. He was absolutely livid, screaming into the phone. Frankly, I couldn’t blame him. I asked him what I could do to make it right. He gave me a number. I agreed. And that was that.

If you were subscribing to BellerBytes back then, you saw all of this play out in real time. I had to send three or four messages within a couple of days explaining everything and apologizing for blowing up everyone’s inboxes. I’m sure some people missed the show due to all of the conflicting information.

By the time Guthrie, Marco and I met in a rehearsal space in Anaheim the night before the show, there was already a general feeling of, “Wow, interesting gig we got ourselves here.”

Then Guthrie turned on his amp and played a single power chord. VERY loudly. Marco and I were jolted. Our necks snapped and we caught each other’s wide eyes for a half a second before snapping back in place. We were going to be a rock band, and an impolitely volumed one at that.

A little small talk ensued, and then…we played Guthrie’s song “Waves”.

I don’t know what else to say about it, other than, we all knew right away that it felt really, really good.

That’s how the story began. From that point forward, the unique musical chemistry of the three of us carried us forward and told the story better than any longwinded essay could ever hope to do. Yes, the gig happened. (I could do another 1000 words on the night of the gig, which was its own hot batch of crazy, but this is long enough.) Yes, people kind of freaked out. And yes, we decided to keep doing it, and keep doing it, and keep doing it.

Now here we are, ten years later, and we have a new collection of musical evidence of that same chemistry - refined, but hopefully not too refined - that flowed through the room of that very first rehearsal. And I dig that it’s an actual live recording from 2020, which memorializes the fact that we were playing live literally right up until the very first COVID-related shutdowns.

All I can say is, thank you to everyone on our amazing indie-powered team that made it happen behind the scenes all these years; thank you to the incredible fans who have supported our musical mayhem over and over again; and thanks to Guthrie and Marco, for the musical ride of a lifetime. I’m grateful for it all.

And to you, dear reader, I’ll say this: Even in the craziest of times, you just never know what good a day will bring.

You just never know.

-BB

P.S. Pete Decuir went on to a complete recovery! Also, Colin Green still comes to shows, and I’m careful to watch the videos he sends me in a timely fashion. 🙂

P.P.S. The picture is a never-before-released outtake from the photo shoot for the very first Aristocrats studio album, taken by Alex Solca.
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2 weeks ago

Bryan Beller

AND NOW A WORD FROM ARCHIBALD TWATTY BOLLOX: I have next to no experience in dealing with being included in a “Top 10 Bassists Of The Year!” magazine poll, and I didn’t even know it was a thing that was going on. So when this was first brought to my attention I was like, “Oh, that’s pretty cool, but I can’t post that, that’s just way too self-serving and weird.” But then I realized that ignoring it wasn’t really the best way to thank both the Prog Magazine and the people who voted for me, now, was it? So even though I have no hope in topping the reaction of perennial poll winner Nick “Archibald Twatty Bollox” Beggs (be sure to read his caption; you won’t regret it), I would simply like to say thank you to the kind people who thought to associate me with these other great musicians.

P.S. Where’s Tony Levin on this list? I mean…?

P.P.S. Yes, I know, there’s an elephant in the room on social media right now. I expressed my thoughts about The Current Situation months ago in great detail, and I still stand behind every word. It’s there if you want to find it, and I don’t blame you if you don’t. Just saying, yeah, it’s weird out there, and hopefully music still has a place in all of this somehow once the dust settles.

Nick Beggs Prog
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1 month ago

Bryan Beller

ARISTO-TEASE: This might or might not have been the view from my desk over the past couple of months. 😎 🤐What in the Dickens is going on here? Santa’s Elves may look a little different this year, but they’re working on a very Aristocratic post-holiday surprise. For now, let’s kiss 2020 a well deserved goodbye and look forward to a considerably more excellent 2021!

Bryan Beller Marco Minnemann Guthrie Govan (Official)
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SUNDAY READING: Thanks to Metalpit from Italy for this interview, which touches on the topic of The Aristocrats doing a G3 Tour with Vai and Satriani back in 2016, which was a totally surreal experience, as well as more current events. https://t.co/5gQm1LdrTy

Congratulations, America. That was, indeed, some weird shit. But we got this far. Not a given.

Hey Europe and Asia and South America and Australia: We'll figure this out and get back to playing live and loud as soon as possible.

Also: Gotta take the laughs where you can.

✨🏴‍☠️Immaculate🕯Loo😈🏴‍☠️✨@ImmaculateLoo

I think it’s really nice of Bill Barr keeping everyone safe by wiping down the podium.

YOU JUST NEVER KNOW - 10 YEARS OF THE ARISTOCRATS: A decade ago today, the band that would be come @acratsband played its first ever show. We're celebrating by announcing a new live album. I wrote an essay on the months leading up to that crazy first gig: https://t.co/IH0rQ74XJN

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