UNITOPIA – Seven Chambers (2023)
Australian progressive rock acts are special. There’s something different, unique in that scene creating music with a singular touch. Founded by vocalist/songwriter Mark “Truey” Trueack (United Progressive Fraternity) and multi-instrumentalist Sean Timms in 1996, UNITOPIA have always been among the most renowned and distinctive bands of their ilk and era.
One of the great joys of prog is the eclectic mix of styles that defines the genre. The best artists are always pushing the envelope and striving for something new — striving to progress, you might say — often by combining previously disparate types of music in surprising and satisfying ways.
Few contemporary prog artists are as successful at this aim — striving for unexpected results — as Unitopia. This Australian prog-fusion powerhouse has been breaking new musical ground for nearly two decades and the crew’s latest effort, “Seven Chambers,” is a great example of what these guys do so well.
From start to finish, “Seven Chambers” is a thick slice of stylish melodic prog fusion, brimming with high drama, stirring melodies and some of the most inspiring ensemble rock performances of the year. Fans of theatrical prog masters like Saga, Queen, The Tubes and Queensryche will find much to like here.
Arriving more than 13 years after Unitopia’s last album of all-original material, the new record is a Columbia Record House catalog of styles artfully combined into a single cohesive musical statement.
It is an understatement to say these guys are all over the map, they never stay in one place for long. Each of the seven tracks on this album hopscotch from one genre to another, changing keys and tempo with turn-on-a-dime precision.
The mix keeps things fresh and evolving, leaving you on the edge of your seat, anticipating what might come next (which is always rewarding). The result is Unitopia’s most wide-ranging album to date, one that is fantastically greater than the sum of its parts and (remarkably talented) players.
Vocalist Mark Trueack and keyboard-wiz / multi-instrumentalist Sean Timms, who have been writing music and performing together since the mid-1990s, are the principal sound and compositional architects of Unitopia.
But solid contributions are also delivered by new members Steve Unruh (backing vocals, violin, flute, rhythm guitars) and John Greenwood (backing vocals, lead electric and acoustic guitars, orchestration) — both of whom garner songwriting credits here.
Adding to the mix are monster drummer Chester Thompson (ex-Genesis, Frank Zappa, Weather Report) and bassist Alphonso Johnson (Santana, David Gilmour, Weather Report), who make for a formidable rhythm section.
”Seven Chambers” is an ambitious and expansive album ranging across different styles, with the central theme around our physical and mental health. It is a heartfelt reflection from artists who are dealing with getting older – giving the songs a real sense of authenticity and genuine emotion. Ultimately, these are songs which touch on some of our darkest fears and experiences, and yet they are imbued with a sense of hope and redemption.
Unitopia are well and truly back with one of the most imaginative and high-quality Rock albums of 2023.
01 – Broken Heart
02 – Something Invisible
03 – Bittersweet
04 – Mania
05 – The Stroke of Midnight
06 – Helen
07 – The Uncertain
Mark “Truey” Trueack – vocals
Sean Timms – keyboards, backing vocals
Steve Unruh – backing vocals, violin, flute, rhythm guitars, mandolin
John Greenwood – electric guitar, nylon-strung guitar, mandolin
Chester Thompson – drums
Alphonso Johnson – bass