Habitat is the latest release from Atlanta based Man On Fire. Habitat is a concept album based on the people and happenings on an inner city block. This album marks a serious achievement for MoF. It takes their music to the rarified area usually reserved for the world's most established artists.
Everything from the writing to the musicianship to the production is over the top. Pure brilliance.
Adrian Belew joins Jeff Hodges, Eric Sands and crew on Habitat. Adrian's "rhino guitar" style is all over the album and his guitar work sounds as fresh as it did on Discipline 25 years ago.
David Ragsdale returns on violin and his melodic signature really augments Eric and Jeff's lush urban crunch style.
“Curtain Call”, “Shelter” and “Broken” are my favorite cuts on the disk but this is an album that gets better and better each time you spin it.
Check it out. This is a MUST HAVE for the genre.
(All Album Reviews by greengenes)
Habitat is impressive on multiple fronts. To be expected, the production values are incredible and musically, Habitat is melodic and fresh. Habitat features MoF’s richly layered keys, guitars and fretless bass work. The playing is totally fitting to the tunes and the aural spectrums provide a foundation to tell the stories. The rhythm section is particularly strong on this outing and the crisp production makes it jump out.
I am always drawn to melody more than words or concepts, but Habitat pulls you into the concrete jungle, revealing all of these people and their situations. There are segues and habitat street scenes that tie it all together. It's like “The Block” owns them. You find yourself actually visualizing them, feeling their situations, hating them (“Mr. Lie”), feeling their pain, whether admirable (“Majestic”) or pathetic (“Beast Inside”, “Curtain Call”), relating to their escape (“What the Canvas Hides”), and rising above it with the truth (“Love Never Lost”, “Broken”). I particularly like the way the closer "Habitat" wraps it all up; start anew, have faith, create your destiny. Not only the perfect coda to a unique concept, but a very cool song, to boot.
Habitat, like all great music, gets better with repeat listens. There are plenty of initial hooks to bring you in (“The Block”, “Mr. Lie”, “What the Canvas Hides”, “Curtain Call”, etc.) but many of the tunes don't truly reveal themselves until you have heard them several times. There are plenty of influences on these guys, but if you are looking for comparisons or direct musical references, look elsewhere. MoF is an original band. There is nothing derivative here. Even Adrian Belew’s playing morphed into the MoF sound. Yeah, you hear his tone and unique phrasing (which is the perfect compliment to MoF’s keyboard/fretless bass driven songs) but it is somehow totally fresh in this context. It sounds like he was stoked to be playing with these guys. The Discipline style riff in “the Beast Inside” is the closest thing to awareness of a particular sound, but even that is original in the MoF context. And David Ragsdale is superb, as always. He gets edgy (“Mr. Lie”), prodigious (“Habitat”), and lovely (“What the Canvas Hides”, “Lover Never Lost”). Most importantly, he is consistently musical and blends into the MoF mix.
Listen to it in one sitting. It is extremely well done. It all fits together perfectly. MoF has a unique chemistry. There is no disparity in parts, just a tight production where the sum exceeds the individual parts.
For those of you who think that all is not well in the world of symphonic progressive rock, I’m here to tell you, nothing could be further from the truth. This has become my mantra in recent days…forget what you’ve heard, symphonic prog is alive and well. Evidence of this fact is born out not only by the number of new release but the overall high quality that they display. Take for example the third and latest release from Man On Fire entitled Habitat.
From the moment I heard the first cut entitled “The Block” on the ProgRock Records sampler, the buzzing, analog sounding synthesizers had me hooked, line and sinker. The driving introductions sounds cascading into a thick sawtooth waveform just made me want to listen to that track over and over again…so imagine how satisfying it was to hear the finished album with the added bonus of Adrian Belew on guitars and David Ragsdale on violins. These two along with original band members Jeff Hodges, Eric Sands and Rob Sindon have taken the Man on Fire sound to yet another level. Lyrics once again are provided by Steve Carroll.
Habitat is a concept CD that tells 13 stories revolving around the various individuals living within this fictional city space. Each of the tracks is devoted to telling that persons story and is separated by a series of sound effects intended to convey the sounds of urban dwelling. Most of the compositions run just over five minutes with three at six minutes and the longest being the title track at just over eight minutes. But while the songs may not be overly long, the arrangements and song structures are magical. Man on Fire’s music is composed by Hodges and he has the uncanny ability to inject just the right amount of complexity in the arrangements to keep a composition always interesting and never boring. But there is yet another aspect to the music and that is that the more familiar you become with each of the pieces rather than becoming boring they unfold like flowers displaying more and more hidden emotions. Many of the songs feature fascinating musical motifs from a variety of instruments like the neat little keyboard/violin interplay in “What the Canvas Hides.” Each song is not only a gem of story telling, they’re also packed with an engaging musicality that draws you back over and over.
The music itself takes a very modern approach to progressive rock that could easily sit well beside bands such as Porcupine Tree or those current media darlings Coldplay but where Man on Fire leave bands like Coldplay in the dust is what else they inject into the music which is squarely from the symphonic side of progressive rock. Many of the compositions feature a striking almost techno rhythm with some great analog sounding synthesizers laid up against some amazing fretless bass all supported by Belew’s angular guitar soundscapes and Ragsdale’s violin textures. Habitat is satisfying on just about any measurement score. It’s a shame more of their music isn’t heard on mainstream radio. Everyone I’ve played this for has absolutely loved it and I think you will too. Consider Man on Fire’s Habitat a solid winner.