Progressive rock is often criticized (and rightly so) for over-indulging technical abilities at the expense of the song. Form a "super group" with some of progressive rock's most talented musicians and you might get a cesspool of technical grandstanding. Might. With Platypus, though, the result is a collection of great songs backed with outstanding musicianship. This aquatic creature is comprised of John Myung (bass, Dream Theatre), Derek Sherinian (keyboards, Planet X), Ty Tabor (guitar and vocals, King's X), and Rod Morgenstein (drums, Dixie Dregs). The songs on this release are more radio-friendly than their first, although they are also darker and harder. Instead of the plentiful long instrumentals of When Pus Comes to Shove, Ice Cycles has only two instrumentals and six songs with lyrics. As Tabor handles the vocals and lyrics, these songs tend to have a more Beatle-ish feel, much like his solo albums.
"The Tower" as an up-tempo romp mixed with slower verse sections accompanied by some incredible drumming and an extended bridge where the musicians trade off solos. "Cry" is a dark, sobering song of desperation. Fans of Alice Cooper with recognize a piano part from "I Love the Dead" within and it fits in quite naturally with the dour mood of the song. In "I Need You", Platypus digs a deep groove with some emotive bass playing and some very substantive vocals. "Gone" is a six-minute ode to missed opportunities with an smoldering slow burn and a simple chorus of "Something has changed / Something is wrong / Something is gone." As with their first album, the best tracks are the instrumentals. "25" starts with heavy, fevered guitar riff and keeps it that way with a piece that switches between 70s fusion and dirty Mississippi rock, plus a few other styles to keep the listener on their toes as each musician takes their turn to show off their chops. Not to be outdone, the album ends with "Partial To The Bean", a ten minute pastiche comprised of seven sections that range from an aggressive and frenetic meter-swapping funhouse to the soothing and hypnotic mid-section to a Dark-Side-Of-The-Moon keyboard driven piece called "Platmosis" that opens up into more inventive guitar madness. Overall, this sophomore album is more homogenous than the debut, finding the members maturing from a side-project into a real band.
This review first appeared in WhatzUp, January 2001.