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Frameshift - An Absence of Empathy
ProgRock Records
An Absence of Empathy
Progressive Metal
3.5 stars

This is the second album from progressive outfit Frameshift and the first (and most likely last for reasons which I’ll touch on later) to feature ex-Skid Row vocalist Sebastian Bach. The first Frameshift album, which was released in 2003, featured Dream Theater vocalist James LaBrie. Having not heard that album I really had no point of reference, so this record was an interesting one to me. The union of progressive rock mastermind Henning Pauly and 80’s rocker Sebastian Bach... I couldn’t have imagined this working, but the truth is, it does… well sort of. Let me explain.

The album has succeeded to sound like no record that I’ve heard recently but it’s quirky nature makes it a bit hard to digest and subsequently a little difficult to get totally into. Having said that, the songs are well written and there are some great hooks to hold the average non-progheads’ attention. Also, the album is somewhat of a conceptual affair in that all the songs tie into the common thread of being about acts of human violence. If you are one to read and concentrate on the lyrics, it can be bit of a downer.

The album opens with “Human Grain” which starts with a very progressive arrangement but makes way to a flowing, catchy chorus. Bach sounds in fine form on the track and I have to admit it’s good to hear his voice again on some new material.

“Just One More” is a very strong track with some nice melodic organ work to hold the song down and make it accessible. The song has a somewhat catchy chorus much like the first song. The guitar is precise yet understated, which is sometimes a “lost art” in progressive music these days. It’s refreshing that Pauly seems to focus more on the song than showing off his progressive prowess. This is an approach that seems to be followed throughout most off the album but with the quirkiness and subject matter of the songs it still seems to lose me at times.

“Miseducation” has some great gang-style backing vocals and an absolutely great melodic guitar solo from Pauly. Overall the track has an 80’s hard rock feel and is perfectly handled by Bach in the vocal department. The track is one of the more instantly memorable ones from the album.

“I Killed You” is a mid-tempo track and the chorus has a feel close to “In A Darkened Room” from Bach’s Skid Row days. The song features some quirky almost counterpoint style vocal arrangements toward the end and some nice keyboard and guitar interplay. Overall, it is a strong and unique sounding track.

The track “This Is Gonna Hurt” starts of with a sort of an industrial sound and has a very progressive arrangement. It is a little hard to get into because of its eclectic feel while “Push The Button” gets things rocking again with a more melodic style and tough guitar sound.

Upon first listen “In An Empty Room” would appear to be the ballad of the album, until that is, you read the lyrics and realize that the song is about a rape victim. It starts with a very mellow vocal from Bach giving away to some nice soft piano sounds. The electric guitar solo is a nice touch to the song.

“Outcast” starts with some latter day Deep Purple sounding guitar and organ interplay but quickly turns into a more progressive song. The song is about violence in schools told from the viewpoint of a student contemplating a shooting spree. The song features possibly the most aggressive vocals of the album from Bach even though the track is not especially heavy overall.

“Blade” is a very interesting track as it deals with historical wars. It starts with an extended intro firmly placed in the progressive field and is complete with some nice orchestration. Bach’s vocals go from smooth to aggressive and it makes the track really stand out. This epic track is easier to digest with the lyrics not being so personally violent in nature. It is definitely something I would welcome more of from the band.

“How Long Can I Resist” has a Dream Theater feel and I could almost picture the aforementioned James LaBrie singing this track. It sounds as though it could have come off any of the Dream Theater albums featuring Derek Sherinian as the B3 sounds are indicative of that era. All in all, it is a strong song, which is also highlighted by some nice yet understated guitar work from Pauly.

The album is rounded out with the tracks “When I Look Into My Eyes” with it’s eclectic and industrial sounds and “What Kind Of Animal” which tries to forgive the sins of the album content with it’s introspective theme. The vocal from Bach is subdued and backed by piano and acoustic guitar.

Although there were some nice moments early in the album, I felt it really hit its stride with the last four tracks and it makes me wish there was more of this type of sound on the album. I will say the performances on the album are well executed and the production is close to flawless, but at times, it is just a little tough to get past the subject matter and quirky arrangement of some of the songs. One thing is for sure this album will at least make you think and hey, it struck a nerve with me so for that alone I would recommend a listen.

As for the comment I made earlier about this most likely being the last Frameshift album to feature Bach. Well it would seem there was a bit of a disagreement as to the writing credits on the record between Bach and Pauly. It seems Bach felt he was not credited for all the songs he contributed to on the album and it seemed to get pretty intense for a while with both men making public statements around the internet as to their sides of the story. I haven’t heard any more recently so I don’t know how this ended but it would seem future endeavors will not happen. But then again this is Rock n’ Roll and who would have thought Motley CRUË could hold it together for another tour or that Pink Floyd would get back together (for Live 8) so I guess anything can happen! So stay tuned…

Band Lineup:
  • Sebastian Bach - Vocals
  • Henning Pauly - Guitars, Bass, Warr Guitar, Piano, B3, Rhodes, Synthesizers, Hand Percussion
  • Eddie Marvin - Drums


Track Listing:
  1. Human Grain
  2. Just One More
  3. Miseducation
  4. I Killed You
  5. This Is Gonna Hurt
  6. Push The Button
  7. In An Empty Room
  8. Outcast
  9. Blade
  10. How Long Can I Resist
  11. When I Look Into My Eyes
  12. What Kind Of Animal


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