When performing a google search tonight for some comments I had made in an online forum that I wanted to revisit (and had forgotten the link to), I stumbled across a review of my latest album Super Brain from the folks over at the Dutch Progressive Rock Page. Its a fair review, if not exactly glowing. 5 stars out of 10 🙁
Ben Sommer is a veritable one-man musical project, a composer and performer who hails from Rockland, Massachusetts. Super Brain is his second self-produced album following on the heels of America’d.
A composer and performer of edgy prog, Young Turks, the opener is packed full of riffs which hint at Rush, but his voice fails to deliver the punch needed to grab the attention from the outset especially with the countless repetition of the title words. There is some nice guitar work in there but it does sound rather muddled.
Moving on to I Married A Prostitute, this is Sommer entering Zappa territory, the great man obviously a huge influence on his work because of its edgy content. The song chops and changes with multi-tracked voices giving it some texture.
But then it all gets a bit weird with his “Shout at the System” section with Consumerism being a multi-tracked choral piece in which the only word sung is “Shopping”. Militarism is a brass fanfare type instrumental over which he sings “Don’t Mess With Texas” after which Cadaverism is a full-on prog metal pastiche.
Fist is slightly lighter and poppier before he plunges headlong into De Profundis which gives a nod to Rush and a wink at Zappa, plus a few anguished vocals.
Count To Twelve is him literally counting to twelve lyrically with a bit of guitar trickery bubbling away in the mix while his strangulated vocals lurch a little bit off key at one point.
For the instrumental Dark Grey Matter, he adds a touch of synth which again gives it a slightly Rushian overlay. This is probably the most musically credible and interesting track he delivers throughout. This is a thoughtful and measured composition with a big thundering drum sound and expressive guitar work.
Then we are presented with Deo Gracias Anglia, complete with mediaeval shawns to give it a metally, Middle Ages energy which then rounds off with Cloaca Maxima, a conglomeration of Zappa and more Middle Ages melodies linked with slightly space-age utterances.
It is difficult to fault Sommer in his self-belief and determination to produce music with his own individual hallmark especially as he has mixed and produced it himself to a very creditable level. His playing is also extremely accomplished but perhaps the vocals need to be a little bit more tempered in places though the multi-tracked choral sections are particularly effective.
However, Super Brain can often be a little too clever for its own good. Some of the compositions are designed to reflect a humorous view of the state of his home country and occasionally, he hits the target with these.
It does take a few listens to begin to appreciate the world according to Sommer but the man has a talent and a will to succeed. The follow-up to Super Brain could see him make that quantum leap but for now, this collection will amuse, confuse, confound and occasionally delight.