July 18, 2011

Album Review: "When One Wakes" by Triphobia

Very few high school bands are taken seriously or considered to have potential for long-term success. Traditionally, a high school band is an opportunity for a musician to get the first taste of band structure and to decide if the group dynamic fits their musical vision. It seems that Kinnelon, NJ-based group Triphobia didn't get that message, though, because this group of high school seniors already plays with more passion, skill, and integrity than some bands twice their age. Their 2009 EP The Hourglass exhibited a band overflowing with potential, only needing slight refinement and maturity to attain widespread recognition and greatness. Both refinement and maturity have been realized on the group's debut full-length album, When One Wakes, on which Triphobia evolves from a talented hard rock act to a more focused progressive rock group.

All five tracks from The Hourglass were re-recorded for When One Wakes, and it becomes obvious why this was done once the new versions have been heard. Courtesy of improved production facilities and refined compositions, all five songs are clearly superior to their predecessors. The improvement in vocal quality is apparent from the first notes sung by Kevin Yapaola on "Decision". The guitar parts and drum lines on both "Still Here" and "The Game" are greatly enhanced by the new production, adding to the overall energy and attention-grabbing power of both songs. The most welcome adjustment, though, is the re-ordering of "As I'm Told" and "Let it Go". The two songs are now sequential, which allows "As I'm Told" to progress directly into "Let it Go", as the band often performs the two songs in live shows. This seamless transition advances both songs, because now they can be viewed as one longer song when played in order.

However, the true showcase of Triphobia's growth comes via the all-new material from the band that is featured on When One Wakes. The young group clearly learned a great deal in the two years since The Hourglass, and most of the learning likely came from their mentors and friends in fellow Jersey rock acts West Gate and Downcast Theory. Album opener "Falling Out" is an immediate attention grabber, highlighted by an extremely catch lead riff and energetic vocals from Yapaola, coupled with just the right amount of aggression via the inhuman growls and screams of bassist/backing vocalist Derek Sabo. The progressive side of the band comes out on tracks like "Nebulous" and "Insignificant", where the influences of Porcupine Tree, Karnivool, and Opeth on lead guitarist/principal songwriter Dave Bellman become readily apparent. However, Bellman's appreciation of Porcupine Tree mastermind Steven Wilson is most obvious on the cover of Wilson's solo track "Trains". This astounding duet features Bellman on acoustic guitar as the only backup to Yapaola's heartfelt and beautiful singing. It's a well-placed break in the album, quickly becoming one of the most memorable songs on When One Wakes.

Triphobia has grown above and beyond what anyone could have expected from such a young group. They have overcome most of the restrictions that prevent other high school bands from succeeding, pushing forward and finding every possible way to promote themselves that they could. Now, with an impressive and professional full-length album under their belts, these young Jersey rock upstarts can look toward more prestigious goals and even more growth in their fan following. Triphobia is laying the groundwork for an impressive future in the world of progressive rock, and When One Wakes is the cornerstone of what will be a grand piece of musical excellence.

Score: 8.5 out of 10

Track Listing

1. Falling Out
2. Decision
3. Control
4. Nebulous
5. Still Here
6. Insignificant
7. Left Inside
8. Trains
9. The Game
10. As I'm Told
11. Let it Go
12. Outro

Album Personnel

Kevin Yapaola - Lead vocals
Dave Bellman - Lead guitar
Dan Elstien - Rhythm guitar
Derek Sabo - Bass guitar, backing vocals
Chris Flannery - Drums

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