Writing contemporary prog music that sounds truly progressive — that is to say, innovative, different, complex but not just for complexity’s sake, and, in the language of aesthetics, both beautiful and true — isn’t easy. I should know. There are so many bands out there that love the progressive rock sound but struggle to make it their own, so you end up with a lot of similar sounding math rock or djent or Dream Theater lite-type bands.
Let me be clear: The Missing Worker is not one of those bands.
Motionless, the debut album from The Missing Worker, is one of the most exciting prog albums I’ve heard in years.
Motionless features band personnel Demetri Realmudo on vocals, Todd Reinhardt on guitar, Matthew Cieluszak on bass, and Erik Reinhardt on drums, as well as guest keyboards by Jonathan Rizzo.
If I had to summarize the sound for you, I… couldn’t? There’s a pop sensibility and catchiness that carries throughout even the album’s most complex moments, moments of strong Incubus influence (bassist Matthew Cieluszak is a big fan), and enough mid-song genre-hopping that it’s impossible to get bored — but never so much that it seems overworked or gratuitous.
Being that I’m not a practiced enough reviewer to give you an all-encompassing elevator pitch, let’s take a look at each track:
1. Theseus: Like the eponymous ship, this track takes us on a journey of perpetual change.
It begins with ethereal guitar tone, silky basslines, and a lush chord progression, which leads into a hard-driving punk-inspired chorus that rocks your face off before receding back into spacy etherea. The first time I heard the song, I got some serious Roger Waters vibes from lead singer Demetri. Before the song risks settling into a pattern, it hits you with a dope metal breakdown, which decays into a cacophonous outro that belies the song’s more sedate beginnings.
From that chaotic ending, we move into the laid-back waltz that begins…
2. Magician: More fun than prog has any business being.
Well, I lied a bit — before we get into the laid-back waltz, we get a nice, vulnerable, low-fi intro from Demetri, after which Matt’s bass carries us into the groovy first verse. If you get strong Decemberist vibes from it, you’re not alone (related: I friggin’ love The Decemberists). Not satisfied holding one tempo/time sig for too long, TMW delivers a 4/4, hard-driving, Incubus-style chorus that concludes with a major 7th for a nice surprising turn.
Would I have guessed that they’d slap a dirty-delicious Hammond organ solo right in the middle of the song? I wouldn’t have. Would I ever complain about something like that? Hell naw. Jonathan Rizzo tears it up. I won’t spoil the rest of the track’s twists and turns for y’all, but suffice it to say that they are sufficiently magical.
3. Thanatos: The kinda prog track anyone can enjoy.
Heck, if you showed this to a young pop fan, I’d say it would be a pretty safe gambit. Eh? Eh? (Tough crowd.)
More lovely, smooth bass lines, and some very nice vocal harmonies make this song just, well, super pretty. If you haven’t said, “Holy shit, this drummer!” yet on the album, now’s a good time to do so, because between the super clean strokes in the quiet bits and the insane drum fills leading into the 6/8 bit, Erik Reinhardt kills it.
4. Indigo: So good, I don’t even want to tell you anything about it. Just go listen to it.
Okay, okay, I’ll tell you some stuff. First of all, it begins with a chill bossa nova groove and major 7ths, and I just knew that with a beginning that chill, TMW was going to surprise me with the chorus.
And… they did.
Oh, did they surprise me.
I don’t want to spoil anything, but… this song is a hell of a ride. Todd sounds like he’s having a friggin’ blast on this tune, and he and Matt take turns commanding your attention. Who wins?
Demetri. Demetri wins. He takes a level in dopeness on this track. Mind, I’m coming at this as a vocalist, so I have my biases. But damn. Just damn.
5. Dance of the Amoeba: A badass, slightly psychedelic instrumental showcase.
Amazing beats, amazing basslines, amazing overdrive, amazing… life insurance seminar? Seriously. And it works really well for me, in much the same way Porcupine Tree leverages Marshall Applewhite’s recordings as leader of the Heaven’s Gate cult to great effect on “Last Chance to Evacuate Planet Earth Before It Is Recycled.”
6. Totem: Toms, tone, and Tool influence.
The first verse begins with plenty of octaves and unison, a nice break from the thicc harmonies and chords from the prior songs. I always hate saying things are Tool-like, because to me, Tool would have been way better off if all they ever did was record Lateralus and then retreat into obscurity so I’d never have to hear or think about MJK ever again.
So I’ll put it this way: this is the kind of song that Tool would have made, if they knew how to make more than one good album (fight me). Except Totem is much better than that, because it has Jonathan Rizzo’s sick AF Rhodes solo and Demetri’s belt. And that guy can belt your face off. I am typing this review sans face right now.
7. Tower: Dark, haunting, and plaintive.
Demetri is at his most expressive in this track, and his timbre on the verses is rich and pretty and I covet it. Tower begins quietly, with beautiful acoustic guitar, vocals, and light cymbals — a nice breather after the epic that was Totem. You can tell how much deliberation TMW used in putting this album together, each track offering an aural antidote for what came before it. The song picks up more speed and volume in the chorus, with the perfect amount of heaviness.
8. id: Finishing off with some Freud.
id begins with a gorgeous, serpentine guitar lick that fades into a bassline that feels like it’s trying to warn us about something, and gets really early Rush-like around the 1:15 mark. Yea, that Rush. You’re going to hear a lot of TMW reviewers praise the band’s rhythm section as they grow more popular, but just remember kiddos: you heard it here, first.
Around the four-minute mark, Demetri begins channeling some legit Serj Tankian energy. As he belts “We are not the saaaaaaame,” Todd gifts us a whirlwind of a guitar solo, and the album ends before you even have a chance to process it all.
Overall impression of Motionless: 9/10, will spin again.
The Missing Worker’s debut LP is the album junky’s album, a meticulous tapestry of sounds that doesn’t bore you even for an instant. There are moments of imperfection, wavering intonation, production that doesn’t feel 100% polished — but honestly, in a world where we overproduce everything and beat the life out of sound with plugins, a little mortality from otherwise unbelievable performers is far from a bad thing, in my opinion.
Purchase Motionless by The Missing Worker for $7 on Bandcamp. I’m glad I did.
I mean, you can stream it there for free, too, but I’m already anxious to hear what they come up with next — and making albums isn’t cheap, ya know?