I have covered more than a few instrumental bands on these pages over the years. Two that come to mind are the wildly popular Chemtrail as well as the vital, rockabilly sounds of The Black Flamingos. The Hive Mind is yet another offering from the non-vocal genre that leans way into the progressive direction of bands such as Animals As Leaders, The Mars Volta, Don Caballero, Between The Buried And Me, and Hella.
Hailing from the rich musical fields of Ocean County, The Hive Mind is a prog rock band that formed in the fall of 2012. Comprised of Jake Hughes, Erik Nivison, Chris Paprota and Jake Whitaker, The Hive Mind strive for innovation and originality, and they land right on the mark with their debut record titled Monitor. The band’s bio states that their mission has “solidified into a fresh and powerful sound without the aid, crutch or existence of vocals.” Together, the band showcases a one-of-a-kind balancing act between dynamic maturity, structural innovation and their respective instruments.
The band has had a successful live run, playing out-of-state venues as well as stages at The Saint, The Revolutionary Lounge and rooms of the past such as Chico’s House of Jazz, Urban Nest, and 610 Bangs. Radio play by 91.7 WLFR has also furthered the agenda of original expression by hosting the music of this New Jersey quartet.
Monitor contains 11 songs, and I wanted to go through some of them and see what this Ocean County foursome is all about.
The first song on the list is “Torque.” Grinding out of the speakers at a brisk pace, “Torque” combines raw bar chords with staccato drums and powerhouse bass before Eric Nivison tears down the middle with blistering salvos of pentatonic and fiery guitar work. The keyboard work of Jake Hughes dances within the monstrous body of the song as Jake Whitaker and Chris Paprota nail things down with their heavy rhythmic capabilities.
“Coup” starts things off with a flurry of piano work courtesy of Hughes, while Nivison breaks into a clean and powerful piece of lead work under the rhythm section. The Hive Mind peel off complex riffs and passages that remind me of early Gentle Giant. Guitar bends around 1:00 are raucous and rocking before settling back into the main body of the piece. Hughes’ synth work blends with pianos and takes this song into its stratosphere of invention. Nivison is back for a blistering middle-eight lead as the rest of the band boils under the surface. These guys are a talented group of players and are definitely from a style of their very own. I also love the organ work in the back section of the tune, which works well with the overall sound.
“Splinter” features the piano work of Hughes, who starts things off with the rest of the band joining in. Jake Whitaker’s bass work stands out alongside drum work of Paprota as Nivison bends and trills into the next 3/4 section. Highly syncopated, “Splinter” works in conjunction with the musicians to create a fascinating overall sound. At one point, I notice the background addition of crowd or party noise that is an interesting and original addition. At around 3:24 Nivison blends guitar harmonies to achieve his sound and it’s a welcome attachment.
“Pounce” is up next and utilizes a scary intro to reach its point. If there’s one thing I can say about this band is that its writing level is extremely high on the talent meter. Hughes’ keyboard prowess whirls within the body as Nivison blends lava hot riffs with the bass and drum work of Whitaker and Paprota.
“Fennec” is a funky, jazzy R&B number that features some amazing guitar work. Combining soulful ninth chords and trippy, Jeff Skunk Baxter-styled riffs, Nivison soars within his chosen sector. “Fennec” is probably my favorite tune so far, and I love the combination of jazz, blues and prog rock that it produces. Hughes brings up the background with Rick Wakeman vibes as Paprota and Whitaker keep things grounded. Nivison utilizes some great little lead breaks throughout the tune, and his understanding of guitar utilization is appreciated by this writer. I love the complete turnaround at 2:46, bringing things down into a Daniele Lupi feel and setting things up to progress to the focused end. This is a band that works as a unit to create some highly original sounds, and I love it.
“Sparks” is next and comes out of the speakers with all the frenetic energy of early Genesis. Hughes takes the lead with his energetic keyboards work and comes alongside Nivison, Paprota, and Whitaker, who fan out in different directions of individual clarity. Nivison focuses the band with his bluesy runs of lead guitar handy work. The break at 2:43 comes way down, combing guitar runs and rhythmic conundrums before ramping back to their fast-paced speed and overall song depth. The individual instrumental breaks give each member a quick introduction to their fans as they solo before falling back into a blitzkrieg flurry of ending.
The next song up is called “Blessings.” Featuring an off-kilter intro provided by Hughes, the band joins in and ramps up with a fast-paced rock and roll sound. Nivison climbs through each passage with ferocity and skill, building his technical and soulful guitar work with each wave of the hand. As he cuts through the heart of the song he is joined by the fluid motions of Whitaker’s bass work and Hughes’ arabesque keyboard work. And of course, Paprota’s drum work centers the entire song with his lethal chops.
The last song on the disc is “Reaper.” Combining the intricate sounds of each member, “Reaper” flows like a true work of art. If you enjoy the works of bands such as Between The Buried And Me, you’re going to love this tune. Once again guitars stand out with fantastic riffs and lead breaks as Hughes lays keyboard magic throughout the piece. Running through their moves, “Reaper” reminds me of some of the old Yngwie Malmsteen songs in that they utilize some very classic sounding passages.
There are several songs that I didn’t have space to include, but overall Monitor is a solid offering by one of the area’s best instrumental bands. The Hive Mind has done well with Monitor, and it should see them gain much popularity in both fan base and industry. Monitor was released on Nov. 1 and is available now for purchase over at http://thehive-mind.bandcamp.com.