Joey Eppard, lead singer and rhythm guitarist for New York-based prog rockers 3 (alternatively known as Three) is perhaps best known as the older brother of on-off Coheed and Cambria drummer and backing vocalist Josh but has carved out an impressive career all on his own. The younger Eppard, who also drummed with 3 during their formative years, has clearly left his impression on the band but they have long since found their own path and evolved into a challenging and often surprising progressive outfit away from the shadow of Coheed.
Despite difficulties during the interim since the release of “Revisions” in 2009 – the band were dropped by new label Roadrunner before a note of the new album had been recorded – 3 have returned with an astonishingly modern slice of progressive rock that’s not afraid to throw convention out the window when the situation demands. If “Revisions” was somewhat mellower than earlier records, “The Ghost You Gave To Me” sees a welcome return to the slightly heavier, more technical stylings of 2007’s “The End Is Begun”. The new album is far from a regression though; new ideas abound and the band have clearly pushed themselves outside their comfort zone in search of new sounds, as the overwhelming amount of variety on display here is any indicator.
Above all, “The Ghost You Gave To Me” is a very tricky album to pin down. Eclectic doesn’t quite go far enough in describing the plethora of influences at work here. The Coheed and Cambria touches are predictable enough given Eppard’s familial ties, as to some extent are the dalliances with Dream Theater style stadium prog metal but it’s the integration of more mainstream genres that delivers unexpected delights.
Songs like “Pretty” really capitalise on the potential of this stylistic mishmash, splicing a driving pseudo-punk beat with slow progressive passages and an absurdly catchy vocal hook that seems to revel in the sheer poppy effervescence of it all. In an age when so many of their peers are looking to the past for fresh inspiration, it seems almost subversive that 3 have instead opted to borrow ideas from sources normally considered well outside the canon of progressive rock. Somehow though, it works. A strange beast “The Ghost You Gave Me” may be, but it’s no Frankenstein’s monster.
Joey Eppard’s vocal performance is the glue that holds these disparate elements together as the record bounces from the stadium theatrics of “React” and “It’s Alive” to the tight staccato metalised riffing of “Numbers” and the title track and on to the country ballad stylings of “The Barrier”. If there are any faults to be found with “The Ghost You Gave To Me”, it’s that it sags a little in the middle between “Numbers” and “Pretty” and that it can lack real bite on certain tracks; songs like “It’s Alive” deliver genuinely crushing riffs but the production doesn’t quite do them justice. The lyrics can also be a little inconsistent – while there’s some excellent turns of phrase here and there, there are too many questionable lines that border on the clichéd (see “React”). Such things are so subjective though that I’m prepared to give 3 the benefit of the doubt on this occasion.
“The Ghost You Gave To Me” is yet another fine addition to 3’s repertoire and one that stands tall next to “The End is Begun” and “Revisions”. It’s a beguiling album; a towering achievement of musicianship for the four band members yet one that’s at its best when it wears its pop sensibilities on its sleeve. Where 3 go from here is anybody’s guess but it’s sure to be interesting.