When I reviewed Fughu’s debut album in 2009, I said of it, “On nearly every count, it can be said that Absence channels Dream Theater’s most famous (and, arguably, best) work, Images & Words.” Looking back at those words now, I’m afraid I sold them a little bit short, because Fughu was certainly more than that on Absence. I said as much, but I feel bad for not emphasizing it.
In summary, I had said, “Absence shows us a group of Dream Theater disciples most pious in their adherence to the Prog Metal Canon, yet it seems they may be on the verge of eschewing acquiescence for apostasy,” which was an accurate, if too narrow, assessment, and a few years later the band realized that prediction. In 2013, Fughu released two full, conceptually related albums in succession, Human: The Tales and Human: The Facts (these were later re-released as a package). On the Human albums, Fughu really came into their own, having moved away from the Dream Theater affinity to fully embrace their unique progressive interpretation of heavy metal. Seven years later, Fughu has released Lost Connection, which finds them with a slightly different look and a familiar but fresh expression of their take on prog metal.
Fughu’s first couple albums owe much of their success to lead vocalist, Santiago Burgi, a formally trained opera singer and heavy metal fan. He left the band after touring to support Human so he could focus on his opera career, leaving a massive role to fill. After more than a hundred auditions, the band caught a break when Santiago recommended his pal, Renzo Favaro, for the band’s lead role.
Favaro doesn’t have the pure talent that Burgi does, but he is his equal in every other important way, including strength, enthusiasm, and (maybe most crucial to Fughu’s identity) eccentric charm. Lost Connection feels like a natural successor to Human because Favaro is a natural successor to Burgi and a wonderful fit for the band.
Favaro’s fit is as perfect as it is because founding members, guitarist Ariel Bellizio and drummer Alejandro Lopez, have prioritized tenets of the old school of progressive rock even as they sport modern prog metal’s colors. Favaro clearly shares the band’s love for what makes classic prog so wonderful: eclecticism, theatricality, wide emotional range, and a healthy dose of weirdness, but – critically – weirdness is measured, meted naturally in the ways that turn weird collections of sounds into amazing weird songs, of which vocals are the humanizing lifeblood. Favaro’s voice is also a bit rougher than Burgi’s, which allows Fughu a bit more freedom of expression, broadening their palette to include the earthier hues of blues-based riffs and melodies. Lead single, “Right From the Bone,” is a great example of how well this new arrangement works.
And, of course, “Right From the Bone” is unique among Lost Connection’s ten tracks. To get an idea of how the other songs compare, consider that no two are very much alike and then have a look at the band’s influences as described in their website’s bio pages: Van der Graaf Generator, Genesis, ELP, King Crimson, David Bowie, Queen, Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, KISS, Queensryche, Dream Theater, Megadeth. What a wonderful assortment! Each of these bands is known for at least one (and, for some, all) of the qualities Fughu prizes (the eclecticism, theatricality, wide emotional range, and healthy dose of weirdness). And, even though each of these artists traveled many different paths over the years and even within the same record, you still know just what each sounds like just by seeing the name printed on the page. It’s that adventurous spirit, bridled only by their keen individuality, that leads Fughu to something as wonderful as Lost Connection, a collection of songs that recall all of those bands above and more while sounding just like none of them.
As you might expect from a band tracing such diverse lineage, the range of styles on display across Lost Connection’s 55-minute-plus run really is impressive, featuring driving and frenetic prog metal; upbeat and funky, bluesy heavy prog; dark, dystopian sci-fi and all the sounds that implies; droning ambient waves and angelic choir; slow smooth jazz, lone piano balladry and Argentinian folk melodies in the same tune; eclectic blending of classic prog, neo-prog, and modern electronic prog via Mario Marlmierca’s agglomeration of magical keys, buttons, switches, and knobs. Add superior performances from each player, most notably Belizio’s versatile guitar play, and production that allows each to shine within a full, rich soundscape, and Lost Connection reflects a tightly knit group of friends and musicians that have mastered their craft; reverent of their heroes, exceptional among their peers, and definitively Fughu.