A founding member of thrash metal band, Transgressor in 1988-91, and a part of the Basement Generals from 2009-2013, Paul Holda is mainly a guitarist who also plays drums, bass and keyboards, as well as sings. A passionate fan of the Grateful Dead, the New Jersey based artist has been writing songs since he was a kid. Paul has a studio in his basement where he has written performed and recorded the 19 songs to be found on his genre-bending album, “Maniacs from the 4th Dimension”. A little bit experimental, and slightly progressive, with flavors of instrumental post-rock and psychedelic tones, this is a recording which is all over the place and far too hard to put into any sort of genre box. To further complicate matters, Tracks 1-6 are original instrumentals. Tracks 7-11 feature spoken word text by Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Aldous Huxley, Kurt Vonnegut, Terrence McKenna, Ken Kesey, and Tracks 12-19 are originals featuring singing, and Includes a cover of “Hard Rain is Gonna Fall” by Bob Dylan and “Sisters and Brothers” by Jerry Garcia Band. And just to make sure the album wasn’t missing anything at all, Paul’s daughter, Carly Holda – aged 10 at the time of recording – handles the vocals on “Show Me The Way”.
So its clear right from the get go that you’re in for a roller-coaster ride of crossover genre flavors, instrumental, and vocal music, and a lot of other little surprises along the way. One of the major surprises for me was that Paul is actually a very competent singer, something he claims he is not, in the album footnotes.
He can actually hold a scale of notes together, better than 90% of the singers currently riding the charts right now. Once you’ve stripped them of the studio trickery and embellishments, that is.
This type of multi-styled album that Paul Holda presents here, is often the playground of many self-proclaimed geniuses and shysters, as it is for genuine keepers of the rock n’ roll faith, and there are those content to filter the same chord progressions through numerous effects pedals for what seems like a small lifetime in the attempt to look sincere.
But every once in a while, an unpretentious artist like Holda comes along, proving just how much creativity, imagination and downright honesty this music requires, and how breathtaking the results can be when’s it’s done right.
There are no overindulgent guitar pyrotechnics, or over-elaborated and tiresome orchestral arrangements. These are simply great songs. Some with broad and lush soundscapes for listeners to explore. Crammed with atmospherics, tension, and melodrama.
You will find the best of these examples among “Reducing Valve”, “Slightly Unstuck In Time” and “Midnight On The Sun”. Repeated spins reveal these songs to be meticulously assembled visions – twisting the volume knob up reveals the components of the massive walls of sound that are capable of melting your eardrums at high levels.
“The Mountain” changes things around and is built around funky free flowing percussion and Holda’s smart guitar lines and bass runs. The album’s main strength is its incredible consistency in two crucial areas. Firstly, in its high level of recording quality, and then the fact that there’s no fat anywhere on this album, no lulls, no long-stretches where you’re tempted to reach for the skip button.
Just slide into the brilliant Pink Floyd-ish “Cosmic”, and straight after that, into the sublime twin guitar sounds of “Time Is Slipping” to grasp the concept. Every track has something – whether it’s the acoustic guitars on “Till We Meet Again”, the mesmerizing strum and riff on “Never Left” or the haunting basslines that run through “Two Birds”. Every track contains some moment guaranteed to pull the listener back for a second helping.
Another one of “Maniacs from the 4th Dimension’s” secret weapons, is its raw emotive power. Despite the very wide-ranging stylistic spectrum, or in fact because of it, this music cuts straight through the intellectual centers and then goes straight to the sensory receptors, to where everybody who likes guitar dominated music, albeit without the guitar-hero histrionics, will find something to love in Paul Holda’s creations.
While practically all music fans enjoy getting lost in lyrics and having an anchor to hold close to their hearts, it takes even a deeper love to grow close to strictly instrumental compositions. Here you have the best of both worlds.