Before the indie music scene was saturated with post-rock clones there was a Vermont threesome by the name of The Cancer Conspiracy. Best known for their 2002 release of The Audio Medium, these guys pushed the limits of instrumental music as they seamlessly blended many a rock prefix (prog, noise, math, etc.) to create unpredictable yet melodic soundscapes. Originally recorded as the follow-up to The Audio Medium, Omega has been incubating in musical purgatory, waiting for the proper legal agreements to set it free from the band's past label, Big Wheel Recreation. But the wait is over, and although the band has been defunct since late 2003, this excellent slab of prog-instrumental rock is finally seeing a proper release, jointly through Radar Recordings and Gilead Media.
It's kind of an interesting task to go about describing The Cancer Conspiracy. Current comparisons feel quite irrelevant, as this recording preceded much of today's popular instrumental music. So sure, some of the more ambient parts have a Red Sparowes feel and some layered guitar work could be likened to that of Russian Circles, but let's not forget that it's in fact the other way around. If anything, it's The Cancer Conspiracy's combination of Rush-like progressive compositions and noisy, cathartic climaxes reminiscent of Drive Like Jehu that give Omega such a unique feel. "i" flirts with the avant-garde edge as it opens the disc with layers of ambience accompanied with a lead saxophone line. "ii" locks the record into gear with its driving, syncopated bass lines and angular guitar outbursts. "vii" excels on a foundation of slow but inventive drumming and an abundance of beautifully warm guitar melodies. And when combined, Omega's eight tracks provide nearly forty minutes of some of the best arranged instrumental rock available (either currently or in the past).
Fans of progressive music will have little difficulty embracing The Cancer Conspiracy. The band's ability to incorporate mathy rhythms while maintaining a memorable, melodic feel sets them apart from countless bands of many genres. Technical prowess is certainly an anchor in progressive music, but the most successful groups are those who never lose sight of the importance of songwriting. And when The Cancer Conspiracy effortlessly moves between textured ambience, noisy swells, and rhythms that turn on a dime, one thing is obvious: this is the definition of creative instrumental rock.
Bottom Line: Listeners finding themselves into the influx of instrumental music in today's indie and metal scenes should not hesitate in grabbing a copy of The Cancer Conspiracy's Omega. Although the record was released posthumously, their mixture of syncopated rhythms, warm guitar work, and inventive songwriting should not be forgotten.