The term ‘six by six’ can conjure various images. It could be something of large and impressive stature or perhaps the dimensions of a newly discovered space on the planet. For some, it may be the exponential potential of those numbers. For others, it might bring to mind the rhythmic pulse of sound waves. Now, for the initiated, for those in the know, SiX by SiX is perhaps all of those things. It’s also the name for an exciting new band. It’s a sizable collaboration filling a massive sonic space and driven by three renowned and diverse musicians of international origin.
The group has just (19th August) released its eponymous debut album on the InsideOutMusic label, part of Sony, and the anticipation has definitely been worthwhile! SiX by SiX is composed of three hugely accomplished and highly acclaimed, musicians hailing from disparate corners of the globe and each with the pedigree to back up the claim. They are guitarist Ian Crichton from the acclaimed Canadian prog rockers Saga, recognized as one of the top rock players in North America, powerhouse drummer Nigel Glockler of English heavy metal masters Saxon, and U.S. based Robert Berry, perhaps best known for his association with Keith Emerson and Carl Palmer in their group ‘3’ on bass, keyboards and vocals.
It always intrigues me how musicians across the world listen to, meet up with and get to perform and record with each other – and I guess the point is that musicians are fans of each other just as much as we punters are fans of them. In this instance the roots of SiX by SiX can be traced back several decades to when Glockler and Berry were together as part of Yes guitarist Steve Howe’s continuation of the band GTR. Then there’s the Asia connection, where Crichton and Glockler contributed to sessions and recordings, while Berry was the link for his guitarist friend Pat Thrall joining that band.
Time marches on, paths cross and fate brings these three musicians together, a Canadian, an American and a Brit, born from a conversation with an industry insider in the UK who connected Ian Crichton in the Toronto area with Robert Berry outside San Francisco, who in turn reached Glockler at his home on the south coast of England. They’ve been getting to know each other a little more, then deciding to have some like-minded fun together. And the results are very impressive! Powered by Glockler’s dynamic drumming, the result is an expansive guitar-driven pallet, paired sonically with the unique flavour of the Crichton/Berry songwriting collaboration, which they are very excited to present on this debut album.
As the driving force behind SiX By SiX, Ian takes a cunning turn, in assembling another potent band but one that focuses on his guitar prowess. This time with established players, each with a celebrated past, refined skills, and unlimited potential. Nigel has been behind his massive drum kit as an integral part of Saxon for quite a while, and his powerhouse drumming is the engine that drives SiX By SiX’s songs forwards relentlessly. Robert’s melodic sensibilities complement Ian’s extraordinary guitar and Nigel’s signature drumming perfectly. Combine these three talents and although their backgrounds might be prog influenced but they’re not constrained by that, so what you have here is a prog-metal-‘classic’ album that adds to that broad church of “just plain Great Rock”!
Ten sumptuous tracks, all displaying that effortlessly accomplished togetherness that comes with musicianship of the highest level. The album’s opener is Yearning To Fly, it starts with a wonderfully hypnotic riff that sets the scene for everything else that follows. This is such a tight trio, they sound like they’ve been playing together for years – and in some senses they have!
China is next, and it’s a little different, short and sharp. As Robert comments: “The song China came about differently than most of our songs. Ian had sent me a very cool finger picking type riff, which was playing repeatedly in my head as I tried to go to sleep one night. Earlier that evening the television news ran a story about China, including the appalling oppression of the Uyghur Muslims. I couldn’t get that out of my head either. I have many Chinese friends who do not agree with what the government of China is doing. Suddenly, inspired by Ian’s finger picking, this heavy riff came to mind. Then, as I paired it with the news story, the lyric just poured out. Born from anger and disbelief but also with respect for my Chinese friends, this song came to me in one big flash. When Ian heard the basic writing demo he immediately headed into new territory with the guitar solo. It’s angry, edgy, and totally psychotic in nature – a perfect fit! And of course we all must say ‘goodnight’ and good riddance to any government that treats its people so harshly.”
Reason To Feel Calm Again begins with an amazing guitar solo that on first hearing could be bagpipes! This is slower, a longer number that builds momentously, climaxes and sumptuously slows down again – eight minutes of pure creativity. The Upside Of Down follows, you can hear those Asia / classic mid-Atlantic influences here. Casino ploughs the same sort of furrow, but by that I hasten to add this is all Thoroughly Modern Mid-Atlantic! This is a band that the three of them have built together with a unique and totally contemporary sound.
Live Forever is an all-too-brief acoustic excursion, exquisitely crafted – and that’s probably a succinct summary of these three’s efforts. Four more classy tracks complete this very satisfying selection. It all goes to show there’s plenty of life in these rock-dogs yet!