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MDC's Reviews for No Man is an Island

Kevin Rolland

I have been in contact with Mark quite a lot recently concerning Tim Morse’s latest album, and it was during one of these exchanges that I mentioned that I hadn’t heard his own album which he then kindly sent along. I seem to have been writing quite a lot about multi-instrumentalists recently, and here is yet another example. Over five years Mark recorded every note, sang his heart out and of course also engineered and produced it. This doesn’t sound like a solo effort, but that of a band who are in perfect harmony with each other. Some of the songs are very heavy indeed, but there is such a mix that there is something here for everyone.

The song “Do I Care” is a typical example. It starts off with some extremely heavy almost doom-laden riffs before breaking into something that I can only describe as being some of the best Living Color that I have heard in years. Normally solo musicians start on keyboards or guitar and fail at either vocals or by using a drum machine, but Mark knows the importance of ‘real’ drums in a rock context and more than proves himself to be a fine drummer – although only he will know if they were recorded ‘live’ or had many hours of rerecording and splicing to get it right.

But that’s the point, it is right. In fact this is a very enjoyable hard rock album with progressive tendencies. You may have to have eclectic tastes to get the most out of it, but I do so that’s fine with me. Well worth investigating.

- Kevin Rolland

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Multi-instrumentalist MARK DEAN from California recorded his CD ‘No Man is an Island’ through the past 5 years and now releases the full-length CD. The production and sound is quite impressive and Mark shows he is a very talented musician. His singing isn’t too bad either and musically he combines several rock and metal genres.

...SOUNDGARDENish Alternative Metal and 1990s Melodic Hardrock is probably the best way to describe the music on this disc. “Love in vain” sounds like a cross between HAREM SCAREM circa ‘Voice of reason’, SOUNDGARDEN, mid 1990s.

...Quite original actually this album, because it offers something for everyone, although you have to be open-minded and not look for any easy straight-ahead rockers, because you won’t find em here! This CD is quite dark, very heavy, proggy and doomy at the same still, but also melodic (great guitar solo and midtempo groove during “Across the way” for example and do I hear some SAVATAGE/TRANSIBERIAN ORCHESTRA during “Climb the cliff”), so fans of the later HAREM SCAREM sound crossed with some of SOUNDGARDEN and a healthy dose of Progressive Rock might be very interested in checking out MARK DEAN at:

- Gabor at Strutter’Zine

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Music Waves

French to English translation

Mark Dean's Caldera is the solo project of Mark Dean, American multi-instrumentalist whose instrument of choice is the guitar, but who takes care with his first album ("No Man is An Island") to fill all the desks, guitar, bass, keyboards and drums.

For lovers of linguistic explanations, point out that a clade (i) ra is a large depression caused by the explosion or the collapse of a volcano.

And volcanic, music by Mark Dean certainly is: the highlighting of a distorted rhythm and a powerful battery easily fall "No Man ..." in the hard metal category, or partly in the experimental if one refers to the many dissonances (from the first notes of introduction) and a fairly clear desire not to pay in research melodic here, from crude shock, tellurium: riffs, powerful strikes, hoarseness voice are on display, and the musical is the most aggressive.

If "No Man" claims to progressive, it is actually quite difficult to find arrangements and developments in this style. The titles are based on solid riffs on guitar, sometimes effective ("Reptilian Girl"), often slow-witted, even elephantine (Do I Care? "). The guitar solos eyeing more to shred - that Mark Dean technically control, see "Reptilian Girl" - as in the melodic, almost absent (exception: "The Gipsy Kings"). The listener will hear, however, some passages a little more spacey progressive could be used as collateral to the album if they were eerily flat ("Oh My God") or ridiculous in their emphasis ("Gipsy Kings").

No, what Mark Dean Master's Voice is the violence - most sequences are interpreted braillées ("Across the Way" impeccably torpedoed) - exhibitionism brutal guitar ("Climb the Cliff", ugly and heavy), the accumulation of sound effects in short, a sort of brutal frenzy with no real direction, leaving the listener that sounded more puzzled by the fuss futile. It is therefore recommend to any music lover wishing to spare his acoustic detour at reasonable distance from the eruptive phenomenon unsavory.

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Hardrock Haven

California based Mark Dean is making a run at being metal’s next Renaissance man with the release of his solo effort entitled No Man Is An Island. The album defies genre and classification, blending many old and new school metal influences with a smattering of progressive elements and a touch of atmospheric/ethereal tones. Despite the artist being listed as Mark Dean’s Caldera, this is all Mark – he plays all instruments, does all vocals, and produced/engineered/recorded the CD. In fact, the only other performer listed is Levi Dean Miller, credited with a “Breakout scream” on one track.

Recorded over the span of 5 years, No Man Is An Island is an interesting look into the psyche and musical growth of a performer. Musically diverse and dense, almost “art-rock” at times, the album takes the listener from soft atmospheric passages to intense metal without pretending to be either. As both a musician and songwriter Mark Dean proves himself to be immensely talented. He delivers solid guitar work, intense bass, intricate drums and nicely done keyboards throughout the album – taking the time to track every instrument separately to get every aspect exactly as he wants. His songs are complex and layered but never to the point of pretentiousness – and are always melodic. He manages to set a definite mood within the first few bars of every track. As a vocalist he is decent, possessing a deep, dry and gritty voice that seems to be a combination of Blaze Bayley, Biff Byford and Ray Alder. As often seems to be the case with multi-instrumentalists, Dean’s voice is not his true strength -but his raw instrumental talents far outweigh any shortcomings as a singer.

Musical highlights include: the bizarre “backwards” opening and intense bass of “God Help Me;” the overall progressive rock feel and spirited vocals of “Kings Row;” the rawness of the guitars and vocals in “Do I Care;” the otherworldly tone of the mostly instrumental “The Gypsy Ears;” the soft guitar work and mellow music of “Across The Way;” the wild guitar wanderings of “Eluding Connie at Trixie’s Gig;” and the almost Fates Warning feel on “Climb The Cliffs.”

Dean delivers songs that delve deeply into emotions, both good and bad. Themes of isolation, rebirth, loss and love take this album a little outside the usual radio-friendly arena, but this music should appeal to many fans of progressive rock, art rock and even old school hard rock. Influences of everyone from Ozzy to Fates Warning to Steve Vai can be heard in one track or another. No matter what the lyrical subject, Mark Dean’s Caldera delivers with passion and intensity.

No Man Is An Island is obviously a labor of love by Mark Dean, and while it may not get much in the way of commercial air play or mainstream recognition, it is indeed a fine release. Intense and powerful rock blended with prog elements, strong lyrics and an ever-present sense of melody make this album highly recommended. Artistic expression at its purest …

Genre: Progressive Hard Rock
Label: Amethyst Edge Productions
Band: Mark Dean (guitars, bass, drums, keyboards, vocals)

Track Listing:
1. God Help Me
2. Reptilian Girl
3. Love in Vain
4. Kings Row
5. Do I Care
6. The Gypsy Ears
7. Across the Way
8. Eluding Connie at Trixie’s Gig
9. Climb the Cliff
10. 50k Watts
11. Looking for Conscious
12. Oh My God

- Joe Mis Hardrock Haven rating: 8/10

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