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"URIZEN - Universe:Red review"

This five-piece electro-progressive heavy rock band has been challenging DFW music fans for years. Their third CD (a remastered EP with two new tracks), Universe:Red, has the band in top form.

They are “8-bit-inspired” but the most memorable moments are not the Tron-era video game sounding samples, but the blazing and blasting prog-metal that quickly drowns them out. That’s not to say there isn’t great work on the keys as on the beautiful “An Unfortunate Realization,” but the power and precision of the aggressive instrumentation is just stunning and overpowering.

Drummer Julio Escamilla is especially note worthy, playing at a level reminiscent of European (see Swedish) progressive metal bands. For those who don’t particularly dig Euro-metal, there are still some stunning tracks here that might even evoke, cough, Tears For Fears (“Nothing Is Epic”), Devo or Styx. Check out “The Lonely Resident”
to see where imagination and inspiration can take a person.

Go to facebook.com/urizenonline for more. - LIT Magazine

"Beam Me Up! - New URIZEN"

When I wrote for Harder Beat magazine(rip) a couple of years ago, I tried to review as many local CDs that were sent in as I could. When I say "as many as I could" I mean as many as I could stomach. True, DFW has bushels of homegrown talent, but almost none of the good bands would send in CDs for review. Because of the "say something nice or don't say anything at all" policy, most local CDs would sit in the pile for staff consideration for months. We would collectively listen to the month's submissions of Pantera wannabees and groan as our editor would try to get somebody to review it. Then one day, out of the blue, she puts in a CD and out comes what sounds like The Legend of Zelda. About this time I happen to catch a glimpse of the cover and I say, "I will take it!"

I had heard of Ft. Worth's Urizen before but I wanted to learn more as soon as I heard those opening notes of "A Noiseless Flash." Then I saw them live and it all made sense. The band slays some kind of goo monster on stage, not to mention the 9 foot tall robot that joins them.

This is what I wrote:

Urizen - Universe, Self-released

It's a very bold move for an unsigned band to begin an EP with a 1:35 Legend of Zelda-keyboard intro. But Urizen is just the band brazen enough to pull it off. What else do you expect from guys that sport white jumpsuits and have a robot as part of their live show? They truly defy convention with this five-track collection that would fit amongst Sleepytime Gorilla Museum and Tub Ring as well as any of Mike Patton's 254,698 side projects. With songs about robots and space and God knows what, they aim for the brain with elements of black-metal (minus the pseudo-demon vocals). Urizen adds synthesizer noodlings to produce an amalgamation of a Space Odyssey: 2001 soundtrack written by a Frank Zappa-fronted Dimmu Borgir. This could very well be the most unique local disc of the year. (D.J. Ivie)

Now the band has re-recorded and remastered this gem from 2008, giving it the title of Universe:Red. As is the case with the original, it is a 100% in-house production. The difference is that it stands up to their live show. It's not that the first version was bad, it had a sort of lo-fi charm to but now Universe sounds fully realized.

Urizen is set to release Universe:Red on 11/5 at the soon to be opened Tomcat's West in Ft. Worth. - BirdandGrog.com

"Bending Metal: Urizen breaks the rules — including the one that says all metal bands have to lack a sense of humor."

Apocalyptic Nintendo music? That’s what happens when the members of the happy-black-metal band Urizen started fiddling with the technology. When envisioning the North Texas group’s 2007 EP Universe, songwriter Thomas Drinnen bought a converter so he could elicit sounds from an original Nintendo console.

Creative? Definitely. Twisted? Somewhat. The constant structural changes at mind-bending speed showcase a band that’s deadly serious about playing tight, technical music. But Urizen’s primary goal is to entertain, not stoke any egos. Proof: the seven-foot robot that accompanies them onstage.

That’s been true since Drinnen and his younger brother Daniel began creating musical theater in their elementary school days in Colorado. By the time they hit their teen years they’d formed a “novelty Halloween cover band” named Dunwich Horror, with Thomas singing and playing guitar and Daniel on keyboards. With (ghoulish) fun being their first thought, they paid more attention to constructing a guillotine prop than to perfecting their performances of Rammstein, Megadeth, and Marilyn Manson songs.

Thomas eventually fled to a Kansas City art school. Their music survived, but they lacked a few key pieces — namely, a drummer. In 2001, the brothers met up in Arlington to catch a show by Norwegian symphonic metal band Dimmu Borgir. Arriving early and hoping to meet the band, they bumped into another teenage straggler, Mexico City native Julio Escamilla, by then a drummer in Fort Worth.

By the end of the show, their common musical destiny had been forged. Escamilla sent drum tracks to Colorado, which the Drinnens sent back to him overdubbed with guitars and vocals. A few months later, the drummer boarded a Greyhound bus, arriving in Denver in the middle of a gay-pride parade. The threesome spent a solid week playing and creating music. On a subsequent return visit by Escamilla, the trio began recording drum tracks for what would eventually become Urizen’s first full-length CD, autocratopolis, released in 2005.

The week after Escamilla finished laying down the drum tracks, the entire Drinnen family relocated to North Texas, and the primary incarnation of Urizen took tangible shape. For several years, the trio continued practicing and adding material to autocratopolis. Finally, in 2004, they decided to step up the pace: Urizen booked its first show at the Ridglea Theater in August. Only a week before the gig, Thomas Drinnen found bassist and now-guitarist Matt Garrison to join their ranks.

“Anything we do, we force ourselves into a deadline. It’s the only way to get anything done,” Daniel Drinnen said. The same strategy worked to get autocratopolis finished after four years of work: The band booked a CD release show. On the absolute last day to get the accompanying text to the printer, they mailed the material that became a professional-looking booklet decorated with lyrical poetry and stories told by desaturated photographs.

In contrast to Universe, the older CD contains more soaring, epic-tinged moments, although both are punctuated by Escamilla’s pounding, fleet-footed drumming, like rows of exclamation points. Unlike other bands that fall into the various “metal” categories, Urizen relies on intelligible lyrics and eschews flashy guitar solos — almost like the heavy without the metal.

Being a band unaffected by concerns about what’s “cool” has somewhat cursed Urizen as far as finding a place in the local scene. “It’s a weird contradiction,” said Thomas Drinnen. “We want people in the crowd to have fun ... there’s a side of it [the metal scene] where people want to keep up appearances. They want to mosh around and hurt people.”

The guys in Urizen enjoyed being the go-to opening band when European black metal bands rolled through town. But otherwise, they grew pretty tired of the grind in the North Texas club scene. After a couple years of weekly gigging, including “soul-crushing” metal fests, they put live shows on the back burner.

“Lately we’re finding alternative forums for presenting ourselves,” said Daniel Drinnen. In October, they rented a booth at a sci-fi convention, bringing music into an environment where most people were looking for futuristic visual art. “We were the only band there,” he continued. “We dressed in costumes, had a TV with live footage. ... It was a totally different group of consumers. We’re creating a market for ourselves.”

For three days in March, Urizen will be the only band at the All-Con fantasy fiction convention in Addison. In between talks on anime, science fiction, and costuming, Urizen will play six shows. They will be the representative musicians in a sea of people dressed in Star Wars and other fantasy fiction gear.

As part of the convention, the band, which now includes James Wicks on bass, will participate in a panel discussion about the lives of musicians in North Texas. They’ll probably talk mostly “about coming to terms with the fact that there will be no money,” Thomas Drinnen said. “We just want to make enough money to keep doing what we do.”

Being a band of mostly sober people, they feel a sci-fi convention is a better venue than a smoky club when it comes to finding new listeners. No matter where they play, however, Urizen brings its space suits, robot, hanging keyboard, and soon, a rocket ship. “If you let your inhibitions down,” Thomas Drinnen said, “it translates to the crowd ... .We do it on our terms, which are the only terms we know. It’s like a drawn-out tragedy, but it’s very entertaining.” - Fort Worth Weekly

"URIZEN - Universe review"

Invigorating avant-metal is how these boys from Fort Worth label themselves, and despite the pretense inherent in all things metallic, Urizen easily lives up to such a high and mighty description. Wisely straying from the typical metal onslaught of incomprehensible, Beelzebub-inspired vocals and double bass drum tedium, brothers Thomas and Daniel Drinnen concoct an epic, keyboard-enhanced barrage that sounds something like Pelican taking aim at the Moody Blues songbook. Ponderously titled numbers such as "A Budding Consciousness" and "An Unfortunate Realization" show that Urizen doesn't wish to deviate too far from metal's verbose pseudo-intelligence, but such complaints are rather minor considering the instrumental dexterity and muscle on all five cuts contained on Universe. Moving beyond the impenetrability and clichŽ of Autocratopolis, the band's 2006 debut, Urizen incorporates an unexpected element of electronica into the lengthy musings of Universe. While drummer Julio Escamilla flails away in the tradition of Type O Negative or King Diamond, the brothers Drinnen consistently bring things back into the realm of clarity, a wise and successful maneuver. - Dallas Observer


autocratopolis - 2005
Universe EP - 2007
Boxmen single - 2010
Universe:Red - 2010
8-Bit Universe - 2011



URIZEN is an electronic-influenced 8-bit-style heavy rock band based in Ft. Worth, Texas. The band is well known for their entertaining and highly involved stage shows, featuring members dressed in full red-and-white armor-style space suits. Other features of their stage show include the appearance of a giant, 8-foot-tall URIZEN Robot; a 12-foot inflatable cycloptic goo monster; a custom-created silicone conjoined twin creature; and much more!

Since 2004, URIZEN has been storming stages in their native Texas and beyond, embarking on an extensive US tour in 2011. URIZEN is also well known outside of the club circuit, with performances at Arlington’s Six Flags Over Texas amusement park, three consecutive years of live sets at Addison’s All-Con fan convention, and a 2010 performance at Atlanta’s Dragon*Con, touted as the “world’s largest” science fiction/fantasy convention, with over 40,000 attending annually.

URIZEN is well-represented on the airwaves, featuring in both internet and terrestrial radio, including an on-air feature and interview with American Forces Network radio in Heidelberg, Germany. The band has even hit the small screen, courtesy of the JackFM-sponsored live music television show All Jack’d Up (watch the video here: http://youtu.be/L029keTazx0).

URIZEN’s musical style employs the use of heavy, distorted guitars; speedy drums; and clean, rock-style vocals. Perhaps the most distinguishing feature of URIZEN’s sound is the dominant presence of synth and keyboards, specifically the use of orchestral strings and 8-bit Nintendo-style electronic sounds. In his book, "Mean Deviation: Four Decades of Progressive Heavy Metal," former Metal Maniacs editor Jeff Wagner says of URIZEN, "These Texans resemble everything from Arcturus and Solefald to the even weirder electronic-based material by Ulver and Manes."

The band was formed in early 2003 by brothers Thomas and Daniel Drinnen (guitar/vocals and keyboards, respectively) and drummer Julio Escamilla. URIZEN has released three albums; autocratopolis (2005), Universe EP (2007), and Universe:Red (2010).

URIZEN has had the pleasure of performing live with bands such as:
Sonata Arctica, Finntroll, The Protomen, Ensiferum, Turisas, Eluveitie, Trivium, Kataklysm, Dying Fetus, Arsis, The Faceless, God Forbid, Tyr, Keep Of Kalessin, The Agonist and many more