You may not have heard of Cassandra's Curse, but the Dallas band has been playing in the margins of the Dallas music scene for over 12 years now.
"We started in July 2007," says singer and guitarist Charan Bhamidi (aka Charan SpidaFingaz). "We released what they called a 'cross-over prog' album in 2009 called False Flag. We have evolved into a more 'mainstream' prog act if you could call it that."
The band released its sophomore album, Groom Lake – Act 1, on all streaming services on Sept.19, just in time to be the soundtrack for any Area 51 storming that may have happened that day.
Due mostly to a string of bad luck and multiple changes in the band's lineup, the album has been eight years in the making.
"It's a bold statement we are making with this ambitious concept album," Charan says. "I was inspired by Queensryche’s iconic album Operation Mindcrime, and Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon. Not to mention the TV show and science fiction staple The X-Files. We are going to have lovers of the classic concept albums and old-school prog fans see it for what it is — an experience that is more than the run-of-the-mill music album. And then we would have, I expect, some who will scratch their heads, scoffing at the need for this audio drama.
"From where I sit, it is a necessary step for Cassandra's Curse to take these risks as we grow as a band."
The album tells the tale of Capt. Robert Razal, a research officer at Area 51 whose wife Allie lost their first unborn child under suspicious circumstances at a hospital on the Air Force base. The strain that their loss puts on the relationship spurs a fight, and Allie storms out of the house.
When Robert goes out to search for her, he finds himself in a restricted area where he is exposed to secret plans of Majestic 12 (MJ-12), a code name given to a secret committee of scientists, military leaders and government officials in UFO conspiracy theories.
"[Young people] found something that they could make absurd memes and have fun with, and latched on to it as a distraction. For me it's more than that. If the government is keeping secrets, we have a right to know." — Charan Bhamidi
What he finds in his search is the committee's plans for "hyper humanoid cloning." One will have to listen to the album to understand the true depth of horror that accompanies this nightmare scenario. Named Groom Lake – Act 1 for a purpose, the events of the album play out over eight scenes and five epic tracks averaging about 8 minutes in length each.
An album filled with intricate guitar solos, complex drum and bass rhythms and whimsical keyboards, Groom Lake – Act 1 is a true portrait of a band dedicated to playing music that tells a story beyond words and liner notes. The music itself is just as dramatic as an oncoming alien invasion.
"I grew up listening to a lot of pop music like Michael Jackson," Bhamidi says of his childhood, which was spent in India. "I came to the States in the year 2000. That's about the time that I discovered Dream Theater. They showed me that a song didn't have to follow the standard structure of verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-chorus."
Beyond the music, listeners are also treated to real drama in the album's eight scenes, in which voice actors play the roles of Robert, Allie, members of MJ-12 and a mysterious figure with an unsettlingly soothing voice. Bhamidi is unsure when the follow-up album, Groom Lake – Act 2, will be released, but by the album's end, those who follow the story will certainly be anticipating what Robert plans to do about the information he receives.
Bhamidi stresses that the timing of the album release has nothing to do with the Facebook event Storm Area 51, They Can't Stop All of Us.
"We had been planning the release of this album for a while, and Six Springs Tavern in Richardson was chosen as the right venue for this event," Bhamidi says of the band's album release show. "Since their only available date was Sept. 20, we had to go with it. It’s merely a coincidence that the Storm Area 51 Facebook event had the same date for its imaginary call to action."
Coincidence though it may be, Groom Lake – Act 1 and the Facebook event both speak to a strange moment in the cultural zeitgeist.
"Young people are tired of the daily pervasive politics and BS," Bhamidi says of the event. "They found something that they could make absurd memes and have fun with, and latched on to it as a distraction. For me it's more than that. If the government is keeping secrets, we have a right to know."