For many progressive alternative bands, the next step after they've established their formula of matching riffs to vocal melodies is to get a bigger sound. Often this drive is to become more “orchestral”. The guitarists break out of their four-chord powerchord box, the singers look to move beyond brutish garage-rock basics to explore the melodics of their craft. Eventually, if they get far enough down the progressive line with their compositions, they might recruit some actual classical musicians to mirror their riffs and maybe add an interlude or two.

For the Pittsburg-based Beo String Quartet, the complexity and dynamism of playing with an orchestral backing comes baked right in. The foursome performs what they've deemed “Chamber Alt”, a style that draws on prog, metal, and alternative but is firmly centred around the string quartet. In this iteration, drums, guitar, bass, and vocals are textures to be layered in, secondary to the raw, visceral, and timeless sound of the strings. Their latest album stands alongside projects like Apocalyptica, Trans-Siberian Orchestra, and the Kronos Quartet, proving that rock and classical are not opposites but rather close bedfellows. Ghosts Revisited fades in and out through different vignettes. Some embracing an intertwined hybrid that feels as if Dream Theater or Tool had always written with a string section in mind while other movements float weightless, untethered by the primal grounding of the drum kit.

The 'Prologue' opens the album without any indication of the rock instrumentation to follow. A cinematic intro of swaying drawn chords is met by sharp, intensely bowed molto allegro. Something akin to the jostled nether-state score to Richard Linklater's Waking Life. Fittingly, is it followed by the alt hybrid 'Dreaming'. Vocals and drums enter over choppy odd time signatures. The strings act as wild demonic apparitions wailing over the familiar progressive rock instrumentation. This is no mere supplementation of strings as a gimmick. The pieces are written as tightly interwoven integrated pieces. Far more compositionally aware than your standard prog-loving metal act.

The album then goes through an alternating procession of segues (Ghost 1, 2, 3, 4) and full tracks. The segues feature only the strings as phantasmagorical asides, capitalizing on their ability to add an impending sense of the ethereal.

Mid-album standout 'Dancing' prickles with frenzied pizzicato for the quartet as fuzzed-out guitar and snappy drums hold down the heavy Tool-like vibe. The vocals even employ a filtered effect like Maynard employs on Aenima. The track has hints of an elegant 'Stinkfist'. The outro devolves into the ultimate prog-rock woozy descension. The quartet swoops and swirls over the spiralling out of the manic finale. The penultimate title track is perhaps the album's most fiery. The band and quartet swell with heavy instrumental sections placed between tension-building verses. An Opeth-like grandeur is reached with the vocals hitting an operatic peak alongside the supporting strings. Naturally, a string only 'Epilogue' closes out the record which has the feel of a ravaged village picking up the pieces from a transformative event to carry on with their lives.

Ghosts Revisited is the next step for those looking to up their game in the prog world. An embracing of the best of both worlds and a crossover between. The Strings are pushed to do wild acrobatics and inventive sonic manometers that wouldn't be attempted in most symphonies and the rock instruments are spurned on to attain the advanced musical abilities of a top-tier classical quartet. Are you ready to level up?