The Six Gallery that will release Breakthroughs in Modern Art on Friday is quite different from the Six Gallery that last checked in with Alive 18 months ago.

The Six Gallery that will release Breakthroughs in Modern Art on Friday is quite different from the Six Gallery that last checked in with Alive 18 months ago.

First, longtime drummer Samer Almadani left last spring to take a prestigious photography job shooting the likes of Wilco and Barack Obama in Chicago. He wanted his bandmates to join him in the Windy City, but most of them were tied down with commitments in Columbus. The group's future seemed in doubt.

"It was a very scary time for us," bassist Alex Weinhardt said.

Just when they thought they'd have to cancel their upcoming shows, Ben Miller of Central City Recording stepped in behind the drum kit and proved himself a quick study. Six Gallery carried on.

The real renovations began eight months ago when the longtime instrumental rock band finally added the lead singer they had been searching for since forming at Ohio University in 2005. Daniel J. Francis joined the fold in November after his on-again, off-again project, Pirate, signed off for good.

Six Gallery always dreamed of adding vocals atop their finger-tap-happy prog-rock compositions. Each member took a turn on the mic at some point during practice, but nothing clicked. And as their catalog continued to grow, they rued the thought of taking several months off to rework each tune.

"It wasn't like we were holding auditions for a singer," Weinhardt explained.

Their half-hearted search got a lot more serious when Francis became available. They liked the vocal parts he added to their existing material, but it quickly became clear that this new Six Gallery would be better off writing new material than trying to salvage old songs. All but one song on Breakthroughs was written after Francis joined the band.

Weinhardt said adding Francis' voice to the mix helped the musicians shift their focus away from simply piecing together cool riffs to writing coherent compositions.

"It forced us to write songs," Weinhardt said. "I don't think we could have done that if it weren't for Dan."

Vestiges of the old sound remain, most notably guitarists Ben Schreiber and Will Vokac's rampant finger-tapping combinations. But that technical wizardry shares space with Francis' passionate wails, spinning outlandish tales about the lost city of Atlantis and a Uruguayan rugby team forced into cannibalism.

As a singer and a lyricist, Francis feels like he's flourishing in his new environment.

"I don't think I ever really tried in Pirate," Francis said. "[In Six Gallery], the overall level of focus is exponentially greater. I feel like I have to outdo myself."

In the midst of Six Gallery's metamorphosis, they began recording the new album with Stretch Lefty producer Austin Briggs, who offered to record them for free in exchange for a place to crash.

Things were moving fast but smoothly until, during a move to New Orleans, Briggs lost his every possession when a thief drove off with his U-Haul. Fortunately for the band, they had backed up most of their work, so the theft was more of a personal trauma for Briggs than a band crisis.

Thanks to a deadline imposed by Briggs, they still finished the record in rapid time. Now they're ready to bring Breakthroughs in Modern Art to the world, starting with a release show Friday and continuing throughout the Midwest and East Coast this summer.

They hope the album is diverse enough to help lift them from the instrumental-rock pigeonhole they sometimes inhabited before.

"There's definitely a song on there for everybody ...," Schreiber said.

Francis added, "... including people who hate Six Gallery."