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Tempest

Shapeshifter

Review by Gary Hill

As someone who has followed Tempest for quite a while it is very rewarding to see them release a disc as good as this one. They have nothing in their catalog to compare really. This is the first album that sees the band stretching beyond their roots, and the results are incredible. This is the most accessible and effective CD they have made so far. It really makes me anxious to hear what they do next. The Celtic and prog leanings that made the band what it is are all still there, but somehow they manage to assemble it with a new vitality and freshness that makes this such a great disc. If you are a fan, you really need this one. If you have been meaning to check out Tempest, start here, it is the best album you will find from them.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2004 Year Book Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Tamosher
This one comes is as one part solid rocker, one part traditional Celtic. As the verse enters, it's in the form of an acapella duet, all Celtic. This theme, non-acapella, though, makes up the style of all the rest of the verses. The music keeps intensifying, moving the power of the song up with each successive change. There is some strong instrumental work present in this piece. It eventually bursts forth into a full on scorching guitar solo segment for a time before the more Celtic modes return. The acapella vocals return late to bring the tune back around.
Catalina Island
Percussion starts this, and the bass joins shortly. The group begins working on a hard rocking, Celtically toned theme after a time. They at times wander into some definite hard-edged prog themes. This one feels a bit like Kansas at times, probably at least in part due to the lead role of the violin. Eventually they move it back more towards the Celtic stylings. This instrumental is one of the strongest tracks Tempest ha ever done. It alone is worth the price of admission here.
Old Man at the Mill
Acoustic modes start this one. The violin enters adding a great texture to the arrangement. As the vocals come in the mode is full on Celtic. They jump it up to electric with a screaming guitar solo later, but fully maintain the traditional Celtic texture, just powering it up. This another exceptionally strong composition that serves to help elevate this great disc beyond the band's previous work.
Natural Law
A progressive rock balladic texture serves as the basis for this. The cut is quite accessible and much more mainstream than most of the rest of the band's catalog. It is just on the prog side of a strong pop-oriented piece. It represents an interesting and promising change for the group. They do manage to show their Celtic roots on the instrumental break, but I hazard to say that this song has less of a Celtic texture than anything the band has ever done. It is another definite winner.
Byker Hill
This one jumps right in hard-edged and fast paced. It's a potent Celtic tinged rocker. It drops to just percussion and violin after a tie. A killer bass texture eventually joins in. After playing on this for a while, a screaming guitar line enters, filling the mix. They break back into the song proper after this interlude.
Carnival
Acoustic Celtic tones start this one, gradually building a bit before it drops to the more sedate for the verse. This is a strong Celtic rock ballad, but it is another shows some Eastern leanings at time. This is arguably the strongest of this style piece that Tempest have ever recorded. Sorbye's vocal performance here is especially strong and the group adds in some in credibly effective fills. This is a definite highpoint on an album that has a lot of highpoints.
Coalminers'
This traditional feeling Celtic jam even has a bit of a down home hoe down feel at times. It's a bouncy and fun instrumental, but not really a standout. It does have a dynamic texture, though.
Winter Night:
This starts off feeling almost like Jimmy Buffett, but as the verse comes in its more traditional Celtic styled Tempest. This is another that feels more mainstream that a lot of the band's work.
Fjellmannjenta
A fairly standard Tempest piece, this is a solid part traditional Celtic with a good helping of progressive rock.
Cruel Brother
This is another acoustic based Celtic ballad. It jumps up to more high charge later with the addition of amplified instruments and features a couple killer prog rock breaks.
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