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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Age of Nemesis

Terra Incognita

Review by Rick Damigella

Hungarian prog metalers Age of Nemesis are back with their third English language release, Terra Incognita. Originally released in their native Hungarian language in 2002, English speaking fans can now enjoy this unique concept album courtesy of this new Magna Carta release.

The story behind this concept album is an original idea of guitarist Zoltan Fabian. The fictional story is told from the point of view of a dead girl’s diary with the listener being the reader of the inner most thoughts of the nameless character. During the story, the girl is visited by an angel who gives her the opportunity to see the “Land of Lights,” a place where human souls go in their afterlife. Held to a promise never to reveal what she has seen, the girl, not unlike Pandora before her, can’t keep the secret, revealing it to her sleeping boyfriend. The story continues with the consequences of what happens after this.

Epic in scope and in length, Terra Incognita showcases the musicianship of the five members of the band (Zoltan Fabian: guitars, Gyorgy Nagy: keyboards, Zoltan Kiss: vocals, Csaba Berczelly: bass, Laszlo Nagy: drums) on a creative high note. The album is solid throughout. Punchy, heavy chord progressions give way to quieter passages when appropriate. The story is given to the listener with just enough detail to let them fill in the gaps for themselves without being 100% literal, just as if the lyrics were lifted from the central character’s diary. Singer Zoltan Kiss emotes these lyrics in near perfect English with nary a trace of any accent of his native language.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2007 Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Tree Of Life
The album opener leads in with atmospheric sounds including somber bells and synth notes and a subtle scream of “No!” muffled within the sound collage. I take this as the moment of the girl’s death based on the lyrics. A minute later the band is there in full force, with keys and guitars playing off each other in separate chord progressions which work well against each other. This progresses quickly into a less discordant sound as the instruments meld together for the start of the lyrics. The story here is purely about the death of the girl as she is now just a fallen leaf from the tree of life.
Meeting with the Unbelievable
Unintelligible voices and mysterious synths create a dream like state for the listener/reader of the diary but quickly give way to a growling electric guitar chord assault. Some fantastic foot pedal work from Zoltan Fabian gives this number a characteristic crunch. The ethnic sounding chord progressions draw easy comparison to Ritchie Blackmore’s “Snake Charmer” style of play but a well trained ear will recognize these as more in line with the band’s native Hungarian musical heritage. We are now reading from the dead girl’s diary about her encounter with the angelic figure who visits her.
The Land of Light
A lighter intro to this number belies the powerful playing which underlies its central theme. Epic and melodramatic keys and six strings paint a soaring, grandiose picture of the scene as the girl is shown the wonders of the stories’ afterlife. About two and a half minutes in, there is a terrific jammy breakdown that fits well into the central musical theme without going noodly. Anyone who thinks that there is nothing new that can be done with an electric guitar as a lead instrument need only listen here as Zoltan Fabian’s axe sings alongside the vocals of Zoltan Kiss. It would be criminal to do this, but if you download only a single track from this disc if/when it hits iTunes, make it this one.
The Secret
A thunderclap and rain act as introduction to a pretty, melodic picked guitar refrain. The shortest number on the album serves as the moment for the critical turning point in the story as the girl shares the secret knowledge she has been given.
Another Existence
A revelatory electric guitar riff, like the boyfriend waking from his dream, kicks this number off. Fabian makes some frenetic fret board runs throughout this number. At this point in the story, the girl’s revealing of what she has seen has apparently given her boyfriend resolve to share the story of the Land of Light with the rest of the world. The song exemplifies the excitement the character must be feeling very well.
Inner Fire
An ominous atmospheric intro leads off this next piece, followed by a chord progression which shifts between dark crunch and bright mid-range riffing. The music here, like the opening riffs, shifts between the light and dark. A bright and liquid keyboard solo flows through the midsection, while a down and dirty metallic guitar crunch dominates the later third of the piece, changing the tone of the story as the male character runs up against a less than overwhelmingly positive reaction to his revelation.
Inferno
Police sirens and discordant atmospherics from Gyorgy Nagy’s keys paint a bleak opening to this number. The sirens continue as the guitar of Zoltan Fabian hammers through with Laszlo Nagy’s pounding drums providing equal chaotic thrust. The time signature of this instrumental suggests (as the title does) that things have not gone well in the story.
Someone Must Take The Blame
A spoiler warning needs to be issued here. Major plot points in the story are revealed here, though not in full detail. The future listener may wish to make up their own minds as to the meaning of the story and should do so by giving this album a thorough listen. No less dark than its predecessor in terms of the music, this song takes an even darker turn in the story, as it seems thousands of people are ending their lives in search of the afterlife which has been revealed to them. The chaos of what happens in the tale is well documented in the sound and the style of the music as the previous numbers.
Forgive Me My Foolish Crime
Our secondary character is the only person who can truly be blamed for the problems that have arisen from her sharing of what he has seen in his dream. Again, I should leave the deeper meaning of the lyrics to the individual. The playing on this number is as tight as always. The unique voices portrayed by the keys, six strings and drums, while vastly different, all mesh well into the overall sound.
Why?
Like “The Secret” from earlier, this short passage is spare on instrumentation but heavy on lyrical depth as the girl blames herself for what has happened and laments the loss of her love.
Bleeding Moon
One of the most enjoyable things about this album is hearing the interplay of the instruments. Instead of being a sonic coloring, the keyboards are given as much importance in the compositions and in the mix as the other instruments. In some cases they are even more prominent. The jazzy sounding second section is soon enveloped by a characteristic prog metal bombast that shifts constantly, wrapping the listener up in the climax of the story.
Plummeting into Eternity
Though it is likely obvious, I will not reveal the end of the story here. The album closer (as all good concept albums should, in my opinion) runs the longest of all the tracks. Playing like a metal-chestra instead of just four musicians, Age of Nemesis punctuates their epic tale with their trademark blend of instrumentation. If you enjoy the melodic yet powerful interplay of instruments off each other as opposed to a wall of sonic strang und durm, this finale, like the album as a whole, will greatly satisfy your thirst for intelligent progressive music.
 
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