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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Labirinto

Anatema

Review by Gary Hill

Albums of purely instrumental music are usually a hard sell. It can be difficult to put together a whole disc of music that’s varied enough to keep it from sounding like one long song. Add in the fact that the shortest cuts on the disc still weigh in at over ten minutes and it becomes obvious that creating an effective disc becomes even more difficult. Well, the truth is, these guys pulled it off. This is a dramatic and powerful album that never seems redundant. It combines classical music with psychedelia and sounds closer to classic progressive rock into something that is unique and entertaining. Yes, at times it wanders into shoe gaze territory, but never really gets caught there.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2011  Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Reverso

A dark and heavy ambience starts us off and then it moves out into some very classically tinged mellow sounds. It gradually builds from there. Hints of psychedelia show up. Those hints don’t stay around long, though as the piece sticks closer to mellow classical music. At around the three minute mark piano brings in more of a song-like nature, but the classical music elements remain. About a minute later some harder rocking tones join. Then it crescendos and a guitar ballad approach enters to herald the next section of the piece. It builds upwards from there in more of a modern progressive rock sound. It crescendos again around the five and a half minute mark and then more tentative guitar explorations take in a rather psychedelic, mellow space rock approach that calls to mind early Pink Floyd a bit. There’s almost a country texture at times to this section, but then it works out to a more dramatic progressive rock jam from there. It gets rather heavy at times. Eventually there’s a bit of distorted, processed section. That gives way to a return to more classical elements and the cut builds up from there again in very pretty and balladic ways. Mind you, that’s somewhere in the neighborhood of eleven plus minutes in. Those classical sounds eventually end the piece.

Incendiários
This one comes in mellow and classical, and then modulates out to a sedate and slowly growing moody section. It’s quite haunting and very slow. It grows upward very organically from there, until it powers out into a free moving and triumphant sounding progressive rock journey. It crescendos around the five minute mark and then a new dramatic acoustic guitar based balladic melody takes over. From there it turns out towards heavy metal as the crunch enters. Still the musical progressions are quite complex and this is far more progressive rock than it is heavy metal. That section crescendos a few minutes later and then gives way to a gentle, prog ballad approach. It begins a building process from there. That section eventually morphs up to something more powerful before ending the piece, leaving just the sound of the elements to close it out.
Chromo
Mellow musical stylings with roots in world music lead out on this piece. Then it shifts to more of that early Pink Floyd type sound and classical elements are added to the mix as it continues. The cut builds very dramatically and organically from that point until it explodes out to more hard rock fury around the three-minute mark. That section holds the piece for a minute or so, then it drops down for a much mellower treatment with a rather lush arrangement. Eventually a dramatic movement, with a rhythm section that calls to mind “Bolero” takes the piece in a steadily climbing movement. That ends and gives way to a very sparse and sedate arrangement. Gradually that’s modulated out into a melodic progressive rock movement that’s quite pretty. As that section grows the beauty element increases. Eventually they drop it back down for a classically tinged section that makes one think of early Genesis just a bit. It gets more a crunchy edge for a time, but then moves back downward from there. It turns noisy and feedback laden at the end and that sound segues into the next number.
Huo Yao
The motif that drives this is a slowly building approach that’s among the most straightforward rock we’ve heard to this point. That said, it’s balladic and complex. It’s just that compared to the other music here, this feels very mainstream. On another album it would be the proggiest piece. The changes here are much slower in coming than they are on a lot of the other music. That said, around the four and a half minute mark it drops way down to an acoustic guitar balladic motif and rises gradually upward from there. Intricate and pretty, this continues by building on that motif. It drops way back down then gets a crunch infusion as the main progression returns in a more powerful arrangement. It segues into the next piece.
Flagelo
As this rises from the previous number, it almost feels like a continuation. It’s quite pretty and sedate. Around the two and a half minute mark it shifts to an ominous sounding bit of atmosphere. This rises up in a slow plodding fashion with percussion actually providing that beat. It builds in dirge like ways from there. Around the four minute mark the first new hints of a real melody emerge, a guitar based balladic one. As this continues to take control classical elements and a noisy sort of texture join. Then just before the six minute mark it powers out into metallic progressive rock, pounding forward. It still has plenty of real prog and symphonic elements in the mix, though. It gets very powerful as it builds up from there. Before the eight and a half minute mark it drops way down and then begins a slow rise back up from there. There are hints of Radiohead present as they continue. Then they power out around the nine minute mark into a more energized version of the music that they created in this section. It continues in organic fashion with melodies emerging and being built upon.


Anatema
Noisy atmosphere brings this up and it starts to evolve in a mellow spacey manner. It works in a slow building progression with classical elements merged with space ones. At around the three minute mark those classical sounds take control. It turns heavier around the five minute mark. They drop back down later and then build it up slowly. This song certainly comes closer to “shoe gaze” than anything else in the set, particularly this section. As the arrangement fills out around the eight minute mark, though, it gets more involved. Around the nine and a half minute mark there’s a false ending leaving just some sounds in the background to hold the cut. These sound effects control the piece for quite a while, in fact, running without any real instrumentation until the cut ends at the twelve minute mark.
 
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