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Aura Blaze

The Sparkling Black

Review by Gary Hill

I've landed this under progressive rock, but it should be noted that this is of the more AOR variety. That said, retro psychedelic rock (which could be argued was a precursor of prog) is ever-present here. For that reason and some decidedly prog moments, I think the label fits. Whatever you call this, though, it's a varied and effective release that has great hooks and lots of old-school sound.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2019  Volume 4 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Overture: Solar Emerge
This cut is so cool. It has a real Beatles-like psychedelic vibe, but with some more proggy elements added to the mix. It's catchy, but also meaty. There are some weird little bits of trippiness along the road that add to the experience. It shifts out to some bouncy, harder rocking stuff later that calls to mind Klaatu in some ways. The number has some more changes, at times landing near 50s rock and roll. It also earns a parental advisory. There is some freaky atmospheric stuff at the end of the piece.
Good While It Lasted

Proggy elements merge with pop rock and psychedelia on this tune. It's another that calls to mind both The Beatles and Klaatu. I'd say that the hooks on this are even more infectious than those on the opener were. This has a lot of energy and really works so well.

Eyes of the Rising Sun

Trippy music serves as the backdrop for a poetry reading. This opening (roughly one-minute) section is decidedly proggier and more psychedelic than anything to this point. Still retaining those elements, this shifts to more of a rocking song based section with sung vocals. Some of the later sections of this make me think of the Doors a bit. I love the guitar soloing later.

Manipulation (feat. Björn Strid)
There is a bit of twisted symphonic element on the prog opening here. The cut grows out from there as guitar powers it upward. This is packed full of energy. It's one of the most decidedly AOR prog pieces here. There are all kinds of retro textures here. This is really a powerhouse tune. In fact, it's one of my favorites of the set.
Keep On Believing

This isn't really a proggy tune for the bulk of its course. It's more of a bouncy, pop rock song with a lot of retro texture built into it. That said, there are some moments that do have some prog tendencies and rather complex structures. The dropped back movement with synthesized vocals is another section that makes me think of Klaatu. The guitar solo section on this brings the crunch.

No Soul That Couldn't Be Sold in Hollywood
I can hear more of those Doors influences I mentioned earlier here. This is theatrical and proggy. It's also very classy and classic. The guitar solo movement on this is exploratory and prog-like.
Hope It All Works Out
Beatles textures merge with 50s rock and roll and more on the opening segment here. The cut drops back down from there to a mellower and proggier section. It works back up to the rocking stuff as it moves forward, though. The contrast between the softer and harder rock sections serves as the mode of the bulk of this piece.
The Sparkling Black
From the rocking guitar to the trippy psychedelic vocal arrangement and the organ, this song very much channels The Doors. In fact, it wouldn't be a big stretch of the imagination to think that this might be some long lost song from that band. The extended instrumental section brings us into proggier territory. I dig the harder rocking, nearly metallic movement later. Even that section, though, is still very Doors like, particularly as it slows down and the music seems to dissolve to chaos for the next vocal part. There is a mellower trippy movement at the end. Through some sound effect stuff it segues into the closing piece.
Reprise: Lunar Dissolve

This rises up gradually with keyboards creating the opening motif. This thing eventually shifts out to a funky sort of jam that makes me think of disco just a bit. It's very retro in nature. The vocals are almost all non-lyrical on this cool rocker. The lyrical ones are from the opening song, creating a nice bookend effect for the release.

 
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