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(54:16, Musea Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. When I Depart 7:30 2. Promised Land 6:53 3. One More Embrace 8:01 4. Destiny 10:08 5. The Light 13.21 6. The Fight 8:24 LINEUP: J?rgen Wimpelberg – keyboards; vocals Werner Schimaniak – guitars, sitar Mario Schramme – guitars Stefan Mageney – vocals Reinhard Schulte – bass Rainer Niklowitz – drums Manfred Degener – cello
Prolusion. The German outfit ABACUS is among the pioneers of the progressive rock genre, issuing its debut album back in 1971 and with three more productions released prior to splitting up in the middle of the decade. After a brief reunion a few years later, they went into an elongated hiatus, reforming again towards the end of the 90's with a new album appearing back in 2001. "Destiny" is the second album by the reformed version of this act, and was released by Musea Records in 2010.
Analysis. The reformation of classic bands is an event that has its ups and downs. Some manage to do so successfully, even to the point of releasing material just as strong as and, in a few rare cases, even stronger than what they created in their first lifespan; others prove to be rusty and record material documenting just that fact. In the case of Abacus I'm not familiar with the albums they recorded when they were young and hopeful, but judging from the reviews I have seen of these productions I'm inclined to think that they have continued doing what they did back then: compose and record material on the pleasant side of life. Abacus’ place under the widespread progressive rock umbrella is one that seems to be on the outer perimeters somewhere. The compositions do have the variations in pace and dominating themes that qualify for a description as progressive, and keyboardist Wimpelberg is busy crafting layered symphonic overlays that run like a red thread throughput. But in terms of stylistic expression we're arguably closer to acts like Styx and Magnum, and I did find myself thinking about Bon Jovi at times while investigating this disc too, in particular the latter band’s debut album. Harder-edged songs sporting a compact arrangement with flowing and at times dramatic keyboard arrangements are a nice general summary of the creations that make up this CD. The verse parts tend to be gentler in expression, a description like soft rock easily applicable to those parts, while the chorus sections sport richer arrangements with a tad more flair and majestic mood. The second half of the disc is the one that will be most interesting to purebred progressive rock fans: two epic-length songs and a stronger emphasis on stylistic variation and innovation the details that merit that description, with the gospel-tinged effects in title track Destiny, followed by an elongated excursion into vintage Genesis inspired realms. The Light wanders merrily between gentle soft rock-tinged themes, pastoral sequences and a more compact symphonic one reminding the listener of early 80's Eloy at times, and the raga tendencies on final track The Fight adds a nice touch to that one. But by and large, Abacus doesn't manage to venture beyond the realms of pleasant music this time around, at least not to my ears. A slightly 80's tinged overall sound doesn't manage to enhance this experience either, unless you have a soft spot for music from that decade obviously.
Conclusion. While "Destiny" isn't a production that makes me raise my eyebrows in any way whatsoever, I'd suspect that those who generally find music described as pomp rock to be of interest are ones who should give this disc a spin. Relatively easygoing songs blending hard rock and soft rock themes with art rock flurries on top in the shape of richly layered keyboards is the main course, with two epic-length creations that add a more distinct art rock expression as dessert.
OMB=Olav M Bjornsen: July 5, 2011
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