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(30:02, ‘Abandoned Stars’)
TRACK LIST: 1. Beyond Reason 5:22 2. Follow Your Heart 6:34 3. Sealing My Fate 5:48 4. Against the Tide 11:38 LINEUP: Olivier Hadder – vocals Peppe Schiavone – guitars; keyboards Tony Hodge – drums; keyboards Leen – bass
Prolusion. ABANDONED STARS, from Scotland, UK, is a young group, formed in the beginning of the current, second decade of the century. The press kit of their first release, “Opening Act”, touches on some musical aspects of each of the four tracks presented, incidentally naming the bands that they’re inspired by.
Analysis. While most North American artists are influenced by British progressive rock music (which is no surprise, since the genre was born and developed in the Kingdom), these Englishmen much more prefer one of the transoceanic variety (which is in turn just a particular, and there is neither overt nor camouflaged sarcasm in the remark). On the piece that the album begins with, Beyond Reason, their sound bears more than a casual resemblance to Rush, on all levels, though they’re a bit heavier than the Canadians on the one hand and are somewhat more repetitive on the other – within its instrumental and vocal sections, respectively. Either way, this is a fine composition, full of good writing, good playing and, well, infectious hooks. After listening to it, one could say I have omitted one detail belonging to a completely different approach. I won’t. At one point the piece gets a machine-gun fire-like velocity in combination with a very harsh, extreme metal-evoking sound, but the move is too brief to change its overall picture, appearing just as an extra stroke to it. The next two tracks, Follow Your Heart and Sealing My Fate, are closer to modern Prog-Metal in style, to a greater degree influenced by Dream Theater than by Rush, particularly the first of them, albeit no less than one third of the instrumental arrangements is in both cases a bit more focused on the progressive element of NWBHM, and then (only then) the music has a British feel to it as well. At times it even sounds like Dream Theater and Iron Maiden are jamming together, with just a bit lower level of technical skill than that of either of those outfits. On the other hand, it’s also obvious that the songs often find their creators defining their own approach to the style, incorporating their influences, instead of merely wearing them. The same words are relevant to the album’s longest track, Against the Tide (11:38), which is lyrically inspired by Oscar Wild’s character Dorian Grey. Musically, however, it doesn’t come across as a complete epic, combining arrangements that typify both of its predecessors with more laidback and even ballad-like ones, some of those both fairly straightforward and overextended. Additionally, there is a sort of silent interlude that comes across in no other way than as the beginning of another track. Featuring nothing besides the sounds of the nature and some fluid guitar soloing, it instantly evokes the intro to Pink Floyd’s “A Momentary Lapse of Reason”. Thankfully, the composition is also rich in blazing instrumental parts that involve fast playing by everyone, to say the least. Peppe Schiavone’s guitar playing is good, and reminds me more of Adrian Smith than John Petrucci in approach. Leen‘s bass playing is the most Rush-like of the band, but I like his sound. Tony Hodge is outstanding as a battery commander, using a drum kit with a ‘double barrel’. Singer Olivier Hadder is also impressive; there’s enough variety in his delivery to avoid sounding the same on every song. At times he reminds me of Geddy Lee, at times of James LaBrie, but quite a few of his vocals don’t bring to mind anyone’s. Besides, he seems to be the leader of the band, as he shares in all the songwriting and penned all the lyrics.
Conclusion. Unlike most other bands in this style, this one surprisingly manages to keep the average track length around 6 minutes, and they are good exactly within this format, the disc’s two core tracks the best examples of what is good about the band – thematic variety, dexterous playing and solid, mostly original vocals. So this is a good album overall. A little more variety within vocal sections and a bit more identity is probably all the musicians need to create an excellent one.
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