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(53 min, Brennus)
TRACK LIST: 1. Peter Pan Syndrome 1:44 2. Steps 4:00 3. Endlessly 2:45 4. Pairsonality 8:16 5. Glittering Images 8:53 6. The Hundredth Name 5:25 7. Soul's Wrinkles 5:58 8. Shatter the Shell 6:31 9. Lost 2:34 10. Aching Awakening 2:36 11. Masked Life 4:50 All tracks: by Aching Beauty. Produced by Aching Beauty. LINEUP: Julien Guillemet - lead & backing vocals Fabien Labonde - keyboards Aldric Monfort - guitars Antoine Mieulle - drums Vincent Remon - bass; backing vocals
Prolusion. "L'Ultima Ora" is the debut outing by French quintet ACHING BEAUTY. Perhaps it should be considered a semi-concept album, inasmuch as its contents are divided into several sections, at least conditionally. The first three tracks have the common subtitle Sublimation, and the last four appear as parts of the album's title track.
Analysis. It turned out that there is no connection between the first three tracks - neither lyrically nor stylistically, though it does not matter. I'll better view the album as a whole. Two of the eleven tracks present, Peter Pan Syndrome and Aching Awakening, are instrumental pieces. With intricate interaction between acoustic guitar, piano and emulated violins taking the lead in most cases, and ever-changing classically influenced Art-Rock arrangements in general, they are excellent in every respect and have an amazingly fresh sound. The same definition and epithets come to Masked Life, and would've been topical regarding two more songs: Endlessly and Soul's Wrinkles, if they were a bit less heavy in vocals and, thus and so, had some more instrumental sections. Although there are only a couple of vivid synthesizer solos, the second track, Steps, can easily be regarded as a prototype of the album's primary style, which is a classic contemporary Prog-Metal, the foundation of which was laid by Dream Theater far back in 1989, on their debut album. By mentioning today's most influential Prog-Metal act, I didn't mean to cast aspersions on Aching Beauty. These are stylistically kindred bands, by which, however, any resemblances between them are no longer valid. The remaining five tracks: Pairsonality, Glittering Images, The Hundredth Name, Shatter the Shell and Lost, the first two of which exceed eight minutes in duration, is somewhat a confluence of all the directions set on the album, but with Prog-Metal's predomination, of course. There are lots of acoustic guitar passages interwoven in basic, heavy textures; the measures are usually pleasantly irregular, and the surprisingly high degree of instrumental versatility complement the picture, which, in all, possesses everything necessary to keep the listener's attention. A vocalist changes intonations to fit the mood, which ranges from pronouncedly dramatic to romantic and even heroically anthemic at times, mainly closer to the end of the album. Each of these shifts so often and with such delivering that it seems to be three or four songs there. All these, and also Steps, are some of the most captivating Prog-Metal compositions out of France since Menam's stunning "Aesthetics".
Conclusion. "L'Ultima Ora" is one of the most progressively interesting Brennus Music releases in the last six months and is a very good album overall. It stands up to repeated listening and still surprises in a positive way. If you like Dream Theater's "Falling into Infinity", "V" by Symphony X and Queensryche's "Empire", you can bravely check this CD out.
VM: March 14, 2005
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