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1. Save Our Souls 2. Panem et Circenses 3. Intermezzo 4. Farewell to 20th Century 5. Conclusion (A Tribute to Keith Emerson) (Written by the band) Balazs Winkler - keyboards, trumpet, percussives Tamas Gorgenyi - vocals Peter Pejtsik - bass, cello, vocals, keyboards Ferenc Torma - electric, acoustic & bass guitars Gabor Egervari - flute Ferenc Szabo - drums Guest musicians: Judit Andrejszki - vocals on track 2 Pal Makovesz - trombone Mihaly Borbeli - sax Otto Rasz - oboe (plus more folks on various wind instruments, violins and backing vocals)
In my opinion, the best East European band ever is the Hungarian After Crying (though, I haven't heard the music of their critically acclaimed countrymans Solaris). Started in 1990, these guys were back last year with a work named simply "6". This is really their 6-th album, but it is only the fifth one new, because the band's previous double album of 1996 is just a compilation. And another note: the work represented here is just the second album of After Crying with English lyrics since their debut.
An opening track Save Our Souls is a short very classic-oriented instrumental, based on keyboards with some nice overdubs of gentle flutes, cellos, and percussives. A promising beginning of the album with quite an original sound. I need to say that, in general, various wind and string instruments (just look at the line-up) play an important part in After Crying's creation. One og the longest is the second track Panem et Circenses consisting of six parts (what's more, one of these pieces named Salto Mortale-2 is also divided into four parts), and all of them are displayed on a CD-player as separate songs. Fun Fair Land Open, the first part of Panem, opens with really heavy horns supported by riffs of the electric guitar. The structures are quite unusual, the drumming is bombastic, but the overall sound is far from being "metallic". Accented vocals of Tamas Gorgenyi (CD-booklet represents him as Gorgenyi Tamas: this is a Hungarian tradition to write the surname first) is the only slightly disappointing thing here. Fortunatelly, most of the songs in the album (more than pure instrumentals) contain lots of various arrangements. The second part of Panem Providence is a very mellow song with some soft interplays between keyboards and cellos. Judith Andrejszki, the welcome guest female singer with a pretty operatic voice, sings with a less accent than Tamas or another men-vocalist. I should rather hear her soprano in all the main vocal parts on album. The next Salto's bombastic sound can be compared to the opening part of Panem, but with lots of magnificent arrangements and brilliant solos from some of the musicians. However, the overall sound is not so original here, and sometimes I hear an open reminiscencies of King Crimson. The following three parts Sleeping Chaplin, Madrigal Love, and Final, are all played more or less mellifluously, often with gentle passages of violins, woodwinds, and even electric guitar. Madrigal Love is an instrumental piece with a very soft drumming. On the Final drums are replaced by good percussives, and the voice of Peter Pejtsik here is not unlike John Wetton's, though stylistically his vocals more resemble Adrian Belew.
The third track, as well as the first and the last, is really a separate composition. Intermezzo is an excellent instrumental piece containing lots of various themes with regular changes of moods and tempos: from melodious a-la Classics parts performed mostly by cellos and oboes to quite diverse and aggressive heavy guitar attacks with "warlike" drums. An outstanding track with superb musicianship.
The fourth composition Farewell to 20th Century is structurally similar to Panem et Circenses and also is divided into six parts. The first two of them Salto Mortale-1 and Enigma are very contrasting instrumentals. Slow and melancholic SM-1, unlike previous SM-2, with a touch of a medieval spirit made by oboe merges a few minutes later into a much more energetic Enigma. In the Struggle of Life, as well as the most compositions on album, is a good piece with rapid changes of the themes and tempos, though now Peter's voice reminds me of David Gilmour's. In the Waiting for Better Days he sings more originally and mostly accompanied only by medieval classical guitar and oboe. This acoustic composition is a very good contrasts to the rest of musical material. The next part is named The Man on the Rock. This is 10 minutes of mind-blowing complex and innovative arrangements and interplays between various instruments, and fast solos. Somewhere in the middle Tamas sings for the first time in Hungarian, his native language. The last part of Farewell is American Express. That piece is performed with a somewhat distinct "saloon's" spirit.
The last track Conclusion (A Tribute to Keith Emerson) is an epic solid composition. Well, this is a tribute to the famous keysman, but it has nothing to do with his music, because there are no influences! Probably, it is the best track in the album. English is reconstructed here, though in the beginning, Peter, as usual, sings with some open "borrowings" for about two minutes. The following long and complex instrumental part is simply incredible. Then, after a half-minute of silence, After Crying moves into the majestic classics-orchestral realm, and the second guest singer has, as well as Judith, a clear true opera voice with a good pronunciation. A solemn orchestration with fanfare strikingly completes this huge work.
Summary. Despite slightly disappointing vocals, and concentrating on music, I see that After Crying is really one of the few present-day prog-bands that has its own entirely original style. Their "6" is, as usual, a very poliphonic album, but for the first time with some atonal structures. Long and complex, this work is not designed for those who love only bright and accessible Neo. Regardless of an abundance of trombones and horns here, this music is wholly related to Classic Symphonic Art-rock. Highly recommended for mature Prog-heads.
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