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(58 min, Musea)
TRACK LIST: 1. Postmodernity 8:47 2. The Brass Serpent 36:15 3. Olivet 7:27 4. The Grace of God 5:37 All tracks: by Tenenbaum & Akacia. Produced by Tenenbaum, Akacia & Robuck. LINEUP: Mike Tenenbaum - guitars; vocals David Stratton - keyboards Stephen Stortz - bass Doug Meadows - drums Eric Naylor - lead vocals With: Mark Robuck - synth cello
Prolusion. Canada's AKACIA has been around for only three years, but is already internationally regarded as one of the best units of Christian Prog and symphonic Art-Rock as well. "The Brass Serpent" is their second album, following "An Other Life" from two years ago.
Analysis. The lineup didn't undergo changes on the personal level, but has increased and became a quintet, the newcomer being Doug Meadows. Although Mike Tenenbaum very successfully combined the duties of guitarist and keyboardist on the first Akacia album, the appearance of a free keyboard player is definitely welcome, particularly in the light of the band's live performances. All in all, "The Brass Serpent" is richer in complicated keyboard patterns than its predecessor. Overall, however, this album follows the direction laid on "An Other Life", both musically and lyrically, and is no less outstanding. The lyrics are based either on Christianity's spiritual values or on specific Bible stories, and the music is predominantly classic Symphonic Prog, the digressions from the style being also typical for Akacia. The guitar may be in the lead, but for the most part, the album displays well-balanced arrangements for the whole ensemble. The classic '70s-inspired Art-Rock lies in the basis of each of the four tracks, appearing in pure form on Postmodernity and Olivet, both of which remind me at times of Yes's "Close to the Edge" (side B of the LP). Although moderately long, the compositions are suite-like, alternating between atmospheric passages and intense, rhythmically driven moments. The former also features an episode with unique interplay between solos of bass and passages of acoustic guitar, while the other has a Classical music-like piano interlude. Generally, the music is unpredictable and is truly vintage in character, with the noticeable presence of colorings of piano, organ and Mellotron in the palette. The Grace of God, taking the last position in the album, is an Art-Rock ballad with some bluesy tendencies and, just as the title suggests, is affirmative by all means. The title track is monstrously long, exceeding 36 minutes in duration, and is the most original and compelling. This is the concept epic of a sinner founding God during Jews' exodus to Egypt with a lyrically unified storyline. Musically, however, the epic consists of four different compositions, separated by brief pauses, none featuring the returns to the previously played theme. Considering all the said matters, The Brass Serpent can easily be regarded as an album within an album. There are lots of events going on here - enough to compile a double CD worth of material. Only the first (and the shortest) part of the epic represents symphonic Art-Rock. But even here, Akacia put their own whirling in the music, with their unorthodox way of arranging and structuring, not to mention their solid playing skills. Later on, the conventional quintet manages to create some of the most unique and interesting maneuvers I've met within the genre in recent years - by combining symphonic textures with those of Cathedral Metal and progressive Hard Rock. Mike Tenenbaum and David Stratton shine with inventiveness and mastery throughout. However, bassist Stephen Stortz and drummer Doug Meadows don't suffer from lack of ideas either, supporting the main soloists with truly creative, well-founded flourishes. This is a brilliant, highly inspired composition. One may say it was created by intuition, but I believe the ideas came to the musicians from on high.
Conclusion. This is a great new disc from one of the best Art-Rock bands on today's scene. Make no mistake about "The Brass Serpent", unless you are exclusively into avant-garde music or jazz.
VM: June 7, 2005
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