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(46:01, Lizard Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Hercoloubus 6:35 2. Hybris 5:42 3. Dreaming in Franticode 7:33 4. Orbit Out 7:45 5. Clouds over Tharsis 6:08 6. Mercurial Sand 6:34 7. Primordial Crossbreeding 5:53 LINEUP: Alessandro Bertoni – keyboards Matteo Gasparin – guitars Enrico Pintonello – drums Sebastiano Pozzobon – bass
Prolusion. The recording under review is “Franticode”, the first official release by Italy’s APHELION (a Lizard Records output). It’s none other than Derek Sherinian of Dream Theater, Planet X and solo fame who was behind the audio mixer when the album was at the corresponding stage of its formation.
Analysis. It turned out to be that the hero of this occasion has a lot in common with Ksiz’s “Sandcrowler” which I examined previously. Generally speaking, there are quite a few sentences in that review which are potentially suitable for using in this one, but instead of copying those from there and pasting them here :-), I will only allow myself to make some comparisons between the outings. Unlike those on “Sandcrowler”, all the compositions here are fairly long, all having a jazz-fusion feel to them (no matter that it isn’t too strong in some cases), but what’s more significant, “Franticode” has a natural sound throughout, without any sampling, programming, etc devices deployed. This is stylistically a pretty uniform album, overall representing classic symphonic progressive Doom-Metal which, yet, has a strong jazz-fusion component in addition: imagine something halfway between “Extinct Instinct” or “Psychedelicatessen” by Threshold (without vocals, of course) and probably anything else by Planet X and you won’t miss, at least as regards the idea I’ve put in the first half of the sentence. Six of the seven tracks here, Dreaming in Franticode, Hercoloubus, Hybris, Clouds over Tharsis, Mercurial Sand and Primordial Crossbreeding, possess a lot of the genre’s archetypal virtues, such as interesting chord progressions, frequently changing directions, complicated stop-to-play movements, and so on, which give in total both quite intricate and intriguing arrangements. The sound is overall dense and heavy, with lots of composed as well as quasi-improvised guitar and keyboard leads (which I have from the outset expected from any recording that Mr. Sherinian has a hand in). On the first two of these pieces there are also quite a few gentler moments, those standing out for some very tasteful, always jazz-flavored, piano passages and the sophisticated work of the rhythm section. It is not only because of the absence of segments with non-heavy, distinctly fusionesque, arrangements on the other three that those remind me more often of Threshold than of Planet X, but also due to the fact that these young musicians aren’t as technically virtuosic players as those in the last-named band. No, there is not even a hint of criticism in that remark: the Italians are masterful enough to please probably anybody who’s into this sort of music, and personally I don’t get much pleasure hearing those who show off their capability of playing ten notes per second without paying due attention to composition and arrangement, otherwise I would be a fan of the ‘guitar-hero’ style. Properly located right in the disc’s core, Orbit Out is the sole track here that is basically slow throughout which, though, is the only feature that distinguishes it from the rest of the material, and since what serves as a basis for the entire creation is here at times counterbalanced by non-heavy jazz-fusion moves, the piece possesses almost the same degree of refinement as the first two of the above-described compositions do.
Conclusion. Perhaps because I’m still impressed by the similarity between this effort and the previously explored one, I can’t find anything better than “Eliminating the border between symphonic and jazz-evoking musical constructions by means of modern progressive Doom Metal” as a kind of motto for “Franticode”. This is a really strong debut outing and its creators are definitely a band to watch in the future: recommended!