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(46 min, Musea)
TRACK LIST: 1. Succubus 5:40 2. Transi 8:34 3. Horia Rising 9:31 4. 42 Gods 5:28 5. Metamorphose 6:09 6. Nova 10:42 LINEUP: Keiko Kumagai - keyboards Shinko Shibata - bass Masuhiro Goto - drums With: Satoshi Handa - el. guitar (1, 3, 5)
Prolusion. The heroines of techno Symphonic Progressive from the Land of the Rising Sun, ARS NOVA, are back with a new heavy Prog release. However, "Chrysalis" isn't a new album in the full sense of the meaning. All the tracks present are just remakes - the re-arranged and re-played versions of some of those from the band's previous studio outings, all being recorded live in the studio.
Analysis. Ars Nova regularly try to bewitch their listeners with the power of their music, and "Chrysalis" is no exception to this rule. It's hard not to appreciate the sharp-cut performance skills typical of these ladies, as well as their ability to create stately and, at the same time, somewhat formidable melodies. Well, some of the music seems to be a bit cold and artificial, which though, is (and has always been) one of the aspects of the band's trademark style rather than a flaw. Just as the opening track Succubus begins, the wall of sound pounces your ears. This is a driving, monumental composition steering somewhere between symphonic Space Rock and Prog-Metal. The second piece, Transi, finds Ars Nova at their most gorgeous. No guitars, but the keyboards, which are always at the forefront of the arrangements here, are extensively polyphonic and are often truly powerful and heavy, as Keiko Kumagai tirelessly presses down on the "distortion" pedal of her foot sound processor. The rhythm section of bassist Shinko Shibata and drummer Masuhiro Goto is tight and well matches Keiko's mastery and inventiveness, effectually accentuating her keyboard acrobatics. The overall picture is the distillation of what we normally can expect from Ars Nova and is a combination of their original sound with something resembling ELP. Well, this group hasn't introduced anything extraordinarily new into the development of Art-Rock, but on the other hand, no one would blame them for plagiarism (which is probably a virtue considering the current state of affairs within the genre). Although guitarist Satoshi Handa returns for Horia Rising, there aren't many distinctions between this and the next piece, 42 Gods, at least on a general compositionally stylistic plane. This is still classic-bombastic Symphonic Prog, and yet at the same time, both remind me somewhat of a cross between soundtracks for the 'knight movies' with plenty of battle scenes (perhaps due to orchestral arrangements) and Yngwie Malmsteen circa "Odyssey". Metamorphose is more lyrical, reflective and melancholic, arousing associations with Baroque Classical Music. The semi-epic Nova concludes the CD and is the most intriguing, revealing much more structural and metric alterations than any of the preceding compositions.
Conclusion. "Chrysalis" is a solid effort, though only the first and the last two tracks are compelling. Overall, it would've been a statistically-average Ars Nova album had it consisted of new compositions. "Chrysalis" should find a positive response in the hearts of the curious, not to mention those of the band's die-hard fans, of course.
VZ: May 7, 2006
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