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Track List: 1. An Oidhche Dhorcha (inst.) 2:03 2. Urantia 12:12 3. Arriving At Sky (inst.) 1:01 4. Druid Dream 4:53 5. Amazing Grace (inst.) 2:44 6. Children of the Mist 8:52 7. The Misty Dawn (inst.) 1:07 8. Oblivious Scars 9:53 9. The First Star (inst.) 1:10 10. Nemesis 10:53 11. Madainn Trath (inst.) 3:57 All music: by Garcia, except: 1, 7, & 11: by Salles, and 5: traditional, arr. by Salles. All lyrics: by Garcia, except: 2: by Garcia, Salles, & Dobbin, and 10: by Salles. Line-up: Fernanda G Mesquita - vocals; percussion Luis Garcia - guitars; whistles; synthesizer; vocals Pedro Salles - basses; synthesizer Daniel Dobbin - drums & percussion Thiago Gumaraes - guitars Brend Adula - keyboards With: Clota De Oliveira - fiddles (on most tracks) Anderson Muniz - bagpipes (on 5) Produced by ASHTAR. Engineered by Perazzo at "Plano D" studios, Rio DJ.
Preamble. The members of Ashtar have dedicated their debut album "Urantia" to "God, (the one and only) Ashtar (Goddess Ashtar, I imagine), and all spiritual beings and entities" of all seen and unseen worlds of the universe (as I imagine again).
The Album. Here we have an album performed by quite a large number of musicians, which, regarding the richness of sound, is always a very promising sign. Indeed, each of the eleven tracks that are presented on "Unrantia" has a very saturated sound, even though all six of the instrumental pieces on the album are short. Performed with synthesizers, a string ensemble, piano, fiddles, and varied woodwinds and without the rhythm section, all of them look like little, yet, very beautiful musical frescos. Stylistically, they're certainly different from any of the five songs on the album and, in addition, are slightly different among themselves, too. The album's opening track, An Oidhche Dhorcha, as well as The First Star (9), are the pieces of Classic Symphonic Art-Rock. The Misty Down and Madainn Trath (7 & 11) are about a real Classical Music. Finally, both of Arriving At Sky and Amazing Grace (3 & 5) sound original, though at the same time, they very much remind me of British Prog-Folk (English, Scottish, and, perhaps, Irish too: i.e. British in a general sense). In fact, the elements of Folk Rock can be found almost everywhere on this album. The music on the songs: Druid Dream and Children of the Mist (4 & 6), represents a truly unique blend of Symphonic Art-Rock and progressive Folk Rock (which is still of a British nature) with elements of Prog-Metal. Most of the themes and arrangements on each of these songs were performed with acoustic instruments. However, the parts of these instruments, including just brilliant solos of an acoustic guitar, play a role, which is hardly less prominent than that of electric instruments, on all three of the remaining songs as well. These are Urantia, Oblivious Scars, and Nemesis (2, 8, & 10) and, musically, each of them represents a triple alliance of Classic Symphonic Art-Rock, Prog-Metal, and Folk Rock with elements of Gothic Rock, and Black Metal. The latter of them, though, is evident only in Luis Garcia's vocal parts, and there are little of them on the album. The lead singer on "Urantia" is Fernanda Mesquita, whose vocal qualities, as well as the pronunciation of English, are excellent. However, purely instrumental arrangements cover more than a half of each song on the album and always remain highly original, complex, diverse, tasteful, and interesting (i.e. regardless of whether there is the vocal part at the moment or not).
Summary. Please don't be doubtful about the complete originality of this brilliant album. Although I have twice mentioned that the elements of Folk Rock in the music of Ashtar are of a British nature, this doesn't mean at all that I was then implying some direct influences. I am just glad that overall, the music of these distant (by all means) relatives of the UK's The Morrigan and Skyclad is certainly more complex and diverse than that of the said bands, both of which, in their turn, are the leaders of a real Progressive Folk Rock / Metal. I heartily recommend "Urantia" to everyone from Progressive Rock's 'classic' camp but those who can't tolerate roars even in small doses.
VM: January 31, 2003
Rock Symphony Records:
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