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(71:26, Progrock Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Beginning 1:11 2. Loss of Hope 7:53 3. Generations 12:10 4. Reawakening 7:27 5. Scum of Society 12:58 6. Spiral of Pain 29:47 LINEUP: Oliver Wulff – vocals Boris Stephanow – guitar Stephan Kruse – keyboards Burkhart Heberle – bass Tim Schnabel – drums
Prolusion. The German band ATMOSFEAR was founded in 1996, and it issued its first EP a year later. Later on the band was signed by the US label Progrock Records, which released their full length debut album "Inside the Atmosphere" in 2003. "Zenith" is their second CD, and was issued in 2009.
Analysis. Atmosfear is a band that probably has a special place for those following Progrock Records. This German act was among the first generation of bands signed to what was then a relatively newly founded label, and one of the most successful of those. Quite a few waited more or less impatiently for a follow-up to their first effort, and I suspect that many will be pleased to see that it finally has arrived, even if it did take the band 6 years to create this sophomore effort. As far as the music goes, Atmosfear isn't likely to be described as a highly innovative act. Classic progressive metal is what's served on this disc, of a variety that isn't too unlike Dream Theater in sound. Atmosfear does take its material in slightly different directions than LaBrie and his compatriots though, so in this case we're dealing more with an act related in sound rather than one exploring this particular variation of the genre. The most striking telltale feature is the lack of quirky, technical passages. Guitar and keyboard shredding are as good as non-existent on this CD, and even elongated instrumental passages are for the most part avoided. The exception to the rule is the instrumental Reawakening, and it seems that the band has saved up all their best ideas as far as showcasing instrumental skills for this effort. And due to that, it is a standout number, a very good example of this type of progressive metal and an entertaining track from start to finish. Like the compositions with vocal passages, we're dealing with slow to mid paced progressive metal, where drawn out riffs and riff patterns form a dark and slick yet distorted foundation while synths and keys provide lighter, contrasting textures. Vocals or instrumental soloing are placed in the middle of the mix, with additional textures brought in as needed. Wandering piano themes add that frail, melodic sensibility, wandering acoustic or undistorted guitar passages add subtle details or replacing the riffs altogether for the gentler, emotional themes, while the riffs themselves take on both quirky, arrhythmic patterns as well as thundering riff barrages. The latter tend to be dampened somewhat in expression though, so that the melodic scope of the individual theme, passage or composition isn't transgressed. Variation and a feeling of progress are kept up by constant changes in pace, sound and intensity, while certain themes and segments are revisited frequently in the individual songs to keep up familiarity for the track in question, which is a need for an album containing compositions as long as this one. And while the final track in reality only lasts for just over 23 minutes, the hidden bonus track that follows after 50 or so seconds of silence brings the total up to close to a half hour seen in the track list. And this final number on "Zenith", Spiral of Pain, is an impressive effort in itself. There aren't too many bands around that manage to keep their listeners' attention going for that long, especially within the field of conventional progressive metal, but Atmosfear manages to do so with relative ease.
Conclusion. While this sophomore effort by the German act Atmosfear hardly can be said to be innovative, it is nevertheless a solid and well-made album. The sound can get a tad too uniform though, and a bit more variety wouldn't have been out of place in my opinion. If you enjoy classic modern progressive metal this recording is worth checking out, in particular if you like long, epic length compositions.
OMB=Olav M Bjornsen: February 2, 2010
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