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TRACK LIST: 1. Ghost Conversations-I 8:38 2. Ghost Conversations-II 5:15 3. Ghost Conversations-III 9:26 LINEUP: Jason Blake – Grand Stick, bass Mike Milaniak – guitars Tim Stickradt – drums
Prolusion. AZIOLA CRY is an American trio, from Chicago, which officially appeared on the progressive rock map after the release of their debut CD “Ellipsis” in 2005. Issued two years later, “Ghost Conversations” is their sophomore output, but is an EP unlike their first effort, being short of a full-length album by more than 10 minutes.
Analysis. The three moderately long instrumentals here all make up the composition that gives the disc its title, thus instantly bringing to mind the idea that the recording was designed as a concept (or, due to an absence of lyrics, rather quasi concept) album. There are no pauses between the tracks, each of the following ones coming across as the logical sequel of its predecessor, but nevertheless the entire suite doesn’t sound like a creation whose contents are subsumed in a unified compositionally-stylistic concept. Most of the opening track, Ghost Conversations-I, is the product of so-called sound design, reminding me of a beehive with all its inhabitants droning while being in a semi-frozen state. Thankfully, there are a few passages of actual playing to be found in places also, on the part of the acoustic guitar in particular, but only one of the piece’s several segments finds the entire trio playing, producing a full-band sound which turns out to be the harbinger of the album’s primary style. Of Aziola Cry’s eleven compositions available to date, this is the only one that, while listening to, I feel the vocals are missed. This trio has been from the outset notable for their ability to keep up a consistently high interest level in their instrumentals, which is evinced on the next two parts of the suite, Ghost Conversations-II and -III, both being probably the most progressively advanced creations they’ve made up till now. Once the second track started, I’ve instantly became imbued with the sensation that I’m in the hands of a group of excellent performers, who moreover seem to be keenly aware of my personal tastes. Just as on their first recording, the rest of the material here depicts Aziola Cry as non-conformist rockers with a background in such bands as King Crimson (in the ‘80s), Sieges Even (first two albums), Tiamat (“The Astral Sleep” and “Clouds”) and Cynic, though at times I also hear some new tendencies, belonging to the most extreme forms of heavy progressive music, reminding me of Pestilence circa “Testimony of the Ancient” in particular. Don’t take me wrong, though, as all the examples are cited mainly in order to give you a general idea of the music. In their compositional approach Aziola Cry can at times be reminiscent of one or another of those reference points or even most of them at once, but the overall sound is fairly original and is highly intriguing, blending the best of progressive Doom Metal, Techno Thrash and guitar Art-Rock into one coherent whole, with some excursuses into fusionesque as well as death metal territories. The overall result is a stunning crossover, appealing to experienced and at the same time open-minded fans of Prog-Metal, those covering various forms of the genre (in contrast with those mainly into its most widespread and polished symphonic branch), who are not afraid of diving into dark, disturbing and turbulent musical waters, full of reefs and undercurrents.
Conclusion. While I’m still in the position that it was quite a risky step to release such a comparatively short recording as this, I assert that on most of the EP Aziola Cry show more maturity and originality than ever before and are currently only two steps away from joining their mentors in the upper echelon of the progressive rock genre.
VM: April 9, 2008
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