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Cast - 2014 - "Arsis"

(57:55, ‘Cast’)


La Iliada:
1.  Atrida Agamenon 4:29
2.  Helena en la Muralla 2:25
3.  Diomedes el Tidida 3:08
4.  Andromaca 6:42
5.  Batalla Interrumpida 5:10
6.  Embajada a Aquiles 3:03
7.  En Donde Estabas 5:16
The Old Travel Book: 
8.  The Old Travel Book 9:10
El Puente:
9.  El Puente 6:22
10. Luz Al Final Del Tunel 4:02
11. Valle de Los Suenos 8:08


Alfonso Vidales – keyboards 
Claudio Cordero – guitars 
Antonio Bringas – drums 
Bobby Vidales – vocals 
Lupita Acuna – vocals 
Flavio Miranda – bass 
Pepe Torres – clarinet, saxophone, flute
Michal Jelonek – violin 

Prolusion. The Mexican band CAST was formed back towards the end of the ‘70s, although it would take them a good decade and then some before they started to record and release their material. Ever since their debut album appeared in 1993, they have been an active recording unit, as well as a live band, and to date they have a grand total of 23 full-length recordings to their name. "Arsis" appeared in 2014, self-released by the band.

Analysis. While Cast didn't appear until the ‘90s, this studio album from 2014 is a production that has a much stronger resemblance to the first and second generation of progressive rock bands than it has to the artists exploring this style in the ‘90s and later on. One might say that Cast appears to have catered for if not a specific sound then at least an approach and style that has a fairly solid foundation in the ‘70s. Symphonic is a word that feels obligatory to describe this production, but as far as references go, I'd say that this album is much closer to the likes of those by Camel than it is to Genesis, Yes or ELP. I should add that the similarity is more distinct in approach than in actual style however, and especially those fond of the more atmospheric oriented material by the aforementioned Camel should take note of this, as Cast is a rather more vibrant band altogether. From the opening, half-hour long, seven-part epic instrumental La Iliada to the closing 18-minute long three-part epic El Puente, Cast's compositions all appear to revolve around some key features, and a wandering, elegant piano motif is a mainstay in just about all the material at hand here. One might suspect that the compositions on this album have been made on that instrument, possibly with this core motif first established and that the composition may have developed from there. This is speculation of course, but that is the impression I got when inspecting this CD, that the songs are piano-centric and possibly piano-developed in part or in whole. When that is said, the piano isn't given all that many dominant sequences throughout, at least not as many as you'd expect. The movements with more of a sparse, frail nature obviously feature the pinao fairly prominently, but more often than not keyboards and organ have more dominating roles, which in turn may again be used as supplemental details to the guitar. Majestic, powerful guitar and keyboards arrangements is a mainstay element, as are vibrant, intense guitar solo passages with and without additional keyboard support. This latter aspect is not in a guitar hero style though, but more in the manner of a competent guitarist aware of his classical legacy and, at the same time, taking care to avoid ever getting the metal-tinged neo-classical landscapes, instead opting for short intense bursts in between the more common atmospheric guitar soloing passages, liberally used throughout. This latter aspect is what gave me associations to Camel throughout, comparable but not exactly similar to Andrew Latimer's guitar sound and style, with seamless support and alterations with keyboards, piano and organ. That Cast also adds some additional flute touches, at times strengthening the similarities to Camel, at least in my book, and while they also use saxophone and clarinet to good and well thought-out alternating flavors, this doesn't lessen that comparison for me, but rather adds an additional touch that makes Cast come across as more of an individual entity in its own right. Some subtle folky touches at times also emphasize this dimension to the music.

Conclusion. "Arsis" comes across as a strong and well developed production by a veteran band that is very much aware of what they want to accomplish and how to go about doing so. Symphonic progressive rock is the style explored, with a distinct foundation on piano motifs and with a sound, style and especially approach that makes this a production I feel should have a strong appeal to fans of Camel, and then those who enjoy the band’s earlier albums first and foremost.

OMB=Olav M Bjornsen: September 2, 2015
The Rating Room

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