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TRACK LIST: 1. Soft Rock Another 2:58 2. Psych Prog Wildness 5:34 3. Symphonic Prog Serpent 6:06 4. Dark Metal Winter 5:13 5. Tuba Folk D&D 4:56 6. Folk Rock Wonder 4:52 7. Fast Folk Wind 4:35 8. Jazz Rock Alone 4:14 9. Baroque Ballad Barque 7:15 10. R&R High Times 3:50 11. Vocoder Citadel Manifesto 5:35 LINEUP: Kiki Whitman- vocals; bass, guitars Rejyna – vocals; guitars Dan Smart – drums
Prolusion. The US band CITADEL has been around in one form or another since 1979, and if the sources I tracked down are correct it has a total of ten album releases to its name. The band has had a revolving cast of members over the years, and the constellation that crafted their so far latest production, "Crosses or Crowns", is a trio consisting of Kiki Whitman, Rejyna and Dan Smart.
Analysis. Citadel uses quite a lot of space on the back cover and booklet of "Crosses or Crowns" to explain a key issue of this disc. They go on at length about the various instruments used beyond bass, guitars and drums, prior to revealing that in this case anything ranging from melodic percussion elements to organs and a plethora of acoustic instruments in this particular case are emulated, with a specific guitar based midi setup the provider of all additional sounds. The old cliche that there are no keyboards on this album applies very much indeed, but in this case to showcase the relative strengths of the midi guitar rather than the band having anything against the use of synthesizers and keyboards as such. To some extent this disc seems to be more about instrument showcasing than the songs themselves. Citadel has chosen to name the songs after the mood and style explored rather than supplying them with more or less creative titles, and the liner notes go on at length about the versatility their midi guitar gives them, with something of a between the lines message concerning the number of creative possibilities that come due to that. Personally I didn't find this CD to be quite as widespread as the band thinks and the song titles might indicate. For instance, Jazz Rock Alone has closer ties with folk rock with its acoustic guitar-based lead motif and emulated keys hovering in the back, where a few moments of ethereal textures and the odd staccato instrument burst the closest I get to jazz rock as I define it. And elsewhere the ties with folk rock, progressive folk and psychedelic rock are key elements, all of it done in a manner and style that look back 40 years or so in time. The acoustic guitar is central throughout, often in layered arrangements; harmony vocals are used extensively, and the flute by way of midi guitar gets around quite a lot. Much the same can be said for the violin and cello. The songs themselves tend to be of a light and positive nature, the cello utilized to add darker undercurrents whenever guitar riffs aren't applied, the latter an effect sparingly used I might add. A few style variations do occur: Dark Metal Winter is basically a good old-fashioned heavy prog number as explored by bands from the late 60's and onwards, R&R High Times is an energetic rocker with a mid-70's sound, while final piece Vocoder Citadel Manifesto is a curiously fluctuating space-oriented affair sporting synthesizer sounds by way of the aforementioned midi guitar. Baroque Ballad Barque might also warrant mention in this context, due to the massive string arrangements crafting something of a chamber rock atmosphere on this specific item. Personally I can't say that I was overwhelmed by the much heralded midi guitar Citadel uses, and while the compositions do sport quite a lot of variety as far as emulated instruments go, the recording doesn't quite deliver what's promised I think. The music as such didn't really manage to capture my attention either. A few items are rather underwhelming, but by and large nice and easygoing songs, pleasant and well-made but without making me needing to having recourse to my dictionary of superlatives.
Conclusion. Fans of 70's-oriented art rock with an emphasis on folk rock inspirations and lighter toned, positive songs appear to be something of a key audience for the veteran band Citadel's latest opus. Fellow musicians fascinated by or curious about the use of a guitar based midi setup should most likely find this production interesting too, and much the same goes for fans with a similar interest scope presumably.
OMB=Olav M Bjornsen: May 2, 2011
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