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(44:14, Karisma Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Helike-I 20:44 2. Helike-II 23:30 LINEUP: Fredrik Horn Ц keyboards, piano Daniel Maage Ц vocals, flute Stig Are Sund Ц guitars Martin Sjoeen Ц bass Bjarte Rossehaug Ц drums Aarstein Tislevoll Ц keyboards
Prolusion. The Norwegian act D'ACCORD was formed in early 2008 and self-released their debut album the following year to positive critical acclaim. Since then they have signed to the Norwegian label Karisma Records, and in the fall of 2011 they issued their sophomore production "Helike".
Analysis. Retro-oriented rock, also known as vintage rock, appears to be something of a popular flavor in Scandinavia these days. The head of an indie label I talked to not too long ago described how just about every demo sent his way appeared to be heavily influenced by the likes of Jethro Tull and Black Sabbath, but was somewhat disappointed about the lack of the progressive rock spirit amongst these new band constellations. I guess he would have approved of D'Accord then, as their take on the vintage wave is one residing within the heartland of that expression. Just looking at this CD will most likely set the mental gears in motion towards expecting a piece of vintage progressive rock. One composition, obviously thematic in nature, divided into two parts, each clocking in at just over the 20 minute mark: Side A and side B of a good, old fashioned vinyl LP. Dramatic cover art with mythological references aplenty made in a vintage style is the perfect package for the contents within. The two parts of the compositions are subtly different however, even if being parts of a conceptual musical whole, and in this case this is a positive feature. It turns out that the first 20 or so minutes aren't that convincing as a whole. Not that this is a flawed or weak creation, far from it, but it stays put within a heavily explored expression which can be summarized as the Peter Gabriel-era Genesis, symphonic in nature throughout, heavy on the organ flavored passages, and with plenty of vocal parts that demand a diversified, emotional delivery within a storytelling setup. Themes and parts come and go, with gentle, careful sequences and majestic guitar and organ driven parts taking turns, elongated instrumental inserts find their natural place; themes are explored left behind and revisited. A tad too predictable perhaps, and neither instrumental nor vocal delivery manage to maintain the sheer perfection needed at all times for this epic construction to make a grand impact. 40 years ago this initial part of the album would have caused numerous claims to innovation and perfection, but in 2012 this is one of a number of good quality excursions into this field Ц nothing really new or innovative, but a surefire winner amongst those who love this type of music. The second half of the album does take a subtle left turn however. Many of the premises remain similar for obvious reasons, but the organ and guitar passages aren't as numerous, the proceedings less predictable, and we're treated to occasional themes of a somewhat more contemporary nature too, perhaps with an ever so slightly added King Crimson-ian flavor in general. The Mellotron gets to shine now and then, parts with dampened or without dominant keyboard textures, and the themes and passages are subtly more energetic and pace-filled in nature. Fragile, vocal-dominated parts where the vocals in particular are of a similar nature and character as Radiohead is an effective addition to the stylistic palette, as are instrumental parts featuring sax and reeds. The differences between the first and second half of this thematic creation aren't as dramatic as one might get the impression of however; they are both parts of a stylistic whole after all, but the subtle differences are present and in a manner that makes the final 23 minutes more interesting and intriguing than the initial 20, but most of all less predictable, which is always a positive in my book.
Conclusion. Vintage symphonic art rock of the symphonic variety is what D'Accord has to offer on "Helike", a massive 44 minute epic divided into two parts and a perfect setup for a future vinyl production at that. There is nothing new or highly innovative overall, but itТs a solid excursion into the well trodden parts of concept albums that should find favor among those who have a hunger for such creations, in particular if the Peter Gabriel-era Genesis is music to your liking.
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