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TRACK LIST: 1. Selfishness-I 10:28 2. Time and Again 5:24 3. Let Me Out of Here 6:39 4. Victims of Love 5:59 5. Trance of Sorrow 30:34 LINEUP: Chris Mallia – instruments Erol Cutajar – vocals With: Trevor Catania – bass
Prolusion. DIFFERENT STRINGS is the creative of composer and multi-instrumentalist Chris Mallia, and from his base in Malta he has recorded and released his take on progressive rock since 2004. "Sounds of Silence-1 – The Counterparts" is his second full length production, and was issued on Mallia's own label Progdome towards the tail end of 2011.
Analysis. Sometimes an artist doesn't have to seek out innovative stylistic expressions or challenging grounds to be able to create a solid musical presence. It is perhaps more difficult to make an impression while exploring territories of an accessible nature, even when you navigate in such congested waters with a fair degree of success, due to the competitive surroundings. But even so I think those who do make successful ventures of this nature deserve as much praise as those who tread the paths less often travelled. Different Strings is the latest example of just such an artist. I've been following the artist since Mallia released his debut a few years back, and I'm happy to be able to say that he's improved markedly at his craft. His initial effort was a fine production, but with substantial grounds for improvement in the technical department. The quality of mix and production in particular were of a lesser nature back then, and whilst substantially improved this time around this is a disc that still is quite a bit away from a high quality production in that department. Normal music fans won't take too much notice though, but hi-fi enthusiasts with a firm opinion on just those aspects of a CD might want to approach this one with a bit of caution. As far as the music goes, this is indeed an album of counterparts. The opening epic Selfishness-1 wanders back and forth between distinctly symphonic art rock passages and gentler sequences with more of a neo-progressive oriented approach. The main emphasis is on melodies and harmonies, the instrumentation frequently assembling in majestic constellations with few starkly contrasting elements. The preference appears to be broadening the scope of the lead motif rather than applying contrasts for nerve and tension. The end result is still a pleasant one, with a distinct and intense drum pattern that does add a bit of a metal sheen to the proceedings. The three shorter creations that follow come across as rather different pieces: two ballad oriented numbers and one harder hitting effort utilizing guitars and organ to good effect, all often with half a foot inside AOR and hard rock territories. Well planned, performed and executed pieces of music I might add, more or less liberally flavored with art rock details, and in the case of Time and Again, also with some vibes that for some reason or other gave me associations to The Beatles. Trance of Sorrow ends this CD in a majestic manner. An epic stretching just beyond the half hour mark, freely wandering to and from harder edged art rock, symphonic sequences and intense passages with at least one foot inside the progressive metal realm. A multiple themed effort that, despite a few less than high tech instrumental details subtly broken up and fragmented instrument resonances does occasionally appear, makes a grand impression, melodic and harmonic throughout, with a good mix of gentler, tranquil and contrasting parts of a harder edged, intense nature and various constellations somewhere in between these extremes. As with the epic opener there are plenty of majestic arrangements to be found, and again focusing on emphasizing mood and melody rather than introducing and utilizing motifs of a starkly contrasting nature. While Mallia caters for the instrumentation throughout, the vocals are handled by Erol Cutajar on this occasion. He is a good vocalist with a distinct and finely controlled voice. Perhaps not a singer that will draw universal acclaim, but his generally dampened delivery suits the music perfectly to my ears, managing to add impact and emotions when needed without ever letting go of the harmonies present at the time.
Conclusion. Those who prefer their progressive rock to be of an accessible nature, emphasizing distinct moods and strong melodies within a strictly harmonic framework should make out the key audience for Different Strings. Perhaps not among the most advanced as such efforts go, but a well planned, well made and well executed album. As far as specific recommendations go, I'd hazard a guess that fans of bands like Magic Pie might most easily appreciate this production, but due to similarities in approach more than a distinct resemblance in style as such.
OMB=Olav M Bjornsen: July 5, 2012
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