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Track List: 1. Random Shooting 5:35 2. Sagrerament 5:12 3. Nothing Changes 4:53 4. Show Me the Way 6:06 5. I Believe In Pain 5:47 6. Days of Victory 3:46 7. Lizard Dream (inst.) 4:54 8. You Won't Kill Me Twice 5:25 9. Sugar Fifteen 3:58 10. Tequila Tears 4:52 11. Angel & Devil 5:28 12. Go Dancer 4:38 13. Lovers In the Distance 6:03 14. 'Nameless (bonus)-1 (inst.) 2:47 15. 'Nameless (bonus)-2 3:29 All music & lyrics: by Montremy. Additional lyrics: by Campana. Arranged mainly: by Montremy & Hautefort. Line-up: Antoine De Montremy - drums; keyboards; programming Raphael Hautefort - bass, electric, & acoustic guitars Oliver Campana - vocals Alain Journel - electric & acoustic guitars; backing vocals Eric Pages - percussion; backing vocals Produced by Drop-O-Rama & Rick Page. Engineered by R. Page at "Open" studio, France. Mastered by P. Serriere.
Preamble. I see there isn't a mere festival of Prog-Metal on ProgressoR this week, but a festival of debut albums by French Prog-Metal bands. You certainly have guessed what I am about to announce. Drop-O-Rama was formed in 1999, and "Nothing Changes" is their debut album. By the way, this CD contains 15 tracks actually, though there are neither titles nor lyrics of the last two tracks on the album in the booklet.
The Album. For the first time in my life I hear a CD that sounds like it's a "2 in 1" edition (2 LPs on 1 CD). The contents of the first eight tracks that, taken together last 40 minutes, and those of all seven of the following tracks on this 73-minute CD are more than merely noticeable different among themselves. Most of all, this difference concerns the compositional aspects of both of the 'halves' of the CD and, partly, stylistic ones. All eight of the first tracks here are, overall, of a unified stylistic concept, representing Classic Prog-Metal with elements of Symphonic Art-Rock, and each of them is not only a real killer (and by all means), but is also full of some wonderful magic. Six out of these eight tracks: Random Shooting, Sagrerament, Nothing Changes, I Believe In Pain, Days of Victory, and Lizard Dream (1, 2, 3, 5, 6, & 7, the latter of which is the only instrumental here), are about the predominant stylistics of the album. While Show Me the Way and You Won't Kill Me Twice (4 & 8) are, in my honest opinion, just wonderful examples of how should sound a ballad being both very charming and intricate. Stylistically, both of them represent a blend of Symphonic Art-Rock and Prog-Metal of a moderately dramatic character. The latter words, though, sound topical regarding all six of the aforementioned tracks as well. Nevertheless, while any of the first eight tracks on the CD is a masterpiece and at every aspect, my personal favorites here are the last four of them (5 to 8). Apart from the heavy riffs and solos of electric and bass guitars, etc, these feature not only the solos and passages of synthesizers and piano, but also those of a string ensemble. As for the remaining seven tracks (9 to 15), I think it would be incorrect this time to assert that the band had just filled with them the rest of the CD's 'playing space'. All of them, while not masterpieces, are not only excellent compositions on the whole, but are also almost as original and tasteful as all eight of the tracks that I depicted above. For the most part (tracks 9 to 13: i.e. all those that are mentioned in the CD booklet), the songs that are featured on the second half of the CD represent kind of the Neo counterparts of those on the first half of it. Though there is the only ballad-counterpart among the said five songs - Lovers In the Distance (13). Along with the sugary Sugar Fifteen (track 9), which sounds like a real Nu-Metal hit, these two, while being overall very good 'radio-friendly' songs are the simplest compositions on the CD. (In that way, it would've been quite acceptable if Sugar Fifteen were the opener of the 'second album', and Lovers In the Distance the ending of it.) Even though all three of the songs that are located among them: Tequila Tears, Angel & Devil, and Go Dancer (12 to 14), are way better than them, they're inferior to any of the tracks that are present on the first half of the CD, too. And there are, however, two phantoms in the very end of the CD (14 & 15). Respectively, I called them Nameless-1 & Nameless-2. Although the contents of both of these tracks are completely out of the album's predominant stylistics, both of them are excellent (as well as Tequila Tears, Angel & Devil, and Go Dancer: 12 to 14). The first of these strangely hidden 'bonuses', entirely consisting of 'crossing' passages of a 'usual' synthesizer and those of a string ensemble, is the Classical Music-like piece (instrumental piece, of course). The last track on the CD is a very beautiful ballad of a dramatic character sung by Oliver to the accompaniment of very 'classically' sounding passages of piano. In other words, this ballad is, overall, of the same 'genre' origin as that of its predecessor. In my view, these noticeable compositions should've been placed somewhere in the middle of the CD's second half.
Summary. If I were the producer of this CD, I would have divided its contents into two parts (albums!) straight in the middle of its track list. In short, I understand that as a whole, I should rate "Nothing Changes" with five and a half stars, and not with the complete set of them, but I can't bring my hand to hit this. Instead, I feel I should make a declaration of love to the music of this French band. Since my first acquaintance with the creation of Dream Theater I for the first time hear such a high quality and very tasteful Prog-Metal, which, moreover, is both complex and just amazingly attractive. In fact, though, I recalled Dream Theater just because I had the same impressions when I've heard their "Images & Words" CD ten years ago, while the music of Drop-O-Rama is highly original and incomparable at all. Anyone in the band is an outstanding musician, though especially, I am impressed with the excellent English by the excellent vocalist Oliver Campana. So I am sure that Drop-O-Rama, who, by the way, are already well known in France for their remarkable live shows, are able to easily conquer the whole progressive world. Highly recommended!
VM: November 21, 2002
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