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Dura Mater (USA) - 2004 - "Dura Mater"
TRACK LIST: 1. Know All Forget All 7:14 2. The Crab Is Mightier Than the Fish 8:57 3. What It Is 5:14 4. Devotion 12:07 5. On a High Peak of the Genesis Planet 17:41 All tracks: Dura Mater, except 5: J. McLaughlin. Produced & engineered by Meermans. LINE-UP: Eric Meermans - guitars; vocals; brass Dave Hurley - drums; winds Mark Schmidt - bass
Prolusion. The US trio DURA MATER is now in their fifth year of existence. Their first full-length album is titled same as the band and is the third release of the independent Californian label Post Replica. Previously the band appeared on a split CD, with another San Diego-based outfit Canaveral, where they presented three rather long tracks ranging from 8 to 12 minutes, none of which is available on this album. Unfortunately, no website is mentioned in the CD digipack.
Synopsis. The natural compositional thinking, absolutely free of destructive tendencies "to be like someone", the ability to integrate different ideas into a single cohesive whole, and the masterful performance make the Dura Mater album a highly interesting listening adventure. While the musical directions that the band prefers to the others aren't indeterminable, the final result, their style as such, is one-of-a-kind, so any analogies, if they appear, will be exclusively conditional or even relativist, so please take this into consideration. Among the five compositions, the first, Know All Forget All, is the heaviest, though the sound is heavy not throughout. The slow and hypnotic guitar riffs, which, yet, nearly constantly change their configuration and pattern, often serve an axis, around which all three of the band members weave an intricate web of their solos on guitar, bass and drums. The music is an efficient combination of guitar Art-Rock and progressive Cathedral Metal (the features of the latter resemble those in King Crimson in 1974, but only texturally and by intensity) and, like anywhere on the album, is clever, tasty and mesmerizing. It must be noted that the guitar riffs move always slower than the solos, as if counteracting them, which makes the overall musical picture effectively contrasting. Well, Eric Meermans was originally a blues guitarist, so Blues and quasi-Jazz-Fusion are part of the music on the album, too, but, being transferred into what, strictly speaking, is Dura Mater's style, such harmonies not frequently unmask themselves and become apparent to the naked ear:-). The next two tracks: The Crab Is Mightier Than the Fish and What It Is develop much in a similar direction, but with the less quantity of pronouncedly harsh structures. Then follows the band's rendition of Devotion, the composition that has given a title to John McLaughlin's solo album released not long before he formed the famed Mahavishnu Orchestra. Regardless of how strange it may sound (unless you are acquainted with "Devotion", which is arguably the less jazz-infected album by McLaughlin), the composition appears before the listener as a logical continuation of the previous tracks, so all the said definitions are applicable to it as well. There is one innovation, however. The Space Rock elements, in both latent and distinct form, have been inculcated into the basic structures here, and also into those of the epic last track where, though, they manifest themselves only at the end of the composition. What's curious, the 17-minute On a High Peak of the Genesis Planet more closely follows the style invented by John McLaughlin than the preceding piece. The composition abounds in distinct jazz features, such as syncopations, vocalizations going either in unison or in fourth with guitar solos, authentic improvisations, etc. So instead of quasi-Jazz-Fusion as on the previous tracks, there are the traces of the genre's classic manifestation. Something more about the last two tracks: the Cathedral Metal-related guitar riffs can here convert into those typical for the early manifestations of heavy Space-Stoner Rock and its brightest representative >Clear Blue Sky in particular. So, back to the epic, I perceive it as Jazz-Stoner Rock, which, moreover, often sounds as heavy as the compositions done in the album's prevalent stylistics. The music on the album is for the most part complex and intricate, and nevertheless, each of the tracks features some melodic, really unique and inimitable, very memorable guitar solos. Although the fact that 'another guitar' has been overdubbed is obvious, the recording isn't overloaded with studio values, retaining a distinctly live feel in most cases, which is just another virtue of this excellent album.
Conclusion. The band, which is able to present so original, profound and very tasty music already in the beginning of their creation is worthy of best epithets, and I believe my attitude towards Dura Mater is reflected in the review. A reviewer's inspiration often directly depends on the quality of the material he explores. Therefore, this album gets my sincere recommendations.
VM: October 23, 2004
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