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TRACK LIST: 1. Trash Vortex 6:04 2. Lostaway 11:28 3. The Conqueror's Weapons 9:19 4. Some Fallen Dust 6:58 5. Stravinsky's Gondola 13:03 6. Once upon a Dime 6:26 7. The Clay Spirits 12:43 LINEUP: Xavier Le Loupp – guitars Loic Consolin – bass Eric Vedovati – vocals Thierry Lesaffre – drums Dominique Barboyon – keyboards
Prolusion. "Dream Object 5" is the fifth official release by the French band EX-VAGUS, an outfit that started out back in 1995. Following three years after their previous effort, this is also the band’s first CD featuring English lyrics, thus to some extent moving away from their initial goal of uniting progressive rock with French vocals.
Analysis. While this album represents a change of vision for this long-lasting band, the introduction of English lyrics and vocals doesn't remove too much of the spirit of French progressive rock from the end result here. A characteristic trait of this local scene has been bands and artists with a distinct theatrical vocal delivery, arguably even more so than what one may find in Italian progressive rock. And this distinct trait, perhaps best known from bands like Ange and Mona Lisa, is very much a feature of this latest effort from Ex-Vagus as well. Melodramatic vocal delivery with somewhat of an operatic touch to it is very much a part of this album, and those who generally enjoy this might as well go and by this CD now. The compositions as such aren't dominated by the vocals though. Tangents man Barboyon is the central instrumentalist from the onset, and whether he's conveying lush atmospheres or grandiose and dramatic textures to the proceedings, the various guises of keyboards always have the central position in the mix, loudly dominating the various themes explored at all times, more often than not providing richly textured layers and epic scale sonic tapestries. The guitars have more of a subservient role, with wandering patterns and slow, dampened harmony soloing as the most common expressions used. On select occasions drawn-out riffs add a darker tinge to the themes explored. On quite a few occasions the keyboards and guitars combine to create rich dual harmonies, very much in a manner similar to Genesis, but with the guitar given a more dampened aspect overall. And as far as references go, Genesis is most certainly a band that has had an influence on Ex-Vagus. As a general definition, I think that describing this band as residing somewhere in between Genesis, Marillion and Ange would be a good pointer to the overall sound explored on "Dream Object 5", blending the theatrical aspects of the legendary French band with the vintage symphonic workouts of the British bands of the ‘70s, while the final touches come in the shape of atmospheric, lush passages of a kind not too unlike Fish-era Marillion.
Conclusion. If keyboard dominated symphonic art rock is a style of music you generally enjoy, and you don't mind a few neo-progressive spices added to this genre, Ex-Vagus should provide you with an album of interest with "Dream Object 5", particularly if you have a soft spot for theatrical vocals in a manner similar to legendary French band Ange. And while the compositions can hardly be said to explore new musical territories, these musicians know what they want to achieve and manage to do so with relative ease, and touch upon the brilliant at times as well. In this case exemplified by the final track, the 12-minute symphonic bliss The Clay Spirits, might just in itself be a good reason to buy this CD.
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