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(51:24, Progrock Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Asunder Hearts 3:49 2. Fading Images 5:30 3. Self Abstract 5:28 4. Into the Halls of Eternity 3:03 5. Flight with the Mind 4:44 6. The Awakening 3:27 7. Move On 4:10 8. Planets 2:50 9. Not Too Late 4:19 10. Reach for the Light 7:07 11. It Needs a Happy End 6:55 LINEUP: Srdjan Brankovic – el. & ac. guitars Nikola Mijic – lead vocals Ivan Vasic – bass Damir Adzic – drums Vladimir Djedovic – keyboards With: Sabine Edlsbacher – vocals
Prolusion. Following two full-length recordings with lyrics in their native language, this self-titled release by Serbian band EXPEDITION DELTA is their first album in English, many considering it to be their break-through into the international progressive rock market. Apart from those mentioned in the lineup above, this CD features several more musicians (among which are such cult personages as Rocket Scientists’ Erik Norlander and Shadow Gallery’s Gary Wehrkamp), all of whom appear only occasionally though.
Analysis. Made up of twenty tracks, two of which are instrumentals, this album indeed finds its makers rediscovering some widespread international musical regions, working strictly westward (which is only partly linked with their country’s geographical situation, at least as regards the Old World). Sounding like John Petrucci’s apprentice in absentia, bandleader Srdjan Brankovic shows himself to be a skilled, refined musician, whether when playing like a kind of technical metal guitar engine or when providing more delicate leads. Of course, all the other band members and the side participants alike are on a par with him in mastery, and while none of them shines at the fore as often as Srdjan (though he fairly frequently shares the lead with keyboardist Vladimir Djedovic), the album has a true ensemble sound throughout. Everything the band performs here stands out for its finesse as well as tunefulness, but in terms of progressiveness the compositions vary, sometimes considerably. The first and the seventh track, Asunder Hearts and Moves On are both quite straightforward heavy metal songs, each following a standard verse/ chorus/ bridge/ short instrumental intermission/ et cetera pattern. But if this approach can be justified when used on the opening tune, then given that the other comes in the middle of the track list, it's only excusable if we regard this CD as being an imaginary LP. Otherwise Moves On somewhat breaks the stylistic balance of the recording or rather the integrity of its picture, which is overall both quite cohesive and attractive. One of the few songs where Nikola Mijic often gives way to the guest female vocalist Sabine Edlsbacher, The Awakening is a slow-paced romantic piece, but is not an in-your-face conventional ballad, featuring a lot of acoustic guitar patterns, and also a couple of spacey instrumental landscapes. So it’s a very decent tune, much tastier than those two aforesaid numbers. Not Too Late most often alternates full-fledged prog-metal movements (with some hints of Dream Theater) with basically balladic arrangements. On the remaining five tracks with vocals, Fading Images, Self Abstract, Into the Halls of Eternity, Reach for the Light and It Needs a Happy End, the Dream Theater influence comes to the surface more often, on all levels. Vocally, Nikola Mijic is not a clone of James La Brie, but nonetheless there are quite a few sections on each where his singing differs only slightly from James’s. On the other hand however, it’s clear that, while traveling the same path that many other contemporary musical heavyweights have done, these Serbian protagonists of classic modern Prog-Metal seem to be aware of how to interpret the model to impart some identity to their sound. Anyhow all these songs reveal some inventive arrangements and have a lot of expanded instrumental interludes filled with probably everything that the style is famed for, which sets me free from listing its numerous peculiarities-virtues, well known to anyone who frequently visits progressive rock sites, for instance. Of the two instrumentals, Flight with the Mind and Planets, the first presents the disc’s primary style at its best, with some larger quantity of non-heavy (yet still intensely evolving) arrangements explored and more techno-thrash devices deployed. The last is a sort of atmospheric Space Metal with some expressive acoustic guitar solos that are inventively interwoven with basic fabrics. It’s probably the most original piece in the set, perhaps only due to its evocative title arousing associations with the eponymous instrumental from Tiamat’s “Wildhoney”, and also with Carried by Cosmic Winds from Eloy’s disc of the same name, “Planets”.
Conclusion. With seven excellent modern prog-metal compositions, two good ballads and, okay, two potential hit singles, this CD got the rating it did, statistically-average. I’m quite positive that Expedition Delta will be much in demand, thanks to the huge popularity of their chosen style.
VM: April 15, 2008
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