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(78:58, Metal Mind Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Stand Up 6:26 2. Signature In The Sand 5:52 3. Whiteline Highway 7:18 4. Wasteland 5:52 5. 11 0:28 6. T230 8:47 7. Days Gone By 7:41 8. Miss D Meanour 6:05 9. Omen 2:40 10. Stop 15:05 11. Moment in Time 8:13 (b/t) 12. Losing It All 4:31 (b/t) LINEUP: Andy Lawton vocals; guitars Brian Donkin vocals; guitars Dave Bridget bass, guitars Steve Lipiec keyboards Chris Moyden drums Kristi Bonfield vocals With: Barry Elwood bass Henry Rogers drums
Prolusion. The UK outfit FINAL CONFLICT may arguably said to be among the lesser profiled acts that emerged in the 90's, issuing three albums prior to taking an elongated break, then appearing again a few years after the millennium releasing an additional two full length productions to relatively little acclaim. But following the excellent live CD and DVD issued by Metal Mind in 2009, interest in this act would appear to be rising, and due to that this fine Polish label decided to remaster and reissue their 1997 effort "Stand Up" in early 2011.
Analysis. Neo progressive rock is a description that many like and just as many dislike, among the latter we'll often find the bands given just such a description. Whether or not the members of Final Conflict have an opinion on the matter I truly don't know, but at least in my view I feel this album fits quite nicely into this category, first and foremost due to the many references to the sound of vintage Marillion that pops up on regular occasions. When that is said, this band isn't and shouldn't be regarded as a one trick pony, as they have quite a bit more going for them than merely exploring the musical grounds laid down by others. However, those who yearn to get their hands of a piece of groundbreaking music that strives to incorporate innovative elements and approaches can safely disregard this production. This CD isn't one aimed at that crowd at all. Basically, I'd describe the exploits of Final Conflict anno 1997 as twofold. They have one side to them that should find a good home among fans of acts such as Magnum, sporting harder edged guitars and synth backdrops in a manner that to some extent is comparable to bands often described as pomp rock. The other one is more distinctly inspired by symphonic rock, with backdrops of a more sophisticated nature a key element, frequently sporting multiple layers assembled in a gentle yet rich and harmonic expression, frequently dream-laden and with a cinematic overall atmosphere, and those fond of harmonizing themes featuring melodic guitar soloing and keyboards in melodic unison have a great deal to look forward to. Fans of early Marillion will find their tastes catered for quite nicely in the gentler, ballad oriented landscapes explored in Days Gone By and Miss D Meanour. Gentle plucked guitar motifs backed by rich but gently fluctuating symphonic textures are key features of those creations. Final epic Stop combines most of the different aspects of this band into an array of different themes, and in addition we're also treated to elongated visits to a highly intriguing guitar and organ combination on this composition. A steady, driving bass guitar underscores this latter theme in a way that to my ears bring forth associations towards early 80's Eloy, while the ever present acoustic guitar and occasional but lengthy dream-like guitar solo applied to this part of the song both are perfect fits. This 2011 reissue includes two bonus tracks: a rerecorded version of Moment in Time, originally released on the bands 2003 production "Hindsight", and the brand new track Losing It All, the former a gentle Neo tune lightly flavored with contemporary indie and post rock details, the latter an acoustic guitar dominated ballad with a contemporary sounding symphonic backdrop of the cinematic kind. Songs for the fans rather than album highlights as such, but along with the remastering done by Karl Groom a good argument for fans old and new alike to get the new version of this disc rather than hunting down the original one on Amazon or eBay.
Conclusion. Final Conflict made a fine album back in 1997, and "Stand Up" would appear to be something of a forgotten jewel for those who enjoy art rock of the neo progressive kind. Whether you'd like to hunt down the original version or would prefer the reissue will most likely come down to personal tastes first and foremost, but the remastering by Karl Groom and the bonus tracks on the 2011 edition will arguably be details favoring the latter.
OMB=Olav M Bjornsen: June 5, 2011
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