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(79:45, Progressive Promotion Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Intro 1:35 2. Initiation Fugato 2:04 3. Overture 3:04 4. First Day 4:09 5. Nightingales Chirp 4:01 6. Do You Like Country Grandpa? 2:38 7. Lea's Delivery 7:54 8. Elinoire 5:34 9. Rage of Despair 5:51 10. Adam's Theme 4:23 11. Neglected Garden 3:01 12. Time Mirror 5:46 13. Watershed 1:52 14. Review 5:23 15. Unearth the Truth 6:04 16. Father's Theme 0:29 17. Farewell 2:29 18. A Place to Review Your Soul 13:28 LINEUP: Martin Schnella – guitars, bass, mandolin; keyboards; vocals Marek Arnold – keyboards; saxophone Niklas Kahl - drums Kiri Geile - vocals With: Verena Klauke – flute &: A host of additional guitarists and singers
Prolusion. Germany’s FLAMING ROW was formed by Martin Schnella back in 2008, and the principal idea behind the project was to create and record a conceptual CD featuring a story with several characters, encompassing a multitude of different moods and atmospheres. Most of the material was assembled in 2008 and 2009, with a core of local musicians and a wide array of guest contributors. The end result became the CD "Elinoire", which was released by Progressive Promotion Records in 2011.
Analysis. When dealing with concept albums focusing on a story involving several different characters, rock opera becomes something of a key word. And when yiou choose progressive metal as the stylistic expression of choice, comparisons towards Arjen Lucassen's Ayreon projects becomes inevitable, and at least in this case, not that farfetched either. But this aspiring German band-project does come with ideas and features slightly more novel and innovative. Still fans of Ayreon will most likely love this production. There's plenty of melodramatic, richly arranged progressive metal to enjoy here, grandiose guitar and keyboard arrangements as central features in pompous soundscapes that share many characteristic details with Lucassen's string of conceptual creations. And with stylistic variety too, which is another feature fans of Ayreon will recognize, but perhaps not to the extent present on this CD. Besides the traditional progressive metal oriented themes that come with this territory, Flaming Row has expanded the canvas ever so slightly. Ambient, cinematic interludes aren't that much of a novelty, but tender saxophone soloing on top of a dampened riff-dominated motif is, as is the blues and jazz inserts on Time Mirror. And while galloping power metal inspired themes are closer to the heart of similar productions by other artists, dark-toned, twisted grinding guitar driven passages aren't as common by far, in particular when growling has been added to the vocal repertoire – in this case in a fairly effective manner too I might add. And on the topic of vocals, Flaming Row has handled these well. While the quality of the male vocalists isn't always the best, they have been blended into the various vocal parts in a neat and effective manner. And the best of the lot are really good too. As seems to be the case on most such endeavors, the female vocalists are top notch. Perhaps not always world quality flamboyant in terms of range or delivery, but perfectly suited to their roles on this production, which is the most important factor after all. In short: those who enjoy good vocals will have plenty to enjoy on this disc, and quite a few of the participants is of the highest quality, at least in this particular context. The songs themselves, or rather the different parts of it, represent the weakest aspect of this project. There's ample variation and good use of contrasting effects and intriguing details throughout, but also a few cliches that have managed to sneak in and a few developments that tend to become a bit too predictable. There is nothing major or massively negative either, but the slight details that make this a very good album rather than a brilliant one. And while the lyrics may not be from the top of the shelf in construction, it's refreshing to see a story unfolding that has a more down-to-Earth setting than the fantasy and science fiction oriented concepts most commonly found on similar productions.
Conclusion. Flaming Row has made a good quality debut with "Elinoire". Progressive metal is the stylistic foundation of choice, but flavored with enough stylistic variety to avoid becoming repetitive. Good quality compositions and performances are the common denominator throughout, with a few innovative details brought to the table as well. A well made concept album by and large, and one I suspect should find favor amongst fans of Arjen Lucassen's Ayreon productions first and foremost.
OMB=Olav M Bjornsen: February 17, 2012
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