[ SHORT REVIEWS | DETAILED REVIEWS
(79:47, Progressive Promotion Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Mirage - A Portrayal of Figures 16:14 2. Aim L45 7:04 3. Burning Sky 6:22 4. Journey to the Afterlife 12:03 5. Alcatraz 4:04 6. Memento Mori 5:48 7. Pictures 9:48 8. In Appearance 18:44 LINEUP: Martin Schnella – guitars, bass; keyboards; vocals Marek Arnold – keyboards; recorder, saxophone Niklas Kahl – drums Kiri Geile – vocals With: Jens Kommnick - whitles, pipe, cello, violin, mandoline Gary Wehrkamp – guitars; keyboards; vocals Eric Brenton – viola, violin Nathan Brenton – cello Rolf Wagels – bodhran &: A dozen of other musicians
Prolusion. The German band FLAMING ROW was formed by Martin Schnella in 2008, and while it is a band with regular members, they specialize in the creation of conceptual productions involving a great number of guest musicians. "Mirage - A Portrayal of Figure" is their second creation of that nature, and was released by the German label Progressive Promotion Records in 2014.
Analysis. When you're dealing with a production involving an elongated list of guest performers, a concept story explored (and in this case with a clear message about the story to be continued as well) and the chosen musical style is progressive metal, then it's logical to draw comparisons to projects of a similar nature. In this case Arjen Lucassen's Ayreon is the natural comparison, and it's intriguing to see that he is actually one of the guest performers on this production too. But while the basic premises and the overall context is of a comparable nature, Flaming Row explores a rather different type of music altogether. Progressive metal is at the core, albeit not in a majestic and bombastic Ayreon manner, and in addition this band works with a rather more extensive stylistic palette. You won't find too many purebred progressive metal compositions on this CD. When they do hit a metal run, the band alternates between majestic dark guitar riff and organ constructions, sometimes enriched with fragile Mellotron textures, occasional forays into dark and almost brutally intense sequences with pounding riffs and drums, galloping inserts closer to power metal in style and at last a gentler, more accessible approach sporting dampened guitars and with keyboards more central in the proceedings. This handful of progressive metal variations is the ground and center of this band's excursions, what they return to after exploring rather different styles of music. And they are actively exploring on this album indeed. Opening epic Mirage - A Portrayal of Figures includes a playful ragtime piano and saxophone sequence, the entire Aim L45 is dedicated to a more Celtic and folk flavored type of music that reminds ever so slightly of Blackmore's Night, a type of music frequently visited throughout this production, Journey to the Afterlife provides us with subtly funk-tinged guitar riffs and what I'd describe as a carefully southern rock flavored variety of hard rock, elements that are revisited on the following Alcatraz, while Pictures hones in on the symphonic flavored ballad and blends this with the previously described folk-oriented style. Concluding epic In Appearance - A Portrayal of Figures Part II then assembles the main pieces, mainly alternating between a more classic progressive metal style and the folk-inspired delicate style that runs like a red thread through this production. The contributions by the multitude of guest artists are seamlessly woven into these compositions, and as usual with productions of this kind, which many would describe as a rock opera, the vocals are central. There's a story being told here, and both permanent band members and guest vocalists manage to come across as convincing in their roles, and their contributions well suited top whatever stylistic palette that is going presently. This is a massive and ambitious project, and one that I'd describe as successful on multiple fronts. Well produced and well performed of course, but the broad stylistic variation does make this album stand out from the crowd of productions of a similar nature. And while I don't regard this album as a must have album, it is a high quality addition to the metal based rock operas produced.
Conclusion. Flaming Row appears to establish themselves as fine providers of ambitious rock operas of the ensemble variety, sporting an impressive guest list of contributors that appears to have been selected more by the individual qualities they can enrich the production with and less by their commercial impact value. The end result is a strong album, much more varied in style than many other productions of this kind. As the foundation of this project is progressive metal one will have to enjoy this type of music though, but the liberal inclusion of Celtic inspired music in particular gives the album a dimension of its own. Perhaps with a slightly limited customer base as the result, then again this might just make this CD interesting for people not all that interested in progressive metal as well. Still, it's a novel take on the metal-based rock opera, and a production that merits a check by those who tend to enjoy recordings of this kind.
[ SHORT REVIEWS | DETAILED REVIEWS - LIST | BANDLISTS ]