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(48:42, Progrock Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Transmission Fails 4:04 2. The Sight of a Better Universe 3:19 3. Air Powerplant 5:48 4. Factory of Dreams 6:06 5. Gliding Above the Ocean of Memories 4:53 6. Peace Echoing 4:08 7. Stream of Evil 3:01 8. The Piano in the Sea 2:55 9. Generator of Illusions 3:52 10. Electric Boom 4:27 11. Crossing the Bridge to the Positive Pole 4:29 LINEUP: Jessica Lehto – vocals Hugo Flores – guitars, bass; synthesizers, programming
Prolusion. Hugo Flores is a Portuguese composer and multi-instrumentalist who has been highly active since the new millennium, at first releasing a solo album, followed by two releases with the project Sonic Pulsar, two more under the Project Creation moniker and most recently in 2008 with a new project called FACTORY OF DREAMS. This new creation started when Flores discovered the talents of vocalist Jessica Lehto, and the sole aim was to utilize her voice in the best possible manner for Flores' own musical ideas.
Analysis. Hugo Flores is a prolific artist in the progressive rock scene, and of what I'm familiar with of his output he blends various musical elements with progressive metal on his productions. This is the case on this most recent creation of his too, although there's arguably even more of a focus on progressive metal this time around. As instruments go, synthesizers dominate this creation from start to finish. Electronic rhythms, both industrial modern loops as well as more traditional-sounding drum patterns are at least partially delivered using synths, giving the rhythm section a distinct modern sound on this production. But a much more prominent place is given to the melodic output from Flores' electronic tangents on these compositions. Massive synth walls are a common feature throughout this production: majestic, fleshed-out, multilayered melody patterns with swirling sounds on top and deep brooding layers underscoring, and quite often dramatic symphonic layers with a sound like classical symphonic violins in the mix too. Most compositions contain calmer segments as well; many songs start off lush and mellow in an ambient atmosphere, and the massive soundscapes either dominating or being built up gradually following the opening will be broken up by similar sounding parts as well, where floating synths and piano are key features along with the electronic rhythmical sounds. The guitars aren't given that much of a dominant place in the mix for this release, but are very much an integral part of these tracks, still. Sometimes given dominant spots while in other instances subdued, dampened and placed back in the mix, drawn out chords and slow to mid-paced riff patterns mix with the synth layers to form melodramatic atmospheres, dramatic contrasts and massive sounding segments in general, adding the metal bits needed for this music to be coined as progressive metal and then some. Atmospheric guitar soloing with some select instances of fretboard frenzy is a feature on this production too, not in a dominant role though. But the main features this time around are vocals rather than instruments. Jessica Lehto's singing gets to soar and dominate from start to finish. She has a strong, clean voice with operatic qualities and she is a perfect choice of vocalist for music exploring big contrasts, dramatic build-ups and generally melodramatic atmospheres. Lehto's powerful vocals contrast with the instruments to some extent of course, but mostly she builds upon the mood provided by them, adding to the tension and nerve of the individual compositions in the big, majestic sounding segments with ease, but also supplying a calmer, soothing side to the ambient-sounding calm moments found throughout this production. Personally I would have enjoyed this album to a much greater degree if it had been less dramatic in scope; there's not much room for nuances and finer details in these compositions, and the individual tracks tend to sound a bit too uniform throughout as well, which ultimately makes this an enjoyable production for me, but not to the extent that there are tunes begging for constant replays, nor are there any tracks that can be said to really stand out either.
Conclusion. “Poles” is an album that explores a musical territory somewhat similar to Ayreon; it's a concept album with a sci-fi sound to it, melodramatic moments are provided by the dozen and the style of choice is progressive metal. There are fewer cliches than in Arjen Lucassens's creations, but also less variety in stylistic elements explored and nuances provided. Still, I believe many fans of Ayreon might enjoy this creation.
OMB=Olav M Bjornsen: February 10, 2009
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