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(60 min, Musea & Poseidon)
TRACK LIST: 1. Kashmir 5:47 2. Spiral 7:42 3. Kami-no Chishiki 5:47 4. Island 6:13 5. Maze of Psycho 9:34 6. Umi-no Koe 6:48 7. Shangri-La 18:57 LINEUP: Hiroaki Shibata - guitars; vocals; electric sitar Ai Tatsuya - basses; backing vocals Hiroki Matsui - synthesizers, organ, ARP Atsushi Motohashi - drums
Prolusion. "Apocalypse" comes as the first official full-length CD by FREE LOVE from Japan, although the group was formed some eight years ago.
Analysis. The CD is made up of 7 tracks, all of which were recorded during this last May, though only three of them are new compositions. These are Island, Kami-no Chishiki and Umi-no Koe, whilst the other four, namely Kashmir, Spiral, Maze of Psycho and Shangri-La, are sort of studio renderings of the pieces from the group's "Official Live Bootleg" - a four-song EP which was brought out in 2005, but wasn't distributed worldwide for some specific reasons (they're understandable to anyone who got that CD-R for review). Two of the three new pieces, Kami-no Chishiki and Umi-no Koe, are vocal-based ballads, sounding as though guitarist / vocalist Hiroaki Shibata has heeded my recommendation to use Japanese lyrics. However Shibata's return to his native language hasn't changed my negative attitude towards his singing, inasmuch as he is not suited to be a singer at all. Generally, Hiroaki's vocals are the weakest point of Free Love's entire work, his English pronunciation being so terrible that I am sure that he himself doesn't understand what is he sings about in such cases, let alone the listeners. Back to the said opuses: both are the most original, but at the same time the simplest tracks here, although the last quarter of the latter is a really impressive excursion to the world of vintage progressive Hard Rock, which in turn is the style typical of most of this strangely-titled creation, "Apocalypse". All the other tunes are largely instrumental, thankfully. The words about the evolution and the finale of Umi-no Koe are relevant also regarding the presented version of Maze of Psycho, despite the fact that this is not a ballad, during the first five minutes revealing a set of drum solos sounding either alone or in interaction with those of guitar and synthesizer. Although credited to Page, Plant and Bonham and presented as a cover of Led Zeppelin's famous eponymous epic (for some uncertain reason), this particular Kashmir does not evoke any associations with the original, right down to its concluding section, where the refrain from that song is repeated indeed. Until then, the music is instrumental, sliding somewhere between Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple and, well, Free Love, and is in reality nothing else than their very own A Long Way to Kashmir first published on the very same "Official Live Bootleg". Along with Spiral (to be described below), the nearly-19-minute Shangri-La (i.e. Earthly Paradise) is one of the real highlights of this CD and is generally outstanding. By the way, the first third of this epic reproduces the spirit of Led Zeppelin's Kashmir much better than the 'cover' and can easily be regarded even as a variation on that song - well, with some hints of No Quarter. The only instrumental composition, Spiral, doesn't have any significant digressions from its original version, so I think it won't be a crime if I repeat the most essential of the words I used to express my initial vision of the piece's content. So, Spiral still reminds me in some ways of a three-storied building. The first floor is decorated with colors of King Crimson-stylized Minimalist music, the second with those darker referring to Doom Metal, and the last is the haven of symphonic Space Rock, each successive one looking more and more attractive. Finally to Island: this is classic Hard Rock with distinct progressive and symphonic tendencies, much in the style of Deep Purple's Child in Time.
Conclusion. What's most curious is that unlike any of Free Love's 'official bootlegs', I like most of their first fully-fledged album. In spite of... all! If driving, infectious, at times genuinely progressive Hard Rock belongs to your general musical preferences, "Apocalypse" will certainly afford you some wonderful moments of pleasure - even in the event it will be too much for you to bear Shibata's awful singing (which is beyond question though). Get a new singer, Free-lovers: this is the last warning!:-)
VM: November 15, 2006
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