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(78:16, 10T Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Perfect Place 4:04 2. Parallels 20:01 3. Desert Circle 16:13 4. Bell of the Earth 3:16 5. Taken 18:10 6. Influence of Time 11:49 7. Perfect Love 4:40 LINEUP: Vitaly Popeloff – el., ac. & fretless guitars; vocals Albert Khalmurzayev – keyboards; vibraphone Igor Elizov – keyboards, grand piano Ali Izmailov – drums, marimba Surat Kasimov – basses
Prolusion. The 7-track “Seventh Story” is the third release by Uzbekistan’s FROM.UZ. It’s beyond me, why it received the title it did – instead of “Seven Stories”, as was originally planned. Nobody was fired from the band, but its current lineup only features two founding members. These are Vitaly Popeloff and Albert Khalmurzayev, while the other two, Andrew Mara-Novik and Vladimir Badirov, both recently moved to Kazakhstan (for living, along with their families), hence the appearance of a dot in the outfit’s name: between From and Uz, to be more precise. Before turning to write a review as such, I’d like to note that it will for the most part be critical – as a friend, I simply must point out to the band its flaws. On the other hand, let me assure you, dear readers, that the CD has a lot of virtues as well. However, the writing will be extremely long if I list all of those, also.
Analysis. “Seventh Story” is FromUz’s first creation that is entirely composed by Popeloff, whereas previously, the main songwriting duties have been shared between him and Khalmurzayev. This is also the group’s first effort to feature vocals, all the lyrics being penned by Vitaly’s son Evgeny (who has his own band Termin Vox). I would have not concentrated attention on these things if they had not influenced the sound here, whereas they do and are at times really crucial to that. For instance, the disc’s opening and concluding track, Perfect Place and Perfect Love, respectively, can only arouse associations with Pink Floyd. On both, the vocal sections are moulded upon Pigs on the Wing (yeah, a two-part song that “Animals” begins and finishes with), and the ‘instrumental’ ones consist of effects, all the kinds of which presented have for the first time been used by the English space-rock pioneers, too. Thankfully, the rest of the material reveals comparatively few vocals, as those leave much to be desired – everywhere they are. Bell of the Earth, a rather plain instrumental with only keyboards deployed, isn’t reminiscent of what we have normally come to expect from this outfit, either. BTW, I was more than once reminded of the triangle from the cover of “Dark Side of the Moon” when played “Seventh Story” for the second time. Why? Partly because the last-named piece is located right in the album’s core while the other two are its ‘frontier’ tracks, partly due to the fact that the Pink Floyd influence is quite widely spread here in general. It’s to be found in all of the other compositions, also – along with Vitaly’s guitar histrionics as well as radio voices and the like far-fetched, well, fillers. (Personally I think effects should only be marginally used in music; otherwise my nature simply rebels against those, reacting to them almost the same way as it does to medicinal side effects.) The remaining four tracks, Parallels, Taken, Desert Circle and Influence of Time, are all of epic length, but nevertheless, only the first two appear as true epics/suites, all the sections of which are properly linked between themselves – at times via the vocal bridges. Overall, both can be highly recommended to adherents of symphonic Prog-Metal, albeit the riffing structure on Taken more often suggests prog-tinged Hard Rock than the former style. This is not everything, though. Please also bear in mind that, as mentioned above, Pink Floyd-evoking art-meets-space rock landscapes (where typically Gilmour-esque guitar solos from time to time give way to Satriani-stylized ones) are a common feature with all of the longer pieces, covering no less than one fifth of each. The instrumentals Desert Circle and Influence of Time, in turn, appeal for the most part to fans of Jazz-Fusion as well as prog-metal lovers, though on the other hand, theirs stylistically odd nature might scare some, if not many, listeners off. The fact is that the jazz elements (or the jazz-based arrangements, if you will) and those belonging to other genres seem to exist in different dimensions, instead of being smoothly intermixed among themselves – for instance, like those on “Overlook”, the band’s most integral and compelling effort to date. The Influence of Time reveals four sections that are stylistically too conflicting to be placed within the same track, two of those – a brilliant, plus rather long Flamenco-inspired move (whish, though, is somewhat marred by the “hey-hey” exclamations, delivered in a jovial way) and a standard swingy one – following one another. Not everything went off smoothly in this release’s soloing ‘department’ either. Despite the presence of two keyboardists, quite a few, hmm, corresponding leads sound strictly in unison (i.e. not even in 4th or 5th) with the guitarist’s ones, making me think it’s still Vitaly who provides those, too: by deploying MIDI devices. Of course, I may be wrong to assume so, but, anyhow, a lack of an equal foil for the keyboards often reduces the album to a one man show.
Conclusion. A simple calculation gives the following results. About one fifth of this (extremely long – 78:16) CD doesn’t excite me as a listener at all. About three fifths of it contains high-quality progressive music, some of which is exquisitely complex. All in all, if the recording had lasted for some 47 minutes I would have given it a six-star rating – yet without the exclamation mark, as it comes across to a much greater degree as Popelloff’s solo effort than a band one, at least compared to their previous work. So I rated “Seventh Story” as a merely good outing, despite all its virtues.
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