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(44:35, Musea Parallele Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. My Soul is Gone 6:32 2. Dead Sea 6:35 3. A Thousand Realities 5:16 4. A Life in Rock Minor 6:31 5. The Road of Loneliness 8:00 6. Big Ear 2:22 7. Wrong 6:07 8. My Soul is Back 3:08 LINEUP: Roberto Aguilera – keyboards; programming Jose-Antonio Serrano – el. & ac. guitars Marcos Garrote – el. bass Jesus Gansido – drums Javier Lostal – vocals
Prolusion. Although this Spanish band, HANNAH, has been in existence since 2002, “A Life in Rock Mirror” is only their first CD, released this last March through Musea Parallele, one of those branches of Musea Records whose artists themselves bear expenses for the production of their creations. Originally one of the two ‘jazzy’ divisions of the company (along with Great Winds), Parallele seems to have completely lost its corresponding specificity now. All the outings that issued from the precincts of this sub-label during the last ten months touch a variety of progressive rock styles, save for the jazz-related one.
Analysis. When finding in the press release that those behind it sound like one or another well known act, the innocent listener might easily take such comparisons as truth, but the experienced one, especially if he or she is a reviewer, will likely want to check them up on their viability. In this particular case, Hannah are being compared to Dream Theater and Echolyn, which I will dare to call in question, as in my humble opinion this band’s main inspiration comes from Magellan. No, these Spaniards don’t travel the very same terrain as Trent Gardner’s vehicle does, besides which their music is not devoid of originality, but nonetheless a certain creative kinship between the outfits does exist and is evident on all the eight tracks here, at least in places, except for the concluding piece My Soul is Back. However, this instrumental contextually appears like a foreign body on this recording, since there are nothing besides piano chords and occasional Mellotron-like drones, not counting the imitation of the stylus’s scratch that pursues the listener throughout the cut – quite a clumsy attempt to plunge him into the aura of vinyl. The best tracks here, My Soul is Gone, Wrong and Big Ear, each come across as a set of thematically well-compiled musical vignettes that, while differing between each other on many levels, create an amazingly coherent picture, the players being always resourceful, while supporting the singing in particular (well, Big Ear features no vocals). By alternating the angry, aggressive prog-metal-like movements with mixed ones with quite a few digital as well as analog-sounding keyboards to smooth over the edginess of the raging riffs, and also with at once non-heavy and less deeply-layered arrangements, the band – whether advisedly or not – in many ways follows the approach Magellan used on “Impending Ascension”, their second and probably best album, standing out for its quasi futuristic feeling also. The presence of some mechanical-like narratives, but especially three-voice chorals, further intensifies a sense of the similarity between Hannah and the American band. There’s a lot of dynamic interplay between keyboardist Roberto Aguilera and guitarist Jose-Antonio Serrano, who in most cases share the lead equally between them, within all sections regardless of their stylistic or structural nature. Bassist Marcos Garrote provides a rich bottom end, from time to time joining the main soloists at the fore. Jesus Gansido is a monster behind the drum kit, though all the tracks with a full-band sound contain also the parts of programmed drums, which is yet another connection between you know whom. Javier Lostal’s voice is unlike Trent Gardner’s, but anyway there is definitely a common ground between the two singers, above all because their vocal delivery is strongly associated with storytelling, which is quite a distinctive manner, isn’t it? The lyrics are in English and are usually comprehensible, though you’ll pay no heed to their relative thematic scantiness only when listening to the aforesaid songs, due to their high diversity on all angles. Dead Sea, A Thousand Realities and the title track follow much the same path as the described ones, all still from time to time reaching their level, while being overall a bit more streamlined and at the same time less heavy. The Road of Loneliness is reminiscent of the disc’s primary style only during its final instrumental section, otherwise flowing much more fluidly, in a balladic manner. Compared to the other basic compositions, it comes across as lacking in energy, but it has its own virtues and is a fairly sophisticated piece considering its stylistic trend.
Conclusion. Like Magellan’s, those structures in Hannah’s music that evoke Prog-Metal are rather progressive Hard Rock with a sharp modern sound, which still reveals quite complex, mobile instrumentation rich in theme, pace and mood shifts. Most of the tracks here have generally quite an intricate quality to them, just with less going on in terms of both diversity and technique, when compared with Dream Theater in particular. Considering all its pros and cons, I find “A Life in Rock Mirror” to be a solid, but not essential album, most of which should satisfy fans of bombastic (yet not pyrotechnic) contemporary Progressive at the turn of the genre’s two most widespread styles.
VM: June 6, 2008
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