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(48:05, Zeta Factory Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Too Much Is Not Enough 0:33 2. Build Your Destiny 4:43 3. What Is Underneath 4:44 4. Driving Force 8:37 5. Gilded Cage 3:25 6. Gift of Life 6:41 7. Time Travel 3:21 8. Eclipse 12:14 9. I Am 3:47 LINEUP: Ivan Mihaljevic – vocals; guitars; programming Majkl Jagunic – bass; vocals Alen Frljak – drums; vocals With: Ivan Husnjak – keyboards Jura Herceg – contrabass Ivan Zecevic – violin Ana Batinica – flutes &: Several additional singers
Prolusion. Croatian composer and multi-instrumentalist Ivan MIHALJEVIC is fast approaching becoming a veteran in the Croatian rock scene with almost a decade as an active musician, despite still a few years shy of reaching thirty years of age. Best known as a member of hard rock band Hard Time, but also with a solo career that people have started taking notice of. "Counterclockwise" is his third solo production, and was released towards the end of 2012 on the Zeta Factory label.
Analysis. At this point in time it looks like Mihaljevic solo career has developed into more of a true to life band effort. This is the second album to be released as Ivan Mihaljevic & Side Effects, and this time around the end result also comes across as a purebred band effort through and through. The musicianship is tight and solid throughout, and each instrumentalist comes across as vital to the proceedings as a whole too. As with Mihaljevic' previous outings this production does cover a fair bit of different musical ground. Not all of it appeals to the dedicated progressive rock or metal fan, I suspect, but the material is rock solid throughout. Gentle acoustic based excursions like Too Much Is Not Enough and Gilded Cage are just as well conceived and executed as the excursions into harder edged and metal-oriented landscapes like Build Your Destiny and Gift of Life. On What Is Underneath I got associations towards early 90's Red Hot Chili Peppers, in an accessible and positive manner, I might add. Mihaljevic' skills as a lead vocalist are arguably the most vital element here; his voice is able to carry and elevate the material to good effect. Powerful, melodic vocals are always in tune and just about always opting for the perfect delivery for the material at hand. He's skilled enough in this department to be able to leave the guitar behind and carry on as a lead vocalist only at this point, in my opinion, if the thought should ever cross his mind. Still, he's perhaps even better as a guitarist, able to create and deliver effective riff patterns and stunning guitar soloing with the same apparent ease, and experienced enough to know when there's room for virtuosi showmanship and when it's more suitable for a more careful delivery. And in Jagunic and Frljak he's got an impressive rhythm department to support him, both of them able and willing to add details that further enrich the compositions. Personally I was most intrigued by the compositions where Mihaljevic and company opted to explore material of a somewhat more complex nature. Rather unsurprisingly I guess, due to where this review is published. Epic length Eclipse, with its myriad of smooth and elegant shifts in pace and intensity, is a song that should interest fans of progressive rock and metal alike even if the arrangements may be a bit less sophisticated than what fans of progressive music in general are accustomed to. But with Driving Force this crowd should be pleased in just about all departments. From the initial movements indicating a somewhat traditional hard rock number to the successive developments towards becoming a magnificent, sophisticated venture sporting tantalizing arrangements and structural finesses aplenty. A creation that just keeps growing in interest as it develops towards a fairly logical and perfect conclusion. I should also add that "Counterclockwise" is a thematic, conceptual production, and the individual songs are parts of a suite – not regular standalone songs as such. And despite the diversity of this album, the various parts all fit quite nicely into this context.
Conclusion. Ivan Mihaljevic & Side Effects have made themselves a fine album with "Counterclockwise". Well made, produced and performed material ranging from hard rock to metal in style, with occasional art rock flourishes and a few instances of purebred progressive rock and metal outings too. An accessible album that demands and deserves a mainstream audience interest, but with enough sophisticated details to be of interest also to fans of progressive rock and progressive metal. A CD well worth investigating, in particular by those who tend to fancy sophisticated yet accessible hard rock and metal in general.
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