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(64:02, Mellow Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Signo de los Timpos 4:35 2. La Gesta del Poder 5:17 3. Epico 5:51 4. El Canto del Noctambulo 7:26 5. Dieciseis Lirios de Eternidad 4:37 6. Jean Jaures 3:30 7. Su Mision 5:38 8. La Bestia 5:12 9. El Hombre del Bosque 4:06 10. Un Sabor Amargo 6:01 11. Pigards por Mi 7:01 12. Against the World Again 4:21 LINEUP: Octavio Stampalia – keyboards, piano; vocals Marcelo Ezcurra – lead vocals; guitars Christian Collaizo – drums Marcelo Vacarro – bass With: Gerardo Ackerman – flutes, saxophone, bagpipe Pablo Roboti – el. & ac. guitars; accordion Daniela Quintero – vocals Carlos Flores – vocals
Prolusion. JINETES NEGROS is the brainchild of Argentinean songwriter and keyboardist Octavio Stampalia, the band’s name (Black Riders) being derived from “The Black Rider”, the poem by Nene D'Inzeo, which inspired Octavio to write lyrics as well as music. Following the self-titled Jinetes Negros debut (2000) and “Cronos” (2002), “Omniem” is the third album by them, and is their first release on Italy’s Mellow Records, while previously the group had a deal with their native label Viajero Inmovil. Stampalia has one more outing to his credit: the Anima album of the same name from 1989.
Analysis. Bravo! “Omniem” finds the band expanding their original style, instead of ‘developing’ the more commercial approach that typifies their second disc, so this new Jinetes Negros recording appears to be a solid step forward compared even to their debut, let alone “Cronos”. Upon initial listening it may seem that the band is following faithfully the rules they worked out while making their first album, still presenting a blend of Symphonic Progressive, Hard Rock and light Classical music with quasi-operatic vocals, whereas in fact “Omniem” is a more varied musical affair, involving also a number of folksy elements, some bits of Jazz-Fusion, and more, some of the twelve tracks present having nothing to do with the hard aesthetic :-), some with the classical one. What is typical of Jinetes Negros is that their traditional prog-rock maneuvers are often joined by a virtual symphonic orchestra that includes a variety of synthetic, yet quite realistic-sounding string and brass instruments. The orchestral pads and arrangements in general are used on many of the pieces, in most cases highly effectively, not only serving as a harmonic foundation for the other instruments, but also playing a primary role in the arrangements, from time to time reproducing well the spirit of the late-romantic period. I have no idea whether this long CD exists as a double LP also, but the first and the seventh track, Signo de los Timpos and Su Mision, are both obviously designed as opening numbers. Only here, the orchestral arrangements consist almost exclusively of ‘fanfares’ and are filled with a flashy heroic feeling, which at times carries these two quite far beyond the realms of serious progressive rock music. To be more precise, none appear to be really bad, far from it, but compared to the rest of the material, they’re so ordinary, repetitive and derivative (in the style of early Ayreon) that, well, I had to deprive the recording of a masterwork status. There are three more tunes that are instantly accessible: La Gesta del Poder, Dieciseis Lirios de Eternidad and La Bestia all symphonic Hard Rock, the last two in its vintage mould with no orchestrations utilized. However, all are stamped with signs of magic, which makes them an engaging listen even after a few repeated plays. On quite a few of the tracks the band’s characteristic instrumentation is supplemented with woodwinds, courtesy of the guest musician Gerardo Ackerman, his flute playing one of the key roles on the semi-epic Pigards por Mi, and also on all three of the instrumental pieces, Epico, El Hombre Del Bosque and Jean Jaures. These four are brilliant compositions, the first three consisting of classically-inspired Symphonic Progressive (with some hints of both “The Myths & Legends of King Arthur & the Knights of the Round Table” by Rick Wakeman and Camel’s “The Snow Goose”), while the last one blends the same style with Gaelic traditional music. Despite being for the most part slow-paced, El Canto del Noctambulo, Un Sabor Amargo and Against the World Again each appear as a multi-part opus, with a lot of alterations to its several different storylines, involving probably all the declared acoustic instruments – see lineup above for details. The last of these stands out for its really unique combination of different folksy colorations, one of which belongs to the ethos of South American Indians, and another to European culture. I’m sure it's only there as a bonus track for being the sole tune with English lyrics, and I must tell you these Spaniards, er Argentineans’ pronunciation of the language, though not perfect, is much better than plenty of bands that are well-known for what I mean. Marcelo Ezcurra‘s vocals are powerful and emotional, but they can take a lot of different shapes, depending on the moment so to speak: from theatric to deeply-dramatic to soaring to (occasionally) near-growling, which in combination with a supporting choir gives the recording a feeling of a true Rock Opera.
Conclusion. Despite the relative simplicity of basic constructions of the many tracks here, more than half of compositions reveal true depth, as they’re arranged in such a way that there is usually enough space for soloing for all the instruments involved, which often leads to the creation of multiple melodic lines simultaneously. Recommended.
VM: May 14, 2008
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