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(67 min, Musea)
TRACK LIST: 1. Prelude 0:38 2. The Grand Pariah Lament 5:14 3. Oh Cosmic Pearl 8:35 4. Advent Rise 4:23 5. Scenario Triangular 11:57 6. The New Masters of My Body 2:38 7. I've Got Your Father's Phone-number 4:00 8. Guidance of Blinded Light 4:16 9. Chromatic Movement 7:02 10. The Mass 15:09 11. Upon the Plummeth 3:50 LINEUP: Jaakko Koikkalainen - bass, guitars; keyboards; vocals Atte Kurri - el & ac. guitars; keyboards; vocals Ilkka Saarikivi - keyboards; cello; b/vocals Ilkka Piispala - drums; keyboards; b/vocals
Prolusion. "Aramed Forces of Simantipak" is the second album by this young Finnish quartet named after the Great Russian composer (Aram) KHATSATURJAN. The review of their debut effort, "Aramsome Sums", can be read here.
Analysis. Excellent albums and masterworks are currently falling as if from a cornucopia, so I feel it is time to begin compiling my Top-20-2006. With this their new release, Khatsaturjan prove that their musical horizon is both wide and flexible. Like cards in the deck, several different styles are intermixed in most of these eleven compositions, coexisting surprisingly well with each other. The brief Prelude is in all senses inseparable from its follow-up, The Grand Pariah Lament, being indeed a choral-orchestral prelude to that piece, which in its turn is one of the two somewhat derivative sounding (yet still compelling) tracks on the album. In all, the band successfully intermix their own, pronouncedly personal style with some immediately recognizable devices from the legacy of Queen and Gentle Giant, the influences being striking for the main part only when all four musicians sing in chorus, which however is one of the hallmarks of their sound. The song's overall panorama displays progressive Hard Rock-related arrangements alternating with those alluding to vintage Symphonic Progressive, from time to time giving way to refined classically-inspired interplay between piano and cello, the phantom of the opera:-) floating nearly everywhere. On the next track, Oh Cosmic Pearl, the Gentle Giant influence is gone, but otherwise it's the same story overall. The number of intricate instrumental maneuvers is somewhat lesser, but this matter is well compensated for by the prolongation of classical-like interludes with a distinctly chamber sound, one of such standing out for its blazing acoustic guitar solos organically interlaced with piano and string ensemble. Chromatic Movement is structurally in many ways similar to The Grand Pariah Lament, and Guidance of Blinded Light, respectively, to Oh Cosmic Pearl, but each is less dependent on edgy guitar textures and, what's central, manifests far fewer resemblances with the group's benefactors. The latter remark is also relevant regarding the concluding piece, Upon the Plummeth, and it's track list counterpart, Prelude, the former representing certainly nothing else but a choral postlude. With the exception of the longest composition, The Mass (15:09), all the remaining ones are exceptionally, at times even glaringly original, all being highlights of the album in general, though just the said epic and The Grand Pariah Lament are also more than merely remarkable creations, despite their direct connection with some of the artifacts of the genre's past. Well, The New Masters of My Body, which is notable for the cello pizzicatos running all through it and has an old-fashioned tinge, is quite simple in comparison with the others, but shouldn't be discriminated against because of that. Accessibility can't be a compromising factor in this particular case, because this song is both unique and, still, progressive. Harpsichord, church organ, cello and bass are the principal soloing instruments on Advent Rise, which is a tremendously impressive blend of Baroque Classical music and Opera with occasional Art-Rock movements involving the entire quartet. The church organ retains one of the leading positions also on I've Got Your Father's Phone-number. The only instrumental piece, it brings the listener one of the most impressive examples of vintage symphonic Art-Rock made after the genre's heyday. It is really a pleasure to hear how skillfully the musicians accelerate their pace shortly before the finale. Generally, they play free-and-easily throughout (like those truly mature professionals who know their business inside out), while none of them is over 24! All in all, the winner here would be the 12-minute Scenario Triangular - a three-part suite, which is multi-sectional in reality, with numerous instrumental interludes. This is a real progressive killer, taking the listener on an exciting journey through all the styles present throughout the album 'in company' with all the instruments from the group's equipment list (all mentioned above in the review except for electric guitar, traditional organ and synthesizers).
Conclusion. I'll put it simply and unpretentiously. "Aramed Forces of Simantipak" is another masterpiece from these Finnish proGfessors-born, Khatsaturjan. However, the listener needn't be exactly a progfessor to catch their astonishing musical world. Highly recommended.
VM: September 17, 2006
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