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(69:32, Musea Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. A Rhyme of a Dime 4:33 2. Reality Escapade Saga 6:07 3. Herculean 18:32 4. Present Here and Now 4:11 5. Dusk 5:46 6. Claims of No Can Do 4:02 7. The Tunnel 16:02 8. Travels Led by Chance 4:19 LINEUP: Atte Kurri – guitars; vocals Ilkka Piispala – drums; vocals Jaakko Koikkalainen – bass; vocals Ilkka Saarikivi – keyboards; vocals With: Matti Muraja – violin; vocals (8)
Prolusion. Following "Aramsome Sums" (2003) and "Aramed Forces of Simantipak" (2006), “Disconcerto Grosso” is the third album by the Finnish quartet, named after the Great Russian composer (Aram) KHATSATURJAN. It was released a year and a half ago, but has somehow :-) dropped out of my review queue, for which I’m sorry, seriously. The band’s lineup has been stable all over the years of its existence.
Analysis. “Disconcerto Grosso” is a brainchild of the very same four musicians, who are recorded the band’s first two albums, but there is a huge difference between those and this one, which is vocal-heavy, the music being influenced not only by prog and rock sources, but also by AOR ones, and, save a few brief interludes, there are no traces of classic, vintage-like, Sympho Prog that typifies Khatsaturjan’s previous phase of work. Many of the instrumental arrangements bring to mind Neo Art-Rock with elements of Metal – an approach that is adopted by such modern bands as Arena and Pallas, to name two of quite a few. However, the standard, mainstream-like, song structures and so-called vocal hooks, choir ones included, are also to be found here, each of the players using his voice, so to speak, to the fullest now. Yes, the singing is what makes the album at once most atypical and distinctive. The Gentle Giant influence is out of the band’s vocal palette – completely, whilst the Queen one rules near-throughout (think harmony vocals and vocal harmonies alike), no matter that these guys’ voices are lower in timbre than those of the Englishmen. On the other hand, the album as such, i.e. the entire thing, doesn’t appear as a fully cohesive musical canvas. Let’s begin with the longest of its tracks-components, Herculean. This 19-minute opus is not ‘your’ typical epic composition, nor is it epic in general. Here, we’ll find several comparatively little, as if self-contained, musical entities that aren’t too properly linked with each other. What is more, some of them will come to a complete finish before the next begins, after a pause, depriving the piece of cohesion, and making the listener wonder whether the track has ended or not. Strengthening the problem is a relative flatness to the music overall, meaning within the vocal sections. (After they stop singing, the men play rather diversely, all of which seems to be designed by them so as to be easier to control the proceedings during their live performances). At first their choir singing has a certain charming quality to it, but soon it gets rather boring, since only two or three vocal themes are, say, deployed per tune, each being repeated for a few times. To be objective, there are certainly some cohesive sections, a couple of which are comparatively long, but any truly intriguing, highly progressive arrangements are quite scarce. This track in many ways mirrors what occurs on/to the whole thing, which, although doesn’t appear to be compositionally inconsistent, such as the ‘epic’ does, is very motley in style. Instrumentally, the album’s first two tracks, A Rhyme of a Dime and Reality Escapade Saga, lie for the most part within the neo-prog domain. Present Here and Now and Travels Led by Chance are both simple-minded AOR songs, even though the latter piece features an additional instrument, violin, as one of the leading voices. Finally, the remaining three tracks, The Tunnel, Dusk and Claims of No Can Do (which strictly follow each other), all musically have a glaring, somewhat provoking, similarity to Queen, sounding almost like tributes to the English band. Of course, the group’s playing skill is still present. The guitar riffing and soloing are nice; the piano parts are effective, especially when the solos start; the rhythm section is indeed capable, and all of the vocals are performed professionally. Creatively, however, I find the album to be in many ways a failure – not as much because of the band’s decision to simplify (I’d even say commercialize) its music as due to the fact that it loses its identity while paying homage to you know whom.
Conclusion. Still well remembering Khatsaturjan’s previous two albums, both of which are masterworks of classic Symphonic Progressive, I had a strange feeling when listening to this anthem to Queen and Neo (and beyond or, rather, below), especially since the band’s lineup is still the same. From a classic progressive viewpoint, there is little of interest here, though I think it is a merely good effort at best even by neo-prog standards.
VM=Vitaly Menshikov: July 5, 2011
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