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TRACK LIST: 1. Balrog Wakes Up 1:37 2. Balrog Dance 5:17 3. The Second World-1 4:48 4. The Second World-2 5:06 5. The Second World-3 6:11 6. Armattan 6:37 7. Gedwey Ignacia 3:28 8. The Sandcrawler-I 1:07 9. The Sandcrawler-II 7:27 10. Pasta Solo 3:08 11. Dark Bull 10:28 LINEUP: Jimmy Palagrosi – drums; vocals Mathieu Spacier – el. & ac. guitars; sampling With: Manu Vallognes – bass Fabrice Roboutot – keyboards Elvina Fredout – violins (4, 5, 6)
Prolusion. Hailing from France, KSIZ is basically a duo of Jimmy Palagrosi on drums and vocals and Mathieu Spacier on guitars. Self-released, “Sandcrawler” is their debut outing and is distributed worldwide via Musea Records.
Analysis. Although the CD booklet suggests Jimmy Palagrosi shares the duties of a drummer and a singer, there are neither vocals nor even vocalizations on “Sandcrawler” as a matter of fact, from which it logically arises that this is a full-instrumental effort. Of the side participants, bassist Manu Vallognes and keyboardist Fabrice Roboutot play on most of the eleven tracks here, while violinist Elvina Fredout’s contribution to the album is only evident on those that I have put into brackets after her name in the lineup above. The project’s main men list Dream Theater, Liquid Tension Experiment and Planet X as their primary benefactors, specifically mentioning that the music has a strong jazz-rock feeling throughout the album. In reality, however, there’s plenty here to please traditional prog-metal fans as well, some of the tracks having nothing to do with the aforesaid idiom at all. For example, the first two full-blown compositions, Balrog Dance and The Second World-I, never exceed the bounds of symphonic Prog-Metal. Both for the most part appear as slightly simplified takes on Dream Theater circa “Awake”, though I also hear nods to Joe Satriani or, to be more precise, elements of the so called ‘guitar-hero’ style, those being available on quite a few of the other tracks too (won’t be back to this topic below). At their most progressive, the pieces lean on heavy riffs and fast, masterly, guitar and synthesizer licks which are well supported by the tight and metrically complex work of the rhythm section. There are even some vintage, symphonic hard rock-evoking passages of Hammond and Roland-sounding keyboards on each, as well as on The Sandcrawler-II and Dark Bull, both of which only once enter the realm of Jazz-Fusion, otherwise steering in the same stylistic direction as those two aforementioned tracks do. The four described compositions are all quite impressive, but the standouts are the other four, The Second World-II, -III, Armattan and Gedwey Ignacia. Following each other right at the album’s core, all these can overall be classified as ‘classic’ modern Prog-Metal with approximately an equal quantity of composed and quasi-improvised solos (or purely symphonic and jazz-stylized ones, if you will), though within their – not numerous in most cases – sections with softer arrangements each only evokes Jazz-Fusion, occasionally with some funky smack. The first three of the pieces all feature the violinist (I regret she doesn’t play everywhere on the recording), who fairly often shines at the fore there, Armattan bringing to mind a crossover between Dream Theater, Kansas and The Mahavishnu Orchestra-when-touching-on-Indian music. The somewhat odd tracks are the shortest ones, Balrog Wakes Up, The Sandcrawler-I and Pasta Solo, of which the first two (the cuts both finding the guitar player eliciting various sounds and effects from his axe :-) can be taken as intros to their respective successors, while the latter – an excellent, 3-minute, drum solo as it is – looks to a certain extent like a foreign body here, since, while being a typically concert trick, it is presented as a separate composition.
Conclusion. “Pushing the boundaries of symphonic Prog-Metal by means of Jazz-Fusion” would overall be a fine epigraph for this effort. Of course, the project’s originators play a very large role in its success, but nonetheless their debut benefits above all from a solid group resonance. The only matter that prevents me from giving it a six star rating is that a few of the pieces have a slight plastic sense – because of the use of a drum machine on those. In all, “Sandcrawler” comes recommended with minor reservations.
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