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(60 min, 'Kurgan's Bane')
TRACK LIST: 1. I'm Alive 4:24 2. Override 4:35 3. Mirage 9:06 4. Surface 4:54 5. Asstro 3:47 6. Time Has Come 6:47 7. Signal to Noise 6:30 8. The Spectator 7:59 9. Regret 4:20 10. Martyr 7:53 LINEUP: Pete Laramee - guitars Jeff Laramee - drums Luis Nasser - basses Lisa Francis - vocals
Prolusion. "Camouflaged in Static" is the third album by KURGAN'S BANE from Maryland, USA. Some five years ago I became familiar with their previous CD "The Future Lies Broken" (2000, the review can be read here), but I haven't heard their debut release "Search from Sea to Sea" (1998). Apart from the bandleader Pete Laramee, all the other Kurgan's Bane musicians are simultaneously members of Sonus Umbra.
Analysis. With what Kurgan's Bane has arrived after a five-year hiatus is a mixed bag, revealing a solid improvement in the department of composition on the one hand and showing that some inveterate problems still remain unsolved on the other. I appreciated Lisa Francis's singing on Sonus Umbra's latest, "Digging for Zeroes", but I still assert that she is certainly not in her element here, in Kurgan's Bane. Her vocals are too melodic for such music. Furthermore, they look just feeble in the face of crunchy guitar riffs, which form much of the trademark Kurgan's Bane sound, destroying rather than supporting its power. It would be tolerably if Lisa and Jeff Laramee would alternate in singing (in softer and harsher moments respectively), as they do in Sonus Umbra, and yet Jeff, whose dynamic voice would excellently suit this music, is out of play for some reason. The only straightforward opus, I'm Alive, representing traditional Hard Rock, was aptly used as the album's opener, though overall, such a trick could have become really effective perhaps only at those happy seventies. All nine of the other tracks are a moderately complex Prog-Metal with elements of Art-Rock, which is by far not devoid of originality, but whose overall structural characteristics are hardly much different from those typical for Rush (who have just initiated the implied direction), and even Lisa sometimes sings much like Geddy Lee. The songs: Override, Surface, Time Has Come, Signal to Noise, Regret and Martyr are much in the same vein, though the latter has a pronounced symphonic sense in addition, being abundant in lush passages of synthesizer. Although keyboards aren't credited, they can be heard on several tracks, and I am certain it was Luis Nasser who played them. The instrumental arrangements are always diverse and interesting, but quite frankly, it's beyond my power to properly perceive those developing alongside the vocals, so only those coming independently really impress me. So not surprisingly, my favorite tracks (and I believe they're just the best tracks here) turned out to be The Spectator, on which the number of vocal and instrumental sections is approximately equal, the largely instrumental Mirage, on which the band has reached their progressive apogee, and Asstro, the only instrumental piece.
Conclusion. "Camouflaged in Static" is definitely better than "The Future Lies Broken" and is most likely the best Kurgan's Bane effort to date, although these are quite abstract concepts in themselves. Alas, the improvement is striking only on the instrumental level. In its overall appearance, this is a merely good album at best, above all due to the incompatibility of vocals and music.
VM: January 14, 2006
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