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(69 min, Musea)
TRACK LIST: 1. Anakroussis 4:07 2. Oenops Pontos 6:08 3. Lotus Eaters 6:26 4. Polyphemus 6:58 5. Circe 7:05 6. Tiresias 5:01 7. Nissos Sirinon 9:11 8. Scylla & Charybdis 7:26 9. Calypso 7:16 10. Phaeacia 3:54 11. Ithaca 5:26 LINEUP: Alix - piano, organ, synthesizers Hyde - bass; synthesizers Ima - vocals Kostas Savvides - guitars Nick Kassavetis - drums
Prolusion. LA TULIPE NOIRE (Black Tulip) hails from Greece, having already grown out of that country's small local progressive garden. The band's discography includes four full-length albums to date, namely "In the Gates of Dream" (1996), "Shattered Images" (1999), "Faded Leaves" (2002) and "Nostimon Hemar" (2006, review below:-). Apart from these two, I am acquainted with their second CD: it was reissued in Russia by MALS. Cold about it, as it's heavily derivative.
Analysis. "Nostimon Hemar" is a concept album; the lyrics are based on Homer's ageless poem "The Odyssey", as well as some recent writings retelling the adventures of the eponymous Greek hero as if through the prism of a contemporary world with all its problems. Upon the initial listening the music also seem to be stylistically unified, but later on some peculiarities reveal themselves. The opening track Anakroussis is the only instrumental in the program and is also the one featuring a drum machine apart from an acoustic drum kit. The music is somber and anxious, a sort of atmospheric Ambient with elements of Gothic and symphonic Neo, leaving a sense of mystery and shade. The two songs that follow this promising beginning, Oenops Pontos and Lotus Eaters, bear nothing unexpected however, being the works of a plain, vocal-heavy theatric Neo with only three different vocal lines and a not-too-rich instrumental background. Thankfully, singer Ima's new vocal image is absolutely unique; she now uses her quite low-pitched voice in probably the best possible and, at the same time, most original way. While keyboardist Alix is still unable to fully break with the past, shining with inventiveness when playing organ, but imitating Marillion's Mark Kelly when switching over to synthesizer. Kostas Savvides's guitar work is the most disappointing, as he plays in a typically Nu Metal manner. In other words, the guitar riffs are straightforward, serving exclusively as chords to accentuate the primary storyline, and no guitar solos! While paying homage to fashion one normally forgets anything but the object of his longing, but thankfully, Kostas's riffing is more diverse on the subsequent tracks, although a lack of guitar solos is felt almost everywhere on the album, the exceptions from this rule being named below. The last four songs are similar stylistically to the first two, but are more diverse on the pan-musical level, plus featuring refined instrumental interludes (mainly interplay between acoustic guitar and piano), whose brevity is well compensated for by their relative multiplicity. Scylla & Charybdis and Calypso are as pronouncedly dramatic in mood as all the other pieces, save Phaeacia and Ithaca, which conclude the story, both being performed up-tempo. The former is moderately affirmative. The other is notable for a mixed operatic choir and marching drums. Certainly, it's heroically anthemic in character - and how could it have been done otherwise? The chosen conception demands a happy ending, no matter that it's quite stale already. The most interesting compositions are all located at the album's core. Polyphemus and Circe are those two that find Kostas at times demonstrating his solid possibilities as a lead guitarist too, and by the way, only these contain what normally conforms to the concept of instrumental sections, i.e. more or less large-scaled instrumental maneuvers. The innovative idea outlined on the opening instrumental has been carried to perfection here, bringing together Symphonic Neo, heavy Gothic and something darkly atmospheric. Still, the shadows of Marillion and Nightwish peep out in places, but most of the music breathes freshness. Tiresias and Nissos Sirinon follow and steer a similar course, only with a lesser amount of purely instrumental arrangements.
Conclusion. "By Neo proggers for Neo lovers with loving care" would've been an apt epigraph for "Nostimon Hemar". The tendency to find more identity the band first revealed on "Faded Leaves" has found its successful continuation here, though it didn't do so without a fly in the ointment. Of course, I take pokes at the guitarist due to his turn to the Nu Metal style. Sincerely recommended, but only to those whom I've mentioned.
VM: July 20, 2006
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