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Little Tragedies - 2006 - "New Faust"

(110 min 2CD, MALS)


******!

Prolusion. One of the central dramatic personae of Russia's contemporary progressive scene, LITTLE TRAGEDIES are already quite well known to the international progressive audience, and their previous album "Return" (2003/2005) received a solid success in corresponding circles and was critically acclaimed as well. "New Faust" (and this is a double CD album) is their third official release. Their debut CD, "Porcelain Pavilion", was issued in 1999 via the joint Russian-Czech recording company Boheme Music. The same label should have brought out their second studio offering "Sun of the Spirit", but went bankrupt (unfortunately) shortly before the release. I have no idea why this material still hasn't seen the light of day as a fully-fledged CD production.

Disc 1 (52 min)
******!

TRACK LIST:

1.  Epigraph 4:07
2.  Prolog 2:43
3.  The Prophets 12:21
4.  Tired of Being Among People 5:41
5.  Two Demons 28:03

LINEUP:

Gennady Ilyin - keyboards; vocals
Alexander Malakhovsky - guitars
Yuri Skripkin - drums
Oleg Babynin - bass
Alexander Bildin - saxophone

Analysis. As is typical for their latest creation in general, "New Faust" finds Little Tragedies using a traditional Art-Rock instrumentation plus saxophone. That said, the five musicians whose names you can see in the lineup above have already worked together for more than four years. As usual, the band's founder keyboardist Gennady Ilyin has not only penned all the music for "New Faust", but also performs all the lead vocal parts, still in his native Russian. It would've been strange had it been otherwise, as the lyrics used are still nothing else but the verses of Nikolay Gumilyov, to whose poetry Gennady has been turning since the very outset of the group's activity. The lyrics seem to be perfectly fitting for the album's musical content, which though is no novelty for the creations of Little Tragedies either. The band plays in a very personal style, and the material doesn't contain even the slightest traces of derivativeness, although no one would disclaim the fact that in their creation, Little Tragedies are guided by English '70s Progressive Rock, Classical music and Russian romance in general and are inspired by the works of Musorgsky, Tchaikovsky, Glinka, Bach, Beethoven, ELP and Yes in particular. The recording starts off with the passages from J. S. Bach's St. Matthew Passion performed by an orchestra (unmentioned in the CD booklet), to whose accompaniment Gennady narrates about the annihilation of mankind and a few enigmatic/charismatic personas, the only ones to survive. So, Epigraph is dark in all senses, and by the way, this is the only piece on the album performed without the participation of the band. Then follows the short, yet really killing instrumental Prolog - a quintessential Baroque Prog-Metal, while listening to which I felt like I've run into heavy weather. I must tell you most of the tracks on "New Faust" have a quite disturbing and angry sound, whose heaviness is caused by the roaring keyboards to a greater extent than by the crushing guitar riffing and the shattering rhythm section. Tired of Being Among the People is full of both a deep sorrow and a wonderful beauty, telling the story of a man who'd lost trust, his friends, and any sense in existence. Nonetheless these are certainly the two epics: The Prophets and Two Demons that form the true progressive nucleus of the first disc, and by the way, their total duration exceeds 40 minutes. Both are genuine suites replete with numerous different sections, all being filled with exquisite, highly sophisticated arrangements and featuring everything necessary for you to have many happy returns to this album and never get tired of it. The music is unique, and yet I will take liberties to list some works as rough points of comparisons. Then The Prophets would be a kind of crossover of Yes's Perpetual Change, Jerusalem by ELP, Uriah Heep's Paradise and Home by Dream Theater. In the case of Two Demons, I would name Close To The Edge, Karn Evil 9, Salisbury and A Change Of Seasons by the same bands, respectively. The emotional palette is like a rainbow, but the light colors are prevalent.

Disc 2 (58 min)
******!

TRACK LIST: 

1.  The Sabbath 3:50
2.  Margarita 2:43
3.  Confutatis 3:31
4.  Transition 13:11
5.  Cup of Life 6:43
6.  In Anticipation of Christmas 4:51
7.  Arabesque 1:57
8.  Eternal 15:32
9.  You Will Remember Me One Day 6:04

Analysis. The music on Disc 2 is stylistically more diverse, while the mood is much more often black and depressive. Despite its title, most of the music on The Sabbath reminds me of a high-society joyfully reckless feast in XIX Century St. Petersburg or Moscow, though there is always something chilling in Russian parties involving plentiful drinking-bouts. Such a substance is reflected in this music, but not everybody will be able to catch it before the finale, which seems only to be illogically tragic. The heavy/gothic Confutatis has a good deal in common with Prolog from the first disc. In Anticipation of Christmas and Arabesque, following one another in the CD's second half, are airy (fairy!) instrumental tracks lying not far away from those Steve Hackett used to pave during his earlier solo journeys. Margarita and Cup Of Life are melancholic ballads, the latter displaying Alexander Malakhovskiy's excellent command of classical guitar. Both the epics, Transition and Eternal, are musically in many ways similar to their 'brothers in length' from the first disc, but the atmosphere here is much more dramatic and somber, at least overall. Transition repeats the vocal line that is present on The Prophets, but the instrumental canvases are totally different. The album ends with the piano-laden anthem You Will Remember Me One Day.

Conclusion. I hope it won't be criminal if I conclude telling my attitude towards "New Faust" with somewhat emotional utterances. The sound is pristine if not just crystal-clear; the composition is excellent; the arrangements are consummate, the singing is both professional and very heartfelt; the musicianship of each of the band members is first-class, and their joint performance is sharp-cut in every respect. I am not the one to wave my patriotic feeling like a flag, especially if it should go to the detriment of truth, so I assure you, dear readers, all these expressions are sincere. Strongly recommended to all categories of progressive music lovers, save probably only those exclusively into Jazz.

VM: June 14 & 15, 2006


Related Links:

Musea Records
MALS Records
Musea Records


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