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(74:51, Progressive Promotion Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Theodor's Walls 12:09 2. Lion 9:32 3. Simplicius 7:45 4. Complicius 5:58 5. The Lake 14:26 6. On Tiptoe 5:33 7. Fire on the Pier 11:49 8. Take Me or Leave Me 7:49 LINEUP: Oliver Rebhan keyboards; vocals Kai Marckwordt vocals; guitars Mario Koch basses; clarinet Bjorn Bisch guitars, e-bow Alex Bisch drums; vocals
Prolusion. The German band MARTIGAN has been an ongoing venture for more than 20 years, and following a few initial albums released in quick succession early on, they now come out with a new album in a five to six year long cycles. "Distant Monsters" is their fifth studio recording, and was released by Progressive Promotion Records towards the tail end of 2015.
Analysis. Martigan is among those bands where you'll know just a few seconds in how the CD in general will turn out. They have some key features in their sound that are universally recognizable of the kind that will make just about any progressive rock fan conclude straight away that, indeed, this is a neo-progressive rock band. As there are differences also between the numerous bands exploring this approach to progressive rock, I should probably specify that, by and large, we're dealing with a band that I would expect know their Marillion rather well, and then the Fish-era history of that band in particular. Furthermore, I wouldn't be all that surprised if they are aware of the exploits of a band like Pendragon, too. Its not that Martigan sounds like duplicates of either of those bands, but the compositions share numerous similarities in the way the arrangements have been assembled, the instrumental details used, and how the songs develop. Gentle, plucked guitar details, backed by firm bass-lines, elegant rhythms and floating keyboard motifs, are a staple throughout. Lush, majestic soundscapes add depth and nerve on regular occasions, the occasional use of harder edged guitar riffs adds a tighter, more forceful sound to the proceedings in a nice and efficient manner, and from time to time we're even treated to a subtle touch of jazz hidden beneath the surface, albeit not in a manner that in any way can be described as dominant or clearly up-front. Atmospheric guitar solo runs of the kind fans of Camel should recognize alternate with the more emotional, crying guitar solos many neo-progressive bands have a tendency to use, as well as some more light toned, spirited and jubilant solo passages that expand the mood and atmosphere of the album in a compelling manner. The keyboards are given a liberal amount of time in the solo limelight as well, and while swirling and surging keyboard solo runs are a staple, there's also room from movements of a more delicate nature here, cue some rather effective piano and vocals combinations, sparse but effective sequences where the lead vocals convey emotions and builds nerve and tension. Vocalist Marckwordt comes across as a strong singer, and has a voice that is subtly rougher in tone and timbre than what is common for this type of progressive rock, which is a positive in my book. The compositions tend to explore subtly different kinds of moods and atmospheres, from delicate, sparse pieces to majestic epic creations with multiple themes explored along the way, and with a couple of examples of songs where the instrumental solo sections are given the greater length of the song to conjure their particular magic as a boon and a treat for those fond of compositions of that particular ilk. A well made album on all levels, and with enough variety and subtle details used in all compositions to maintain interest quite nicely.
Conclusion. Elegant, accessible and melodic neo-progressive rock comes across as the rock-solid foundation upon which Martigan crafts their compositions. With a foot and a half well inside early 80s neo-progressive rock, with some careful flavors and details borrowed from the sound many such bands explored in the 90s to boot, Martigan's latest production comes across as a truly delightful album for anyone with an interest in early neo-progressive rock, and perhaps especially those with a passionate interest for bands exploring similar landscapes to what the Fish-era Marillion did back in the day.
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