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Mekong Delta (Germany)
(an overall view)


Discography:

1987 - "Mekong Delta" ("Aaarrg Records")
***+

1988 - "The Music of Erich Zann" ("Aaarrg Records")
****

1989 - "The Principle of Doubt" ("Aaarrg Records")
****+

1990 - "Dances of Death" ("Aaarrg Records")
******

1992 - "Kaleidoskope" ("Aaarrg Records")
*****

1994 - "Visions Fugitives" ("Bullet Proof")
******

1997 - "Pictures at an Exhibition" ("Bullet Proof")
******

Lineup:
1987-1989: Bjorn Eklund (bass & acoustic guitars, music & lyrics; real name is Ralph Hubert); Mark Kaye (lead guitar; real name Uwe Baltrush); Gordon Perkins (drums; real name is Joerg Michael); Keil (vocals; real name Wolfgang Borgmann); Rolf Stein (rhythm guitar; real name Frank Fricke).
1990: Eklund; Baltrush; Perkins; Doug Lee (vocals)
1992-current lineup: Eklund; Baltrush; Peter Haas (drums); Lee
Note: "Pictures at an Exhibition" is all-instrumental, but vocalist D.Lee is still in the band.

The creation of this unique yet obscure for real Prog-Metal-lovers German band can be divided in three phases in conformity with changes of its (always Progressive!) style.

Phase 1: 1987-1990. In those years Mekong Delta was led by the genius head of Ralph Hubert and played very speedy and hard Progressive Metal with a lot of diverse changes, very intricate arrangements and fantastically virtuostic solos from each musician. After a bit chaotic debut album they quickly developed with each subsequent album. "The Music of Erich Zann" consists of already very complex, but absolutely harmonious structures: for the first time here the band plays with a symphonic orchestra in one of the compositions. It's a conceptual story of a composer, who attempted to fight evil by means of his music.

On the following album "The Principle of Doubt" classical acoustic guitar (by Hubert himself) surprisingly appears, adding to the overall quite hard sound some new colours and a good bit of warmth. Each new album by these extraordinary, talented musicians was less hard than its predecessor, yet structurally stronger and even more complex. "Dances of Death" is the most interesting and harmonious Mekong Delta's work in the first phase. The sidelong titlesong contains a lot of mindblowing and very unexpected changes wrapped in the finest arrangements. Varied interplays between lead,bass and acoustic guitars, masterful drumming and excellent clear vocals paint great surrealistic musical pictures all over the tracks, including an already regular piece, taken from Classical music (Night on the Bare Mountain by M.Mussorgsky), excellently arranged and played by the band. A real masterpiece of the Progressive Metal genre. A lot of bands never manage to approach this level of maturity and complexity, raised to the power of fine arrangements, shown by Mekong Delta on this album.

Phase 2: 1992. "Kaleidoskope" stands quite separately within the band's discography. For the first time (not counting of the band's debut album) there's no orchestra. Even the classical piese Sabre Dance (by Russian composer A.Khachaturjan) was performed here with "usual" instruments. Another one cover version on the album is Dance on Volcano (Genesis - 1975 - "A Trick of the Tail"). This one also not contains even the keyboards, all the parts of which were very successfully played here with a varied guitars. One of the best cover-versions I ever heard! On the whole, stylistically "Kaleidoscope" is still the album of the Progressive Metal genre with its strong guitar riffs and quirky guitar solos. However, there are no speedy/thrashy structures, so typical for Phase the 1st, at all. Arrangements are very interesting and original, but they're not so comlex in comparison to "Dances of Death" and the following album "Visions Fugitives". Very good, slightly unusual work by Mekong Delta, "Kaledoscope" is such a spurt past the stagnation - toward the new and different forms.

VM. 30.08.1999

Phase 3: 1994 to 1997. In those years Ralph Hubert changed structures of the music of Mekong Delta more than drastically. Only one third of the "Visions Fugitive" (1994) album's contents (and all these are songs) still reminds of the band's 'prog-metallic' roots, while the remaining two third represent nothing but contemporary all-instrumental Classical Music performed by the band along with a strong symphonic orchestra. One of the most innovative works of Progressive in general (i.e. including all the three 'chief' genres of it), the unique, wonderful, brilliant in all the progressive senses "Vision Fugitive" is not only one of my favourite albums of all times. "Vision Fugitive" is also one of just a handful gems that crown all the Prog-Metal movements of the past, present and future. Two and a half years later, - in the beginning of 1997, - I held in my hands a new Mekong Delta album entitled "Pictures At an Exhibition". Unlike the mighty ELP, Mekong Delta performed that magic work of the great Russian composer of the 19th century Modest Petrovitch Mussorgsky in its entirety - from start to finish. So if you know about the "Pictures At an Exhibition" you've learned from that ELP's album you know too little (I'd even say almost nothing) about this majestic music, as well as of its grandeur. It is sad to know that while lots of Neo and pseudo Prog Metal bands enjoy success in general, including the success they have on the majority of virtual and paper Prog-pages, creations of the real hallmarks of the genre still remain unnoticed for all of "our" prog-sites, i.e. for those devoted to support the current development of the two 'chief' progressive genres - Symphonic Prog and Prog Metal. (Also, the majority of "our" prog-sites ignore the third 'chief' prog genre - Jazz-Fusion - in the true meaning of the word "Fusion" which is a Confluence of Jazz and Rock, of Jazz and Progressive Music, etc).

VM. June 7, 2001 content


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