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(63.47, Art Performance Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Heroes 2.19 2. Lullaby for Heroes 7.00 3. Station to Station 9.29 4. Playgrounds 4.41 5. Chemical Sleep 10.16 6. The Great Cosmic Dream 5.12 7. Do Androids 8.14 8. Temple of the Gods 17.16 LINEUP: Robert Edman – guitar; keyboards; vocals Jesper Landen – lead vocals Janne Persson – bass Thomas Nordh – drums, glockenspiel Alex Jonsson – keyboards, backing vocals With: Oskar Enerlund - backing vocals
Prolusion. MAZE OF TIME are a Swedish outfit who have been around, in one form or the other, since late 2001. Their founder, guitarist and composer Robert I Edman, was originally a session man who got tired of working for other people, and decided to put a band together in order to be able to play his own music. The band’s debut album, “Tales from the Maze”, was released in 2006 on the Dutch label Art Performance Records, which is also responsible for the release of “Lullaby for Heroes”. The album marks the debut of vocalist Jesper Landen, who replaced original singer Christer Lindstrom.
Analysis. “Lullaby for Heroes” is one of those albums that I find particularly hard to rate – those that, while not being ‘bad’ by any means, are somewhat of a chore to get through. It may be due to the fact that the brand of Neo Symphonic Prog on offer on this CD does not exactly set my own musical world on fire – or perhaps to a sort of weariness with the seemingly endless number of bands that seem to want nothing from life but reproduce (more or less faithfully) the sound already perfected by other acts. While this is not only true of bands of the Neo Symph persuasion, a feeling of deja vu seems to crop up with alarming regularity in most of those releases. Though Maze Of Time are obviously a very proficient band, the level of originality displayed on their sophomore effort leaves a lot to be desired. Their music lacks the sheer gumption of unabashedly retro bands such as Wobbler or Black Bonzo, who, however, manage to stamp enough of a personal imprint on their vintage-inspired sound. Maze Of Time come across as very competent musicians whose output, while perfectly listenable and even pleasing most of the time, is largely undistinguished. Though well-performed and smoothly flowing, it is ultimately bland, and far too derivative – as well as lacking that indefinable quality that makes an album memorable. On the positive side, Maze Of Time have a strong asset in new singer Jesper Landen’s well-modulated, melodic tenor – an essential element for a band whose sound is often very much vocal-based. To be perfectly honest, Landen’s is not the kind of vocal style I prefer, but its contribution to the overall success (in relative terms at least) of the album is undeniable. He can tackle equally well mainstream-tinged numbers like the title-track and Playgrounds, and more aggressive ones, with clear progressive metal influences, like Chemical Sleep and Do Androids – both of which, in my view, can be considered as the highlights of the album. As a matter of fact, Maze Of Time are more effective when switching into high gear, rather than keeping to an inoffensive, middle-of-the-road Neo sound. Together with the inevitable Genesis, Marillion and Pink Floyd influences, shades of Dream Theater and Porcupine Tree lurk almost unexpectedly in some of the songs – especially Station to Station, with its chugging keyboard-drum riff suggestive of Steven Wilson’s band’s more recent output. The obligatory epic, Temple of the Gods, strategically placed at the close of the disc, possesses all the necessary features to appeal to fans of both vintage and Neo Symphonic Prog, with plenty of keyboards, frequent tempo changes and a distinct Genesis flavour – though, in my view, it would have benefited from being trimmed down a bit. At around 63 minutes, the album itself is not excessively long for today’s standards. The harder-edged numbers also boast some shred-like guitar parts, which, however, do not overwhelm the overall melodic fabric of the music. As a whole, even if it does not anything even remotely innovative, “Lullaby for Heroes” is a reasonably solid effort from an accomplished band.
Conclusion. “Lullaby for Heroes” is a well-executed album by a band who knows its business, and with a lot of potential to attract fans of traditional Neo Symphonic prog – with a pinch of prog-metal spice thrown in for extra flavour. Though it is not the most creative or exciting music available on the ever-growing prog scene, it is definitely a worthwhile listen for those who like their progressive rock to be melodic, accessible and rooted in the past rather than forward-thinking.
RB=Raffaella Berry: June 12, 2010
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