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TRACK LIST: 1. Intro 1:34 2. Shaping 6:51 3. After Twilight 6:55 4. Home 6:56 5. Past 6:24 6. Alone 6:29 7. Painting Souls 6:38 8. Inside 5:03 9. Night Dreams 3:46 10. Gamble Away 8:26 All music: by Music Station. All lyrics: by M. Coleman. LINE-UP: Radoslav Haralampiev - drums Boris Zashev - keyboards Pavlin Manev - vocals Ventzi Velev - guitars Jordan Donov - guitars Bobby - bass Produced & engineered by T. Grapes. Recorded & mixed at "Ahat", Sofia.
Prolusion. Bulgaria's Music Station is, in almost every respect, a very young band. It was formed only last year, and the average age of its members doesn't exceed 25 years. Of course, "Shaping" is their debut album.
Synopsis. The short Intro (1) is the only track on the album that doesn't contain vocals at all and is somewhat of a Classical Music-like suite for piano. Not counting a few episodes consisting of amazingly original and inventive interplay between passages and solos of acoustic guitar and passages of piano performed both separately and in the context of the band's joint arrangements (and these, by the way, are among the central hallmarks of each of the songs here), the album's title track (2) sounds much like the classic Dream Theater songs. I feared that "Shaping" is in its entirety in the same vein and represents just another Contemporary Classic Prog-Metal album, but fortunately, all the further contents of it turned out to be different. While the complexity, diversity, virtuosity, epic forms, and large-scaled instrumental arrangements typical for this genre are lasting throughout the album, all of the following songs on it, starting with After Twilight (3), are not only almost free of direct influences, but also shine with some unique musical finds. The stylistics is also changed, as well as most of the compositional and performance (and, thus, structural) aspects of music. Having showed that they're able to play as virtuosi as the most influential contemporary Prog-Metal band, Music Station left that 'orbit' and moved towards the less beaten roads of musical space. The predominant stylistics of the album is a triple alliance of guitar Art-Rock, symphonic Art-Rock, and Prog-Metal, but while the first two constituents of the style are present on each of the songs in pure form, too, the latter is always mixed with one of the others. As it is, this trinity is presented on After Twilight, Home, Past, Alone, Painting Souls, and Gamble Away (3 to 7 & 10), though the first of these features also elements of Jazz-Fusion, and the following one those of Cathedral Metal. The instrumental arrangements on Inside (8) are much in the same style as those on the said six songs, but although there are only a few of the vocal parts here, they're clearly Doomy in character. Pavlin Menev is a wonderful chameleon vocalist singing equally impressive in a romantic and dramatic key. With his voice, Pavlin is able to cover no less than four octaves, and the vocal palette of the album is just amazingly diverse. I have especially liked his high-pitched and very touching singing on After Twilight, which is the 'vocal' counterpart of Inside. The remaining track: Night Dreams (9) is an excellent classical guitar-based piece with some vocals.
Conclusion. Back in the 1980s, I have heard several Bulgarian bands, among which, though, I've remembered only (the great) FSB and The Crickets. Music Station's "Shaping" is a magnificent debut and is a welcome addition to my collection. I believe this album will be one of the main constituents of Bulgaria's Progressive Rock 'export' this and next year.
VM: November 19, 2003
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