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KEYS OF PROG / HARD ROAD OF DEBUTANTS

Natural Tension (USA) - 2000 - "Haitian Holiday"
(43 min, 'Natural Tension')


****+

New Year's Eve        4:47 (J.Crocker)
Premature Speculation 3:18 (=)
Westernrise           5:29 (J.Mays, J.Crocker)
HaitianHoliday        4:15 (=)
The Art Song          3:07 (J.Crocker)
Terminal              5:48 (=)
UnderTurnstiles       3:55 (R.Moor, G.&J.Crocker)
MostLikely To...      5:30 (J.Crocker)
Halfof Nothing        6:34 (J.&G.Crocker)

Line-up: Jeff Crocker - lead vocals, keyboards; Glenn Crocker - drums & percussion; John Mays - guitars; Rus Moor - bass

Guest musicians: Terri Onstad - cello; Derek Bentley - b/vox; James Terry - b/vox

http://www.naturaltension.com/

Prologue. "Haitian Holiday" is the debut album by Natural Tension. This self-released CD has a very good sound quality, and its booklet and back liner are designed excellently. So, all in all, you may consider this CD as the first release of the "Natural Tension" independent label.

The Album.

The music presented by Natural Tension on their very first album is quite original, first of all. On the whole, all these 8 songs were composed and performed in united stylistics, that actually shows that the guys go their own way in terms of style already on the debut album. Structurally, they present moderately heavy kind of Progressive Metal, though with some lyrical and/or 'Art-Rockish' episodes for about two-third of the album, and all these songs are really very good in the 'progressive' meaning. Lead vocal is excellent almost always, but especially during the very same two-third of the length. Well, myriad of bands consider an album's opener as the most commercial song, as well as the heroes of these lines. Yeah, this is the right step, but it is only in compliance with the psychology of most potential consumers, who have little in common with the true Progressive Rock lovers in majority of cases. (Sorry for a necessary, IMO, tautology, as I mainly mean mature Prog-Heads, since most of the songs on "Haitian Holiday" I can't recommend to Prog-novices as the first stage to comprehending more complex Prog-Metal structures, because these songs are already quite complex.) So, New Year's Eve is the most accessible song here, though nice. Charming with some beautiful melodic lines Westernrise and The Art Song (really, my wife still listens only to them) are just a bit more interesting pieces than the opener. So, having found this remaining 1/3 just "so-so" from the 'progressive' point of view, we can now talk about NT and their debut only positively. As for that 1/3, let's consider the guys just wanted to show how masterfully and originally they could play some commercial Neo Prog-Metal. In reality, I think these very talented musicians are just still on the way to choose (*exactly*) the Final Form of their structures, according to responses on "HH" from the part of professional and amateur reviewers on the pages of various webzines and pages of magazines-made-of-paper. IMHO, these latter, despite the fact they're true professionals, the real Titans of 'penish' work, could be the most dangerous advisers - again, just from the 'progressive' standpoint of view - with their exceptionally bright and very convincing yet with a distinct commercial approach reviews. Most of the representatives of Progressive Rock sites on the WWW feel themselves totally free to express their honest opinion, but all of them have different views on Progressive Rock either generally or particularly, as well as amateur reviewers, lots of those submit and publish their reviews and opinions on the excellent, really popular (in the two basic meanings of the word, including 'people's') biggest review source on the web http://www.prog.net/. And these are the Voices of Fans. Well, I just hope the members of NT will find the right way to choose the Final Form of their future music. All the other 6 songs on "Haitian Holiday" are just excellent examples of moderately complex Classic Prog-Metal. Each of these songs contains a few different themes full of many original and interesting arrangements, time signatures, changes of tempo, etc. All the four band members work excellently, and maybe, the lack of keyboard arrangements in some instrumental parts is the only thing they should've noticed (and I'd recommend the NT quartet would become a quintet - just to add a free keyboardist to the line-up). Finally, the last song on the album is a kind of epic one - all in all, the best track on "HH" and actually a real Progressive killer. As for the lead vocal, Jeff Crocker uses his voice as an instrument with rich possibilities. He has a strong male voice, but he works with it brilliantly, using very diverse vocal arrangements in each song. It would be absolutely enough if Jeff sang alone, and so the addition of two guest back vocalists often just eclipses a unique lead vocal palette, making the overall vocal sound like something of a pseudo chorus, so typical for the majority of American traditional Power-Metal bands.

Summary. To be honest, all the six good songs on album, as well as very diverse (and often dramatic) singing of the lead vocalist, on the whole reminds me a bit of the stylistics of my dearly loved Italians Garden Wall, though of course these are only associations. Natural Tension has, as I said, original stylistics of its own, and all they really need is just to complete the Form properly.

VM. October 12, 2000


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