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TRACK LIST: 1. Cant Find the Door 4:19 2. Timeline 5:17 3. Changing Seasons 6:28 4. No More War 2:51 5. Take a Moment 6:00 6. Too Many People 4:25 7. Leprechaun 4:49 8. Undertow 6:02 9. In Tune with the Moon 5:58 10. The Last One 5:16 11. Feel the Heat 4:54 12. In a Blue Dream 5:34 13. Generator 4:29 LINEUP: Ronny Lapine vocals Snake basses; vocals Mike Matier guitars; vocals Grant Cooper keyboards; vocals Jeff Koza drums
Prolusion. NEVER WASN'T is a US band, consisting of seasoned musicians. Their main influences are acts like Yes and ELP, and their goal has been to make music similar to what US acts made in the late 70s and early 80s. Their self-titled debut album was released in 2008, on their own UsedKarmaMusic label.
Analysis. Fans of vintage symphonic prog intrigued by the brief introduction above might want to know one pretty important fact about this production: Although inspired by some of the great names of the symphonic era, the band has chosen to mix these influences with AOR-tinged hard rock and the final result here is neither fish nor fowl, closer in musical style to bands like Angel, Moxy and Styx. 70s hard rock with symphonic prog flavors, but at the time often branded pomp rock due to the melodramatic tendencies and relatively stark contrasts dominating the sound of the acts pursuing this particular mix. And in terms of sound this band has that style covered down to a T. Listening to this album is akin to taking a time machine 30 years back; even the mix and production sound like a result of yesteryear. Melodramatic arrangements, bombastic synths, heavy organ and powerful vocals dominate this creation through and through, underscored by vintage hard rock guitars and a bass guitar often exploring a distorted, heavy sound. The band does have a few excursions into slightly more mellow waters though, as well as one example of a more laidback, reggae-tinged affair complete with shouted chorus segment, anti-war lyrics and liberal use of war sound samples spread throughout the thankfully short tune: vintage 70s that particular composition, but from the wrong side of the quality scale. The rest of the songs on this album struggle hard to get on the right side of said scale as well, much too often ending up right in the middle. Vocalist Lapine has a strong, powerful voice, but he's much too fond of the grandiose emotional delivery; many tracks would have profited from a more careful delivery. Much the same can be said of the keyboards, effectively set up to contrast with guitars, bass or both, with one of the three instruments given a dominant role and the others underscoring. Well done, especially in terms of creating contrasts, but the band opts for showcasing the more stark differences in sound too often, which negatively affects the melody explored at the time as well as drowning out whatever details are present in the soundscape. The end result isn't as bad as it might sound, in particular after having listened through this album a fair number of times, but the overall result is one of mediocrity. Well made, but with a few nagging weaknesses in composition and production that in total make this a rather unremarkable creation. On the two occasions where all the elements do mix as they should, mostly on the track Take A Moment and to a lesser extent on opening track Can't Find The Door and the mellow excursion Undertow, it's easy to catch that this is a talented act. Although not of the quality that merits mentioning in history books, these creations do show that this band is able to create songs that will have an appeal beyond the specifically interested when they set their minds to it.
Conclusion. "Never Wasn't" is a release that by many will be written off as a derivative creation. The album doesn't offer anything new; the bands main influences are easily heard and do come across as pretty standard fare from yesteryear. Those who enjoy symphonic-tinged hard rock as it was made 30 years ago might want to check out this one, but I find it doubtful if this creation will appeal much beyond that particular crowd.
OMB=Olav M Bjornsen: April 18, 2009
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