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(56:04 / Musea Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Anthem 0:47 2. Water Spark 6:25 3. Elfy 1:30 4. The Way Back Home 9:28 5. Talybont 2:46 6. On Reflection 4:42 7. Time Out 3:57 8. Jester's Pipe 3:07 9. Merlin's Jig 2:48 10. Across the Atlantic 6:17 11. Ocean's Web 6:08 12. Golden Hind 8:01 LINEUP: Vahan Papayan - bass Ashot Korganyan - drums Anna Adamyan - keyboards Vardan Gasparyan - guitars Koryan Bobikyan - violin Valery Tolstov - flute With: Andranik Kochar - bassoon Harutyun Shakyan - oboe Mikael Matnishyan - cello Sona Yengibaryan - harp
Prolusion. Following in the footsteps of Artsruni, OAKSENHAM are the second band from the former USSR republic of Armenia to join the international progressive rock movement or, speaking more precisely, to have an official CD release available for listeners from all over the world. Of course, "Conquest of the Pacific" is their debut album.
Analysis. In these times of advanced technologies, when one-man bands spring up like mushrooms, it is really a pleasure to listen to a strong group effort, with a warm sound whose 'vintage-ness' is secured by a variety of specific details, analog keyboards included. This CD even has that characteristic vinyl scratch in places; a simple trick for sure, and yet it further intensifies my impression that I hear an LP from the golden age of progressive rock music, whose makers' honesty of intentions is beyond doubt. Oaksenham's creation is rooted deeply in '70s symphonic Art-Rock, but it is not a replica of the style. Lushly enriched with elements of both medieval folk and early-Renaissance classical music, at times moody and reflective, at times pronouncedly heavy, this is a highly versatile substance. Apart from its rock component of bass, drums, guitars and keyboards, the basic sound includes violin and flute, additionally often supplemented with a few more chamber instruments, four of the six guest participants (specifically those whom I mention in the lineup above) having contributed a good deal to the album. While furrowing the expanses of the Pacific (under the flag of Armenia:-), this crew left twelve tracks, two of which, Talybont and On Reflection, are interpretations of Gentle Giant's pieces, as if serving to corroborate their statement to the effect that the English band are their primary benefactors. However, these renderings aren't as angular as the originals, both leaning towards a more distinct symphonic sound (ornamented with folksy colorations in addition), all of which is quite representative of Oaksenham's general approach. It would be wrong to call the band's assertion into question, but while the above influence is present, I wouldn't say it is more obvious than those of some other artists. To a greater or lesser degree, half of the tracks, namely Water Spark, The Way Back Home, Time Out, Across the Atlantic, Ocean's Web and Golden Hind, all (but especially the first three) remind me of a cross between Gentle Giant ("In a Glass House"), Kansas ("Leftoverture"), Jethro Tull ("Thick As a Brick") and The Enid ("Aerie Faerie Nonsense"), though their acoustic parts often bring Gryphon's "Red Queen" to mind. Which is not to say Oasenkham sound exactly like their mentors, far from it, but anyway the similarities exist. The album's opener, Anthem, is a very short yet complete, surprisingly cohesive piece of music, this one evoking exclusively Kansas. The remaining four tracks, Elfy, Jester's Pipe, Merlin's Jig and Across the Atlantic, are all predominantly woven of acoustic fabrics and are only in places directly connected with Rock as such. Rendered with due delicacy and dedication alike, this is very picturesque music, while listening to which I experience a feeling that the time machine brings me back into one of my past lives, refreshing my memory of what a ball I had when giving a ball in my palace while being a medieval king:-). Gryphon's first album of the same name can serve as a reference point as long as you keep in mind that, besides consisting of covers, it isn't too diverse or sonically saturated either, while here, there is no shortage in anything essential, you may believe me.
Conclusion. Oaksenham's "Conquest of the Pacific" is an incredibly mature work, with not even a small hint of debut syndrome, an excellent creation by a truly talented band that ranks along the very best in contemporary Symphonic Progressive. Don't miss!
VM: November 6, 2007
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