ProgressoR / Uzbekistan Progressive Rock Pages


Odyssey - 2005 - "The Greatest Tale"

(220 min 2CD, Musea)


Prolusion. "Odyssey - The Greatest Tale" is the most recent product of collaboration between the Finnish prog rock Society Colossus and the French progressive label Musea Records and is a concept album based on the ancient Greek mythology, telling the story about the journeys and the dangerous adventures that Odysseus was involved in after the Trojan War. Curiously, another band from the Musea family, La Tulipe Noire, has recently turned to the very same topic, but autonomously.

Disc 1 (73 min, Musea)


1.  Of Longings, Suitors, Deities & Quests 24:07 
2.  El Regreso 27:50 
3.  At the Court of Alkinoos 21:30 

Analysis. NATHAN MAHL from Canada embark on this musical voyage hot on the heel of Odysseus (well, in a way) with the instrumental Of Longings, Suitors, Deities, & Quests. The suite starts off with gentle passages of acoustic guitar crossing those of Mini-Moog in a way the listener is immediately filled with a pleasing nostalgia for the '70 progressive (once appeared, this feeling will never leave him during the 220 minutes that the entire album runs for). Then follow intense, powerful and quite heavy arrangements with Hammond organ, Mini-Moog synthesizer and electric guitar to the fore. Soon the picture changes again, attaining the shape of a melancholic piano-based tune. Although the main melodic line is provided by a synthesizer, associations with classical music are inevitable. The events developing in the second third of the piece refer to progressive metal with a strong symphonic component and complex, plus very frequently changing rhythmic patterns. There is something in common between this epic and Close to the Edge from Yes's eponymous album, but just atmospherically. Excellent. El Regreso, granted by Argentina's NEXUS, begins with massive keyboards slowly moving to the pulsing rhythm section. The music gradually gets both faster and darker, but soon falls into the depth of a complete depression, the further addition of mournful vocals just intensifying the feeling of despair. The section that follows is organ-driven heavy symphonic prog at its most intricate and compelling. Later on however, the atmosphere of darkness and fear is back in conjunction with sinister voices and wailings - much like those by King Diamond when he imitates the resuscitated corpses and the like evil spirits. No elements of flamenco, very 'northern' music, highly atypical of this band in general, just Spanish lyrics reminding me of the fact Nexus aren't from Scandinavia. Excellent too. The next track, At the Court of Alkinoos by Americans GLASS HAMMER, is much more affirmative and is often overtly life-asserting, as if trying to distance itself from the dark aura of its predecessor. A woman with an agreeable voice sings to the accompaniment of peaceful piano passages in the course of the first three minutes, which is followed by an intense organ-driven instrumental movement involving the entire band. Since then, the music never leaves the domain of classic/bombastic symphonic progressive, regardless of whether the vocals (male / female or both) are part of the picture or not, although some jazz-related features can be found in places as well. The monumental, anthem-like finale with superb guitar solos finishes this whole feast of imperishable progressive values. Fascinating.

Disc 2 (80 min, Musea)


1.  From Ismarus to the Land of Death 26:01
2.  Minds of Mortal Men 25:40 
3.  Sulle Ali del Sogno Odissea 28:16 

Analysis. From Ismarus to the Land of Death by French musical impressionists XII ALFONSO stands at the head of the second disc's track-list, which isn't a big deal in itself:-). But then, this is probably the most unusual composition in the set, compared to the others, and isn't too typical of the group's general work either, above all due to the small number of chamber and other acoustic instruments used. There are a couple of interludes involving acoustic guitar, violin and piano, but much of the music is based on electric guitars and digital keyboards, having not too many points of contact with the outfit's latest release, "Claude Monet Vol. II". The first three minutes are filled with psychedelic synthesizer effects and soul-freezing ghostly female voices. This matter finds its continuation in the finale, to the accompaniment of the entire ensemble this time out. Aside from the said classical-like interludes, the core of the track combines, say, romantically melodic arrangements featuring a mixed choir and, in contrast, those filled with decadent and even gloomy moods. Very original, elegant, tasty, yet slightly less progressive than the other eight 'voyages'. Quite the contrary, Minds of Mortal Men presented by Sweden's SIMON SAYS, is probably their most adventurous composition, steering quite far beyond the bounds of their habitual common:-), Neo. While the band is still a traditional rock/prog quintet (vocals/ keyboards/ guitar/ bass/ drums), and the music always remains within the framework of symphonic progressive, the instrumental patterns are surprisingly diverse this time out, those evolving alongside the vocals included, which I see as a solid achievement on the part of Simon Says. During the song's second third the music changes very frequently, at times just kaleidoscopically, now bursting into an intense joint jam, now (still suddenly) finding the form of a duo of vocals and piano, etc. The vocal picture is also multicolor, embracing plenty of different tones and moods. I am impressed. C.A.P. from Italy are faithful followers of their native school of symphonic art rock, although there is an episode in the middle of their 'personal odyssey', Sulle Ali del Sogno Odissea, where the music somewhat resembles Pink Floyd's early psychedelic space rock explorations. In any event, the song is just stunning, standing out for its refined, beautiful, emotionally rich sound. It begins with a medieval-like tune comprising flute and acoustic guitar, soon joined by a vocalist whose singing has a sad, perhaps even tragic feeling. Full-blooded arrangements in the style of heavy symphonic progressive follow, Hammond organ sharing the lead with electric guitar in most cases, while the next movement is a jazzy piano-driven instrumental jam notable for its ever-shifting time signatures, the musicians with ease slackening and accelerating their pace each time they find it essential. Later on the music moves back and forth between heavy and purely symphonic art rock, save the finale, which finds an invitee woman singing to the piano (and the aforementioned episode of course). This is a magnum opus, the best on the second CD.

Disc 3 (68 min, Musea)


1.  Chapter VII 24:14 
2.  Etranger en sa Demeure 22:22 
3.  Chapter IX 21:32 

Analysis. Venezuela's greatest Prog band of all time TEMPANO have titled their epic simply and unpretentiously, Chapter VII, while the music is just mind-blowing and highly sophisticated. The intro consists of several confusingly excited monologs over a background of gloomy passages of church organ creating an atmosphere of claustrophobia in a way that you 'hear' the victims of inquisition calling to you from a torture chamber. Further events are too multifarious to describe here, touching plenty of different moods, as well as stylistic constructions - from intricate and dynamic symphonic art-rock through the piano- and acoustic guitar-laden mellower stuff (at times to Latin-American rhythms) to jazz-influenced jams and beyond. Overall, much in the style that the band had developed since its 'second coming' back in 2000. Unlike those narrated, all vocal parts are in English. Etranger en sa Demeure by Frenchmen MINIMUM VITAL arouses quite vivid associations with Voyage - a song from their latest studio album "Atlas", just appearing to be greatly expanded, raised to the power of a true suite (which on the other hand is something this outfit never ventured on previously). Anyhow, this is, that being said, a pureblooded Minimum Vital - a gripping sound combining art- and folk rock with medieval minstrel-like tunes, which isn't too complex, yet is genuinely honest, highly attractive and full of positive energy all alike. The acoustic guitar provides rhythms somewhat more often than it creates intricate patterns, though this is of benefit just to this particular composition, adding shades of ancient Spanish musical folklore to an already familiar palette. Generally, such a massive mixed, electrically acoustic, sound is inherent exclusively to this ensemble and doesn't have any analogs in the entire prog world. The Brazilian band AETHER concludes this set of musical novels of Odysseus's adventures with Chapter IX, the track being titled as simply as that by Tempano (as if under a private treaty between the groups). Basically, the music steers somewhere between neo and classic symphonic progressive, but there is a strong flamenco sense almost throughout, coming mainly from Aether's axeman and, what is especially curious, regardless of whether he plays acoustic or electric guitar. Elements of what is widely known as Latin rock can also be found here, as well as lush orchestral-like arrangements, though the sound is distinctively 'modern' everywhere on the piece. The vocals are in English, delivered in a manner typical of Andy Latimer.

Conclusion. While the nine tracks present are the result of the creativity of nine different ensembles, all of them are works of the same genre, symphonic progressive. OK, some participants also apply widely elements of folk music (Minimum Vital), jazz-fusion (Tempano), prog-metal (Nathan Mahl) and flamenco (Aether), but this all serves just as an additional embellishment to this amazing musical journey. It is hard to single out any composition as best, most being complete masterworks. This triple CD effort is another major success on the part of Colossus and, surely, all other parties involved.

VZ & VM: July 14, 15 & 16, 2006

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