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(49:46 / Musea Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. As We Begin 2:25 2. A New Day 2:19 3. Days Gone By 1:27 4. I Remember 1:37 5. Is It Time 5:45 6. Winds of Change 1:35 7. The Memory Will Still Remain 6:21 8. Hope 1:13 9. We Will Stop for No One 6:38 10. Leave Me Without My Memories 1:22 11. Life's an Endless Dream 7:01 12. Visions From the Past 11:55 LINEUP: Mohamed Alsadeqi - guitar, saz; vocals Nabil Alsadeqi - drums & percussion Martin Hughes - vocals; flute; ac. guitar Abdul-Razzak Arian - organ, keyboards Khalid Shamlan - piano, keyboards; b/v Hadi Saeed - bass
Prolusion. The only Arabic prog band in the world, Bahrain's OSIRIS has existed since 1980, although a whole fifteen years separates their brand new album, "Visions from the Past", from its predecessor, "Beyond Control Live". Their other outings include "Osiris" (1981), "Myths & Legends" (1984) and "Reflections" (1990). Surprisingly, "Visions from the Past" features the very same five musicians who created "Beyond Control Live", the sixth member being none other than Abdul-Razzak Arian who, in his turn, has played on most if not all the group's studio albums.
Analysis. I always sympathized with Osiris, but this, their latest effort has exceeded all my expectations. The music just breathes with freshness, and while the band's sound is still instantly recognizable, their style appears to be both somewhat changed and widened and has this time around an exceptionally specific flavor. The point is that unlike any of their previous recordings, this one is throughout woven of fabrics belonging to both Asian and European musical cultures or, to say more precisely, Arabic music is now an important part of all the tracks present without exception. The music is highly original and is overall beyond comparison, so one has to be a very imaginative individual to find any distinct traces of outside factors here. Personally I only hear some very distant echoes of Camel, UK and Yes, all the images appearing only episodically, additionally being as transparent as ghosts. It's the bandleader Mohammed Alsadeqi who has penned all the lyrics, but while he and Martin Hughes sing rather often in duet, it's clear all the forefront vocal lines belong to Mr. Hughes (whose singing reminds me of John Wetton in approach). It seems to be unlikely that Martin lives in Bahrain, but whether he does or not, that Englishman strikes me with his knowledge of his partners' native music - not only because his playing on flute and acoustic guitar alike is always imbued with corresponding colorations. So as is hinted above, "The East Meets the West" could've been a very apt sub-title for this musical production and, hence, each of its twelve tracks as well, though of course, the longer ones, Is It Time, The Memory Will Still Remain, We Will Stop For No One, Life Is an Endless Dream and the title track, all reflect that matter more brightly than, well, the others. Each arrives with thematically complete lyrics, thus leaving the impression of being a fully-fledged song, and yet all turn out to be largely instrumental in the final analysis. Apart from having a highly original sound, now bringing together European and Oriental colorations into one unique whole, now drawing a kind of exclusive Arabic Art-Rock, each is abundant in everything essential to satisfy probably anybody into Symphonic Progressive, although Is It Time and The Memory Will Still Remain each at times suggest nothing other than genuine Prog-Metal, revealing an intense full-band sound throughout, save for their intros. Drums, congas, flute, acoustic, electric and bass guitars, synthesizers, organ, piano and string pads - along with all the aforesaid genre and cultural components - all blend together in the core of the wonderful We Will Stop for No One, the tune's Saz-driven prelude being highly impressive in its own way, as also is its classical-like piano postlude. Life Is an Endless Dream can be viewed as one of the clearest examples of the band's skill in suddenly slackening or accelerating their pace, as well as their ability to eliminate any frontiers between you already well know what. The title track contains probably the biggest surprise. That being said, the Arabic Symphonic Progressive flower has blossomed into something marvelous here. However, I am unable to express with words all the beauty of that magical thing, nor the peculiarities of what I see as its elegant complexity. The four shortest cuts, Days Gone By, Winds of Change, Hope and Leave Me Without My Memories, each find Mohamed Alsadeqi artistically reading Arabic verses that are ornamented with a mysterious atmosphere, created by the synthesizer waves and various sounds of nature. The remaining three tracks are all purely instrumental. As We Begin should probably be regarded as a benefit performance for Martin Hughes, who weaves quaint oriental patterns 'from' his flute and acoustic guitar, to the accompaniment of lush keyboard passages. Musically, A New Day and I Remember, are both designed to exhibit the contrast between fragility and rigidity, the guitar riffs on each referring to the same cultural source from which Ritchie Blackmore drew ideas when creating his oriental-like moves, such as those in Perfect Strangers, Stargazer and many other songs by Deep Purple and Rainbow.
Conclusion. I can't resist the originality and the magnetic power of these "Visions from the Past", so I rate the album as a masterpiece. A real rarity is this Oriental Symphonic Progressive, from Osiris. Heartily recommended.
VM: July 6, 2007
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