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(CD + DVD, Luna Negra & Musea Records)
Prolusion. "Grog" by PSICOTROPIA, from Spain, is a successor to the band's self-titled debut album from 2003. Since this is a combined release, I will view the CD separately from the DVD.
TRACK LIST: 1. Vy 5:37 2. Zas 6:41 3. Quasar 6:07 4. Leuven 7:59 5. Gineo Mundos 2,0 2:08 6. Pajaro 5:35 7. Nana Negra 5:58 8. Grog 6:43 LINEUP: Pablo Tato - vocals; guitars Jaime Mariscal - bass Juan Lluli - drums With: Jesus Dario - violin Alberto Nieto - violin Ivan Carames - cello Carlos Plaza - keyboards
Analysis. Of the eight tracks that this CD is made up of, two are vocal-free pieces, almost all of the others being largely instrumental, in the concept's truest meaning. However it is the sole exception to that rule, the opening track Vy, which is the most profound composition here. While falling squarely into the framework of classic guitar-driven Prog-Metal (without using keyboards), the song contains so many different thematic storylines that I had to revisit it to realize that there are no repeats even on its vocal level. Of course the main criteria, which allow me to consider the piece to be a progressive rock killer, are its complex compositional construction, abundance in sudden transitions, odd meters and so on. Those acquainted with "A Social Grace" by Psychotic Waltz are already halfway to having the idea of what Vy is overall about, though Pablo Tato's singing, which is kind of laid-back from surrounding events, is more reminiscent of Fates Warning's Ray Alder than Buddy Lucky (AKA Devon Graves) in approach - as everywhere on the album. Since I've already called my favorite track, I must make the reservation that all the subsequent ones are only slightly inferior to it. Just like the opener, both of its follow-ups, Zas and Quasar, are filled with a grim, disturbing atmosphere and are heavy throughout, with not even a small island of calmness in their raging musical seas. What distinguishes these from Vy is the presence of slow, yet still ornate arrangements that may bring to mind Paradise Lost or Candlemass. In order not to repeat myself, I only note that the instrumental title track, which concludes the CD, would've been rated along with Vy if its first three introductory movements hadn't represented conventional Swing, Circus music and Rock-&-Roll respectively, and that the main reason I didn't mention the sixth track Pajaro up to now is that, unlike any of the others, it reminds me of Voivod - circa "The Outer Limits". That being said, the rest of the journey is almost equally interesting, although it is less adventurous, which is not because the remaining three creations are all performed without using any big guns, but is because the band rarely ventures on truly intricate movements there. The only two tracks with the participation of session musicians (see lineup above), Leuven and Nana Negra, are both almost as beautiful and expressive as the only chamber-like section in the sidelong epic Tangerine Windows of Solace from the second Sieges Even recording, "Steps", which however isn't due to the guests' efforts, though I can suppose they just weren't allowed to weave any complicated patterns. The remaining instrumental, Gineo Mundos, is guitar Art-Rock with some hints of King Crimson. Very interestingly designed, the piece has a somewhat blurry finale however, therefore leaving the impression of being a bit underdeveloped. Finally I think it should be mentioned that the King Crimson influence, which runs all through the trio's first album, appears almost exclusively in its latent form here, meaning it exists on most of the previously described tracks too, but is so well camouflaged there that only those having a listening experience of many years will recognize it.
TRACK LIST: 1. Zas 2. Pajaro 3. Quasar 4. Grog 5. Vy LINEUP: Pablo Tato - vocals; guitar Jaime Mariscal - bass Juan Lluli - drums
Analysis. It was only after putting the DVD into my player that I realized it has a different title, "Live" - just "Live", and not "Grog Live", although it doesn't include any piece from the first Psicotropia recording or, to put it another way, the five numbers on this one, Zas, Pajaro, Quasar, Grog and Vy, are all only linked with the above-described CD. On the other hand however, none of the pieces is a blind copy of its studio counterpart, this remark being especially topical regarding the concluding track, Vy, which appears to be noticeably longer than its CD variant. More arguments? Please going on reading, and you'll find them below. Shot by seven cameramen, the DVD depicts the trio playing in a small club without seats (perhaps a discotheque hall) before 100 or so, the audience at times somehow contriving to dance to this highly complex music. You see, the tracks the trio chose for this concert were all originally heavy, and yet here their makers sound like an art-rock rather than prog-metal band, which is because the set is indeed performed live and does not feature any post-facto studio amendments - hence another (and perhaps the main) difference between the songs' initial versions and their live readings. The musicians play with ease, sincerely enjoying their onstage appearance, from time to time making the viewers laugh. Just before performing Quasar, bassist Jaime Mariscal first puts a metal bucket on his guitar's neck, but soon finds his head to be a better place for the bucket, having taken it off only after the song is ended. Since no overdubs are deployed, the sound of the DVD is definitely less saturated than the CD. Besides, there is neither the play of lights nor even a screen so that make the group's show a slide report, but nevertheless the DVD is both a spectacular and cognitive sight, giving its viewer a clear idea that these three young men are equally masterful whether they play on stage or work in the studio.
Conclusion. While not a complete masterpiece, "Grog" is a very solid album and is worth buying, since the CD and the DVD complement each other well (unlike the latest Lazuli release for instance). Even for those who are already acquainted with this Spanish band, their second offering will disclose considerable new ground. Recommended.
VM: September 6 & 7, 2007
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