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TRACK LIST: 1. Incident at Charing Cross Road 0:45 2. Transcendence 9:26 3. The Visions of Eternity 9:11 4. Beyond the Light 4:44 5. The Devil's Proffer 6:29 6. The Devil's Lament 6:59 7. The Realm of the Skeptics 6:10 8. The Mysterium of the Divine 2:55 9. The Truth of Eternity 12:28 LINEUP: Anonymous – all vocals and rock instruments Someone – violin, strings
Prolusion. The US-based project THE PSYCHEDELIC ENSEMBLE entered the world of progressive rock in 2009 with the concept album "The Art of Madness", a likeable production in the Pink Floyd vein that was well received by the progressive community at large. "The Myth of Dying" is the second venture by this composer and multi-instrumentalist who prefers to stay anonymous so that his musical endeavors can be enjoyed on their own without being associated with a person who may or may not be well known.
Analysis. "The Myth of Dying" is a musical journey that follows a deceased young poet through the afterlife. This opening sentence of the liner notes for this CD sums up the concept explored on this second production by the unknown entity that has chosen to release music under the moniker of The Psychedelic Ensemble, an enticing conceptual setting with numerous literary references in general, where Dante for many will the one most familiar to people as a whole. Clocking in at just under an hour and consisting of one musical piece divided into several chapters, "The Myth of Dying" shares many traits with its predecessor on a superficial level. But musically we're taken into a much different universe this time around. Art rock of the symphonic kind is the style vividly explored on this occasion, and a rather sophisticated variety of this style to boot. The overall sound and to some extent the stylistic expression refer back to artists such as Yes and Gentle Giant, with quite a few details fans of acts such as Camel and Genesis will recognize as additional flavorings. But unlike the giants of the 70's, the instrumentation is a contemporary one. Modern synthesizers and keyboards are preferred over the vintage analog kind, with violin, viola, piano and acoustic guitar used to add gentler, warm instrumental touches to the proceedings. Compositionally this is a fairly advanced creation, and one that demands an almost total immersion to reveal all its details. The instruments are tightly interwoven, and on most occasions we're not only dealing with multiple instrument layers, but also with multiple instances of harmonies, disharmonies and dissonances at the same time. The latter two of a subtle variety I might add: the contrasting elements aren't polarized and the non-melodic aspects are normally given a subservient placement in the arrangements, but they are there to be discovered and appreciated by the avid and interested listener. One of the representations of that aspect of the album which impressed me to no end was the manner in which the various instruments were utilized to craft the rhythmical as well as the melodic foundations of the compositions, where impact notes from different instruments, instrument bursts and the prevalent rhythmic qualities of the piano and acoustic guitar are tightly interwoven with the drums to craft intricate rhythmical motifs and not merely underscoring or enhancing the drum patterns. And while the quirky arrangements may be a bit too much at times - in the opening parts of the CD first and foremost – later on these details are some of the many small details that result in a truly rewarding musical experience. While most parts of this epic composition reside within the heartland of the symphonic art rock universe, we're treated to a token few ventures into other genres as well. The Devil's Lament is a curiously dissonant blues-based affair with jazz-tinged details, with a final passage consisting of a single violin – perhaps playing the devil's music, as the violin at one time was an instrument favored by the horned and tailed one in Christian-inspired folklore. The Mysterium of the Divine is a fine example of classical chamber music, with acoustic guitar and piano creating a tightly interwoven theme contrasted by string bursts and an enthralling violin solo. These exceptions maintain the same high quality as the rest of this album and add a nice flavor of variety to the proceedings. And for those concerned about audio quality matters, mix and production are top notch, the overall sound much less compressed than what has become the norm over the last decade or so, and by and large this is a production that has a high quality mark about it in all details great and small. Whoever the person responsible for this project is, his taste on all matters, musical, technical and artistic, appears to be impeccable.
Conclusion. While initially perhaps appearing to be slightly too chaotic and quirky, "The Myth of Dying" soon proves to be a splendid production of the symphonic art rock variety, with numerous details to savor and plenty of intricate compositional features to enjoy. All of these are placed within a brilliantly produced single composition that spans the entire album. Beautiful cover art, extensive liner notes and a high quality booklet are treats for those who prefer to buy a physical CD. And while the latter isn't needed to be able to enjoy this splendid creation, they will enhance the overall experience. A few very minor details aside, this is a brilliant production and obviously highly recommended.
OMB=Olav M Bjornsen: April 14, 2011
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