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(73:42, Metal Mind Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Hands Off 9:24 2. Queen of Moulin Rouge 8:25 3. SurREvival 5:57 4. Sanktuarium 7:44 5. Oldies But Goldies 9:43 6. The Fifth Season 10:34 7. Everything's Ended 11:44 8. Not So Close 10:05 LINEUP: Zbyszek Florek – keyboards; backing vocals Maciej Meller – guitars; backing vocals Bartek Kossowicz – lead vocals Mariusz Ziolkowski – bass Maciek Wroblewski – drums Jacek Zasada – flute; percussion
Prolusion. Formed in 1991 (though they went by the name of Deep River until 1995), QUIDAM are veterans of the Polish progressive rock scene. “The Fifth Season”, recorded during the band’s 2005 tour, mainly contains tracks from their studio album of the same year, “SurREvival”; the DVD based on the same tour was released in 2006. “SurREvival” was the first album the band recorded after the departure of vocalist Emilia Derkowska in 2003, replaced by Bartek Kossowicz – a change that marked a shift from the folk-prog sound of their earlier albums to a more decidedly neo-prog direction. “The Fifth Season” has been released as a limited edition run of only 1,000 copies.
Analysis. In spite of the often remarkable musical proficiency of the bands involved, neo-prog is not exactly my favourite brand of progressive rock, and I freely admit I would rather listen to something a tad more challenging. However, though I was not familiar with Quidam prior to listening to this album, I could not help being very positively impressed by the level of musicianship displayed here. Recorded at the Wyspianski Theatre in Katowice, the venue generally used by Metal Mind Records for their live DVDs, “The Fifth Season” is Quidam’s third live release since their inception, and captures a band at the top of their game, when they had just released their strongest album to date. Even if, at the time, their followers were somewhat anxious about the band’s decision to replace original singer Emilia Derkowska with a male vocalist, new singer Bartek Kossowicz would soon put any fears to rest with the very strong performance displayed on this album. Even if some people believe that the loss of Derkowska also meant Quidam would lose their individuality, and turn into just another neo-prog band (albeit a very good one), it can also be stated that, judging by what is showcased here, this is a band that can easily stand proud beside the British initiators of the movement, as well as other celebrated Polish prog bands such as Collage and Satellite. Not surprisingly for anyone familiar with the band, melody is the main star here – though of course we are not talking about the poppy, blatantly commercial side of melody, but rather the kind that characterises the output of bands like Camel or ‘pastoral’ Genesis. Quidam tackles the lengthy tracks with flair and the confidence born of long experience treading the boards of theatres in their homeland and in Europe, and their dedicated audience responds in kind. They are also not averse to adding some harder-edged spicing to their sound, as proved by the fast and furious riffing that peppers the songs here and there. In particular, album opener Hands Off alternates heavier, aggressive, parts with mellower, more spacey ones in a way that is somewhat reminiscent of their fellow countrymen Riverside, or even Porcupine Tree. Like most self-respecting live albums, “The Fifth Season” leaves some room for the more improvisational side of things, with Quidam regaling their fans with an almost 10-minute-long medley, wholly instrumental and rich in flute and keyboards, of some six or seven compositions dating back to the Derkowska era, fittingly called Oldies But Goldies. In addition, the album’s title-track, a slow, atmospheric number initially focused on piano and vocals, turns decidedly more energetic in its second half with an excerpt from Genesis’ exhilarating instrumental ‘Los Endos’; similarly, album closer Not So Close starts in a somewhat low-key manner, then some harder-edged riffing and impassioned vocals introduce an excerpt from ‘Hush’, the Joe South song made into an international hit by Deep Purple in 1968. Besides the medley, only one complete song from the Derkowska years is represented on the album – Sanktuarium, one of those tracks that fans expect to hear performed live, no matter what. Featuring the Polish vocals that Quidam abandoned with their 2002 album, “The Time beneath the Sky”, it also contains more than a nod to Pink Floyd in the clear, emotional sound of the guitar solos, and the soothing, almost hypnotic feel of Kossowicz’s singing. Kossowicz himself is indeed a find, his velvety yet expressive voice not a million miles away from Riverside’s incomparable Mariusz Duda, and always perfectly in control of both the audience and the material. As is the case of most Metal Mind live recordings, the sound quality is superb, and should please those who prize clarity and precision of sound even in a live album. “The Fifth Season” is a very enjoyable listen that will especially appeal to lovers of the mellower, more romantic side of prog – those for whom excellent musicianship and songwriting are more desirable qualities than boundary-pushing.
Conclusion. Though “The Fifth Season” is undoubtedly an excellent live testimony from a seasoned band, it is hard not to wonder why it was released, even as a limited edition, when a DVD of the same concert (obviously featuring a wider choice of material) had already been available on the market for four years. On the other hand, while this is a disc that is mainly targeted to Quidam completists (or to those who would rather listen to an album than sit down and watch a DVD), the undeniable quality of the musical offer is enough to earn “The Fifth Season” a more than satisfactory rating.
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