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Tracklist: 1. Babel Lights 16:34 (Leff / Leff) 2. Ayanda (inst.) 11:51 (Leff, Bouquillard, S. Geille) 3. The Crawler 13:49 (Bouquillard, Leff, Campedel / Bouquillard) 4. Alone 16:23 (Leff / Leff, Bouquillard) 5. Requiem 11:25 (Bouquillard, Leff / Sophie Grimaut-Michel) 6. Epilogue (inst.) 3:35 (Bouquillard, Campedel) Line-up: Vince Leff - keyboards; electric & acoustic guitars; vocals Pascal Bouquillard - vocals; bass guitar Damien Gadenne - drums & percussion Benoit Campedel - electric guitar; MIDI-winds With: Marine Campedel - cello; vocalizes Guest musicians: Stephane Geille - piano (on 2) Oliver Charmeux - flute (on 6) Produced by Vince Leff. Recorded, mixed, & mastered by Vince Leff & Ben Acheres at "La Villa" studio.
Prologue. "Escaping From the Hands of God" is the second album by the French band Saens (previously Sens). Their debut album "Les regrets d'Isidore D" was released in 1999 by "Mellow Records".
The Album. Unlike "Les regrets d'Isidore D", almost all of the songs that are featured on this album were sung in English. The only rara avis, which was sung here in French, is Requiem. Pascal Bouquillard is in many ways a remarkable vocalist-chameleon. While his theatrically dramatic way of singing is rather typical for Symphonic Progressive in general (just remember the classic albums of such bands as Genesis, Ange, Mona Lisa, Marillion, IQ, etc), his voice is distinctly original. However, all four of the songs that are present on the album contain very brief vocal episodes, in which Pascal sings not unlike Steve Hogarth and Fish (on track 1), Peter Gabriel (on 3), Ange's Francois Decamps (on 5), Queensryche's Geoff Tate and (even!) King Diamond (on 4). I am almost sure that this way, Pascal Bouquillard just demonstrates the broad 'imitative' possibilities of his vocals. For the most part, the music of this album is also original. The only exception is the second half of Alone where all the solos of synthesizers are not unlike those by Mark Kelly. It doesn't much matter whether it was done voluntarily or not. In any case, these very solos "ate" one of the six rating stars and, in that way, robbed the album of the status of masterpiece. Well, it's time to describe the general and particular aspects of "Escaping From the Hands of God". (Mentally, I've just subtitled this excellent album as "Escaping From Hands of a 'Pathologically' Honest Reviewer.) There are four songs (tracks 1, 3, 4, & 5) and two instrumentals (2 & 6) on the album. All five of the first tracks on the album were, on the whole, created within the framework of a unified stylistics, the best definition of which would probably be the next. This is a blend of Classic and Neo Symphonic Art-Rock with the elements of Prog-Metal, performed with the frequent use of complex time signatures. Epilogue (6), which is a brilliant instrumental piece, is the only track on the album that is out of its stylistic concept. The arrangements that are featured on it consist of diverse interplay between the tasteful passages of acoustic guitar, piano, cello, and harp and solos of MIDI wind instruments (flute and saxophone), all of which sound rather natural. By the way, this instrumental was performed without the rhythm section. Now, let's work backwards. Structurally, two songs, Babel Lights & The Crawler (1 & 3), and the instrumental piece Ayanda (2), which features wonderful female vocalizes, are in many ways similar among themselves. The hard-edged arrangements that are filled with the frequent and, often, kaleidoscopic changes of theme, tempo, and mood, and the alternation of harsh 'n heavy and soft, symphonic and mellow, structures are typical for all of them. The instrumental arrangements are always intensive, regardless whether there are the vocals. Apart from the parts of traditional 'Rock' instruments and the rhythm section, the solos and passages of acoustic guitar, piano, and MIDI-winds play significant roles in the arrangements throughout the album as well. Interplay between the amazingly virtuosi solos of acoustic guitar and piano in the end of The Crawler have a distinct Spanish feel to them. The first half of Alone (4) can be described with the same words as for the first three tracks on the album. Instrumentally, the second half of this song is much in the vein of early Marillion. Which happened first of all "thanks" to the keyboard solos that I've mentioned above. Apart from a few of the lead and backing vocals, Requiem (5) features a grandiose choir. Consisting of the mixed female and male vocal parts, this choir is the main 'medium' of a sad atmosphere, which is typical for such a sort of musical works. Instrumentally, Requiem is marked with the arrangements that, overall, are quieter than those on all the previous tracks. The passages of Church Organ are here especially impressive, though, in my view, they should've been used on this piece more widely. Anyway, I regard Requiem as a masterpiece, as well as all the other compositions on the album, except for Alone.
Summary. No less than half of the arrangements that are featured on "Escaping From the Hands of God" are truly hard-edged (read "classic"). On the other hand, there are not that little of episodes that are typical for Neo on this album. So my conclusion on the second Saens album as a whole sounds the next way. "Escaping From the Hands of God" is one of the most complex and interesting albums of Neo Progressive that I've ever heard. So it comes highly recommended to the lovers of both the Classic and Neo categories of Symphonic Progressive.
VM. May 23, 2002
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