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(51:42, Altrock Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Overture 3:07 2. Il Tredici 11:46 3. Dark Age 6:18 4. The Guillotine 6:00 5. Timepiece 5:30 6. Sobriety 8:19 7. Tema 1:08 8. Steam 9:30 LINEUP: Gadi Ben-Elisha – el. & ac. guitars, mandolin Aviv Barness – keyboards; saxophone Shem Tov-Levi – flute Sagi Barness – bass Igal Baram – drums
Prolusion. SANHEDRIN is an Israeli band, whose history already counts a quarter of a century. However, it has no other albums to its credit but “Ever After”, which was released a few months ago by the Italian label Altrock Records. As you can see above, there are eight tracks here, ranging from 1 to 11+ minutes in length.
Analysis. According to the Sanhedrin musicians, they are inspired by Pink Floyd, Camel, Gentle Giant, Van Der Graaf Generator, Jethro Tull and Genesis, which almost totally corresponds to the real state of affairs, even though, unlike any of those bands, they play all-instrumental music. Here is my personal vision of the matter. For the most part, they take after the style developed by Camel in the ‘70s, but have their own spin on it, at times revealing moves with distinctly heavy guitar riffs as their basis, occasionally utilizing some typically jazz features (here: saxophone improvisations), to name just a few distinctions. On the other hand, there is also a strong mid-‘70s Pink Floyd vibe, most often appearing along with the above one: thus quite a few arrangements will satisfy the Genesis circle too. I didn’t find any traces of Gentle Giant, but then I discovered some features that evoke a couple of other English bands – to be named in due time. Five of the tracks, Overture, Il Tredici, Steam, Timepiece and The Guillotine, find Sanhedrin occupying a space between, say, the former two aesthetics almost throughout, and while the arrangements aren’t highly intricate overall, they are still diverse enough to keep the music twisting and turning with many varied sections and tricky soloing patterns. Okay, the first of these is a bit simpler than the others, but it’s a justified trick, bearing in mind that the piece opens the album. The latter track is in turn the most complicated of these. It contains a section of heavy (and rather unsettling) music, with the most relevant reference point from the past being King Crimson’s “Red”. Because of a little assonance, it isn’t as avant-garde as the English legend, but is more involved and quirkier than a typical hard-n-art/heavy prog affair. Not long before its finale Timepiece reveals a move where the band’s playing is accompanied by dogs’ barking – a hint at “Animals” is vivid, but the music does never evoke that, Pink Floyd’s most ambitious, effort, anywhere on the album. In terms of genre, Sobriety appears as a tri-sectional composition with well conceived transitional points, evolving from intelligent Folk Rock, calling up Jethro Tull in approach, through Symphonic Progressive to avant-garde Art-Rock of the Van Der Graaf Generator variety. The second movement, while still suggesting something halfway between Camel and Pink Floyd, at least basically, is driven by a bass riff that brings me back to Heart of the Sunrise from Yes’s “Fragile”. At least at the moment, I find this 8-minute composition to be the most enjoyable listen on the album. Dark Age begins and develops as traditional Celtic music with only mandolin, flute and tambourine in the arrangement, but then transforms into a full-blown symphonic folk rock number. Although short, an acoustic guitar tune Tema (Theme) is a rather remarkable thing, reminiscent of Mood for the Day from the aforementioned Yes output. All in all, by calculating the album’s contents in quality, I get one good composition, five excellent ones and two masterworks.
Conclusion. Sanhedrin’s melodies are more chromatic and less linear than most, if not all, of Camel’s followers, though the band can hardly be regarded as one of those, since it has several benefactors, never imitating, let alone quoting, them – either of those. In fact, Sanhedrin has managed to create what is obviously one of the most successful takes on vintage English Art-Rock to appear in the last two or, maybe, even three years.
VM=Vitaly Menshikov: July 13, 2011
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