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TRACK LIST: 1. Days of Wrath 6:18 Thunderstorm: 2. Part I 4:42 3. Part II 3:42 4. Part III 5:26 5. Part IV 4:36 6. Part V 4:30 7. Part VI 3:49 8. Part VII 3:39 Force Majeure: 9. Part I 3:26 10. Part II 4:59 11. Part III 2:55 12. Part IV 8:40 13. War 11:13 All music: by Valet & Terhoeven. All lyrics: Valet. LINE-UP: Robert Valet - keyboards; acoustic guitars Peter Terhoeven - electric, acoustic, & bass guitars Sebastian Jungermann - basses Volker Janacek - drums Bettina Wirtz - vocals With: Jade - saxophone (on 5 & 13) Produced & engineered by Valet & Terhoeven. Arrangements: Solar Project.
Prolusion. This material was initially destined for a series of the "ABC" reviews, which I published last update, on >July 4. With your permission, I won't change its contents, especially since it unfolds the ABC of my conception of Archetypes, Benefactors, and Creeds perhaps more widely than any other review I have written on the topic. Please don't think that I am about to show off my intelligence while going this route. This is just an attempt to investigate at least most common regularities of the development of contemporary Progressive. Well, this unoriginally titled album, "Force Majeure", is the sixth official output by Germany's SOLAR PROJECT. There are two more of the band-related reviews on the site. They can be read by clicking >here and >here.
Synopsis. At least nominally, "Force Majeure" features four compositions. Two of them, the 29-minute Thunderstorm and the 19-minute title track of the album, are divided into several parts-tracks, most of which fluidly flow from one to another. The archetype of Solar Project's music is Space Rock or, to be more precise, the artifact of classic symphonic Space Rock, which, just like the artifacts of any other musical genres and directions, exists at least in those informational channels that cross our planet's position in space and time. Of course, any archetype has its pre-archetype, and in this very case this would probably be Psychedelic Rock of the '60s, though this doesn't seem to be topical from the standpoint of contemporaneousness and timeliness alike. After all, it's just impossible to reach the primary source of anything else. With the exception of Days of Wrath (1, the only track featuring a drum machine instead of drums), a pronouncedly symphonic Space Rock lies at the basis of all of the tracks here, but only one of them: Thunderstorm-I (2) directly points out the band's principal benefactor, which is Pink Floyd. There are some emanations of the genre's Grandfathers on the last track, War (13), but it is not so easy to reveal them here. Solar Project's other benefactor, Hawkwind, the traces of which are clearly determinable on the previous albums by the band, is practically out of play now. Only the opening number, the featureless and monotonous Days of Wrath, represents Spacey Electronic Pop-Rock in the vein of the most primitive songs from Hawkwind's "Space Bandits", "Electric Teepee" and the like. Apart from the said ones, the band may have some other benefactors. But since my knowledge of Rock music of the '60s isn't that good, I won't even try to uncover them. In this respect, there is another important aspect of historical, social and other peculiarities of the development of society in the years of the 20th century's Renaissance. The bands that were formed at the time of a cultural revolution, including Pink Floyd, did manage to open such wide new horizons that the traces of any possible benefactors have just dissolved in their music, so it's often impossible to determine such at all. And of course, in the overwhelming majority of cases, benefactors (here: teachers in absentia, and not protectors) don't have an idea of the existence of their followers or imitators. Well, the first two tracks are highly derivative. The reason, by which these have become part of the album, is absolutely unclear to me. Which, above all, is because all the other tracks, including the aforementioned War, are Solar Fire's most original compositions to date, clearly showing that the band is easily able to play music, which would've been both unique and intriguing. The fact that the band has finally formed its own style is more than merely evident on this recording, so there was no need for them, to put it mildly, to apply to the legacy of their benefactors again. Starting with the third track and down to the last note of the album, the music is an amazingly impressive, hypnotic, really fresh sounding Symphonic Space Rock with and without the bits of Space Metal. The instrumental compositions: Thunderstorm's Part III and Force Majeure's Parts II and IV (4, 10 & 12) are excellent, and yet, they are hardly better than songs. Unlike the band's previous albums, there are no vocal 'orgies' on "Force Majeure". The newcomer Bettina Wirtz is the only singer, and her accented English is counterbalanced by the beauty and depth of her voice from one side and the instrumental arrangements from another, as these are intensive throughout each of the songs as well. The main soloing instruments are Hammond, synthesizer, electric and acoustic guitars. Some tracks feature also the parts of piano and Mellotron. The solos of saxophone are present only on Thunderstorm's Part IV and War (5 & 13), both of which are also notable for the large quantity of passages and solos of acoustic guitar, especially those going independently, out the context of massive arrangements.
Conclusion. Like in the case of >Lizard, i.e. due to the presence of derivative songs, I can't rate the new Solar Project album as a complete masterpiece. Nevertheless, I think this is the band's best effort to date and is one of the strongest albums to appear in the field of Symphonic Space Rock in the last two years. Don't focus your attention on the first two tracks, and you will be generously rewarded for your patience. The band very well fits the niche forsaken by Pink Floyd and Eloy.
VM: July 12, 2004
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