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(44 min, GEP Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Awaiting the Semicentennial Tidal Wave 4:19 2. Surprise Me 5:34 3. Kiss from a Glacier 4:42 4. Northern Lights 3:58 5. Atlas of You 4:21 6. Interstellar Robotic Pilgrim 4:53 7. Darkness 3:43 8. Gas Giants 7:03 9. Testing the Empathy 6:07 LINEUP: Zsolt Kaltenecker – keyboards Marton Kertesz – el. guitar Attila Fehervari – bass Adam Marko – drums
Prolusion. The history of the Hungarian band SPECIAL PROVIDENCE has begun in 2004. “Essence of Change” is their fourth album to date, and, if my memory doesn’t let me down, is the first all-instrumental release by the veteran English label Giant Electric Pea Records, owned by IQ. According to the press kit, the music is a blend of Prog, Jazz Rock and Metal.
Analysis. This album marks my first encounter with the outfit’s work. The nine tracks here, ranging from four to seven minutes in length, are all creations of the same compositional approach, at least overall. Classic Jazz-Fusion with real and quasi improvisations is the dominant genre throughout the album. The heavy side of the music is presented either by progressive Doom Metal or Techno Thrash, both of which seem to be used predominantly to create a striking structural contrast between different sections of a composition, even though they appear for the most part along wth the primary-style maneuvers, rarely in their pure form. Beginning with disc opener Awaiting the Semicentennial Tidal Wave, the compositions normally alternate the indicated stylistic segments. However, such tracks as Kiss from a Glacier and Testing the Empathy contain few heavy guitar riffs, using soft interludes for contrast, – as also do all of the other pieces, though, within the purely jazz-fusion arrangements, most of which are intense in turn. There are also moments of smooth jazz on a couple of tracks, one of which, Surprise Me has additionally an organ-driven hard rock-like move, while another, Darkness reveals its heavy metal features only within its final section, still blending them with ones of Jazz-Fusion. Points of comparison include National Health, Gong circa 1976-’78, early Pat Metheny (Group), the early-to-mid period of Allan Holdsworth’s work and something halfway between early and late ‘70s Black Sabbath, e.g. Candlemass, who are true followers of the Great Brummies. The first three pieces on the disc are comparatively simple, consisting predominantly of variations on – a few – of the same thematic storylines. The subsequent tracks, Northern Lights (which involves electronics in addition), Atlas of You, Gas Giants and Interstellar Robotic Pilgrim included, are all more progressive in nature, more diverse, richer in subtle details, no matter that the concluding piece, Testing the Empathy, begins and ends very much in the same vein, (but then) revealing the only genuinely symphonic episode on the album. However, the musicianship is excellent in all cases, throughout the album, and each of the band members has time to show up his virtuosity, bassist Attila Fehervari soloing almost ceaselessly, regardless of whether the music is fast and intense or slow and atmospheric at the moment. Zsolt Kaltenecker is more focused on piano than on organ or synthesizer. Obviously, he is able to play very fast on any kind of keyboards, but on this disc, he shines with high virtuosity when playing the latter instrument. Marton Kertesz is the only band member, whose soloing reminds me of other artists from time to time, namely Pat Metheny, Allan Holdsworth and John Goodsall (of Brand X), occasionally evoking Al DiMeola (Return To Forever, solo). To put it in a different way, there are no flashy guitar solos here, done in the manner of Steve Vai or Joe Satriani and the likes. Drummer Adam Marko is also very masterful musician, to say the least.
Conclusion. William Shakespeare has his Hamlet say: “There is a special providence in the fall of a sparrow”. Special Providence’s latest output is an atypical release for GEP Records, a label that has always been oriented to symphonic Art-Rock as well as Prog-Metal. Now it has a jazz-fusion band in his roster. As I previously said, “Essence of Change” belongs to the latter genre, at least overall, and is destined mainly to the corresponding part of the progressive rock circle. Most of the disc’s compositions are very good, so don’t miss it – you know who you are.
VM=Vitaly Menshikov: April 1, 2015
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