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(53:00, Record Heaven Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Dance 5:48 2. Choose Your Green 3:53 3. Trota Di Mare 4:30 4. Orange & Turquoise 6:05 5. In Search 4:16 6. Little Man 4:19 7. The Person 6:05 8. The Man from My Mother’s Brother 6:18 9. Closing the Circle 4:06 10. Burned by the Sun 7:34 LINEUP: Oliver Eek – guitars; backing vocals Daniel Karlsson – organs, Mellotron Christian Eklof – drums Tobias Petterson – bass; b/v Alexander Frisborg – lead vocals
Prolusion. Hailing from Sweden, THE DIVINE BAZE ORCHESTRA (DBO hereinafter) came into the world as a musical unit in the fall of 2003, but almost two years passed before it achieved its current, quintet, state. “Once We Were Born” is their first release and comes from the precincts of their native recording company Record Heaven.
Analysis. So, DBO is a standard five-piece, most of their music toeing the line of orthodox symphonic Hard Rock that Sweden seems to be blossoming out with these days, owing in many ways to the aforesaid label’s activity. The classically-vintage (which is certainly synonymous with “English”) aesthetics of the genre are striking almost everywhere on this album. Seven of the ten tracks presented are creations of practically the same stylistically-compositional approach, only differing from each other in terms of structure. These are Dance, Choose Your Green, The Person, In Search, Little Man, The Man from My Mother’s Brother and Closing the Circle, of which the first three are dominated by intensive arrangements, while the others alternate sections with harder and softer moves. Within their genre category, all these are very decent compositions, while from a progressive viewpoint the highlights would be The Person and The Man from My Mother’s Brother. Following each other in the middle of the CD’s imaginary side B, both the songs stand out for their long and varied instrumental sections with plenty of effective organ, mellotron and guitar leads in their spotlight. As the music as such suggests for the most part a crossover between early ‘70s Deep Purple, Uriah Heep and Black Sabbath, there is certainly not too much originality on the disc’s instrumental level, which instantly puts singer Alexander Frisborg in the forefront as the band’s personality. Having an almost operatic quality to his vocals, Alexander is the most original and distinctive voice in this act, adding a lot of freshness to the overall sound here, displaying a truly creative approach almost everywhere where he sings alone. It is only when Frisborg’s bandmates join him (which happens relatively rarely), providing secondary vocal lines, that the singing reminds me of Uriah Heep’s, otherwise coming across as a novelty, at least as regards this particular kind of music. The closing track, Burned by the Sun, is a symphonic hard rock ballad which quite well blends with the album’s prevalent style. In a general sense, this is a fairly impressive piece also, but is slightly overextended, additionally employing a drum solo – a typical concert trick that’s not too fitting for a studio recording unless it’s by jazz or related performers. Orange & Turquoise is by and large a standard blues song, very remotely resembling early Led Zeppelin, but it finishes as a conventional ballad, though it could have received quite an interesting development if its (more than merely short) core hard-rock move, with Frisborg growling like an extreme metal singer, hadn’t been ruined already in its first stages. The remaining track, Trota Di Mare, is nothing other than hard Rock & Roll and is an utterly standard as well as repetitive thing, urging the vocalist to compromise with the style, and so to avoid using most of those peculiarities of his singing that otherwise raise this disc fairly much above a statistically-average vintage hard rock-style creation.
Conclusion. I have no idea what the label was guided by when citing Jen Johansson (formerly of Rising Force, this keyboardist is also known for playing with a number of remarkable jazz-fusion artists and has a few solo releases in that style in addition), The Mahavishnu Orchestra, Miles Davis and King Crimson as reference points in the press kit. That being said, I’m inclined to believe I correctly defined the essence of the debut DBO effort. There’s not too much here to please casual prog lovers, let alone jazz rock fans, but those who’d like to dive into the heyday of symphonic Hard Rock shouldn’t be disappointed with this recording: it’s positively nostalgic, well reproducing the spirit of the epoch.
VM: September 8, 2008
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