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(44.23, Musea Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Dark 4:07 2. Hold On 3:37 3. Dirty Girl 3:40 4. In Chains 4:52 5. Song for All 4:06 6. Mermaid 4:25 7. Honesty 4:15 8. Both of You 3:37 9. Perfection 3:02 10. I Wish I Had Horns 4:18 11. Days of Despair 4:24 LINEUP: Carlos Sanchez – bass, guitar; keyboards; programming Maria Toreson – vocals; piano; violin Andrea Ummarino – guitars Gunvar Wie – drums
Prolusion. TERRAEX are a multi-national quarted based in Stavanger (Norway). It started as Carlos Sanchez’s solo project, then Maria Toresen was added as a vocalist. When guitarist Andrea Ummarino and drummer Gunvar Wie joined the duo, the band was ready to record their debut album, “Somnia”, released by Musea Records in 2009.
Analysis. While listening to “Somnia”, in spite of the intriguing artwork in which the CD is packaged, it is inevitable to wonder why this band has been signed by a label mainly associated with progressive music such as Musea, and consequently reviewed on prog websites. This does not imply that the album is worthless, far from that – it is a pleasing listen, not overlong, and evenly balanced between out-and-out rockers and slower, more atmospheric tracks. However, it is also a mostly mainstream offering, strongly song-based, with the occasional use of mellotron and Hammond organ as its only connection with our favourite genre. Terraex belong to the countless number of bands fronted by a female vocalist – who, in this case, happens to also play piano and violin. Though she is pictured in the CD booklet in the almost mandatory revealing outfit, she proves throughout the album that she is more than eye candy. I may not a fan of her particular vocal style – high-pitched and reminiscent of the likes of Pat Benatar or Ann Wilson, though not as powerful – but Maria Toresen is undoubtedly a gifted, versatile singer who can tackle the rockier numbers as effectively as the more subdued ones. The other band members are not slouches either, and, compared with your average pop-rock band, their instrumentation is quite rich. “Somnia” comprises 11 short songs (the longest clocking in at under 5 minutes), all of them displaying a rather conventional verse-chorus-verse structure. Some of them include occasionally interesting instrumental passage, but Toresen’s vocals are clearly the driving force of Terraex’ music - so, not surprisingly, the bias is on the singing rather than the playing. This is one of the many factors that make the album a very unlikely item to be reviewed on a progressive rock site, where the instrumental component is often definitely more relevant. While most of the songs are catchy, they are also rather forgettable, as if they had been penned with immediate consumption in mind. There are only a couple of exceptions to this rule, such as opening track Dark, a grungy, power-chord-heavy number with folksy, acoustic inserts and neat percussion work, and the atmospheric Honesty, driven by stately, martial drumming and made more interesting by the presence of the Mellotron. The slower numbers are, as a whole, not particularly noteworthy, though the piano-based, romantic ballad Both of You may bring to mind Kate Bush with some Beatles-ian echoes. In Chains and Song for All make use of the Hammond organ to add a touch of vintage hard rock feel, though the vocal style suggests gutsy female rockers such as Alanis Morrissette or Sheryl Crow rather than Deep Purple. Since Terraex consider themselves an alternative rock band, any allegations of them not being progressive enough will probably not surprise them or their fans overmuch. In any case, they are a talented outfit, and “Somnia” a more agreeable album than many other similar efforts released in the past few months. However, it is also one of those discs that might very well be forgotten after a couple of listens, and that does not really capture the listener’s attention for much longer than its running time.
Conclusion. Progressive rock fans that, at least occasionally, need to take a break from more challenging fare may find “Somnia” a pleasant proposition – as well as devotees of female vocals in all their manifestations. This is, anyway, very much a mainstream album, albeit with a few ‘progressive’ touches, and nothing more demanding should be expected.
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