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(50:32, Musea Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Devil's Garden 4:32 2. The Green Caves 5:08 3. Crashing Waves 4:28 4. Crater Camels 5:44 5. Absynthe 3:12 6. Fire Mountains 9:37 7. Mirador 5:06 8. Blackbeach 3:33 9. Observe & Learn 9:12 SOLO PILOT: Hanspeter Hess – keyboards; drum programming; drums With: Stefan Dittmar – drums (3, 5, 8, 9) Markus Roth – keyboards (2, 4, 5) Dominik Wimmer – guitars (1, 2, 6) Kai Heyrock – guitars, bass (7, 9) Thommy Frank – bass, guitar (4, 8)
Prolusion. THE HEALING ROAD is the artist name chosen by German keyboardist and composer Hanspeter Hess, and "Timanfaya" is the second of three productions he has made so far. The album was self-released in 2008 and later reissued by Musea Records when the label signed this project in the fall of the same year.
Analysis. Hanspeter Hess is one of several artists that have more or less close contact through the German branch of the Spock's Beard fan club, and personally I came across The Healing Road the first time in 2007 due to a joint venture by several of these musicians, a relief album called "Hope / Omid" where Hanspeter Hess contributed using The Healing Road moniker. It's interesting to note that many of the other contributors to that project have participated in the creation of this release as well, and it would seem that there's a high level of creativity as well as collaborative spirit in this German society. Musically it is obvious that similarities to Spock's Beard will be an element of this production, as the artist as well as his guest musicians obviously care much for this popular US outfit. There are no elements of replication going on though; Hess and his fellow musicians do create music that possibly can be coined neo progressive and the music is mostly keyboard driven, but personally I didn't find the songs on this creation to have any further similarities. Strong melodies with intriguing, nuanced, explorations are the main asset on "Timanfaya", where multiple layers of keyboards in various guises make up most of the central elements in the individual compositions. The piano is probably the most utilized instrument, providing strong melodic themes at the core for most tracks here. Lush, floating, synthesizers, organs and several layers of more or less fragmented keyboards provide numerous details and nuances to the melodic explorations, and more often than not carefully contrasting elements can be found. In a few tracks, the opening tune Devil's Garden and the fifth piece Absynthe in particular, Hess utilizes a high degree of contrast and disharmonic elements. But for the rest of the album the focus seems to be on exploring the nuances, where the contrasting layers are on a minute detail level rather than a broader, easily audible one. The guitar enhances this approach in most tunes, first and foremost by being used to serve dark, drawn out chords as well as lighter, swirling acoustic guitar licks and dreamy solo spots, but also to contrast the slick, floating, synth layers with a harsher and darker atmosphere. Inventive use of drums and other percussion further enriches these compositions. The symphonic elements dominate proceedings here, with leanings towards vintage art rock and new age types of music. Indeed, many of the tunes end up contrasting in description, where lush and mellow are just as true as majestic and energetic for most compositions on this release.
Conclusion. Although not all the songs work out perfectly, this release is first and foremost a creative and rather innovative exploration of modern symphonic rock of the instrumental variety, with the composer and the musicians indulging in exploring the finer details and nuances of a rich, multilayered landscape. Followers of Neo Progressive might be the core target crowd for this release, but those who think they might enjoy instrumental progressive rock with strong moods and melodies containing detailed sonic explorations, might also find this recording to be of interest.
OMB=Olav M Bjornsen: February 13, 2008
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