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(42:08, Musea Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Tales from The Dam-1 22:27 2. Tales from The Dam-2 19:41 LINEUP: Hanspeter Hess – keyboards; V-Drums Thommy Frank – guitars Claus Flittiger – guitars Stefan Dittmar – drums Hermann Voges – vocals With: Gilbert Cyppel – guitars Matthias Zalepa – guitars
Prolusion. THE HEALING ROAD is the artist name chosen by German keyboardist and composer Hanspeter Hess, who's been pretty active since he first appeared back in 2006. "Tales from the Dam" is the third production from this project and like last year's album "Timanfaya" it was issued by the French label Musea Records.
Analysis. Hanspeter Hess and his project The Healing Road have become a pleasant acquaintance for me, ever since I first came across the compilation/relief effort HopelOmid back in 2007, where one of the best tracks was a contribution by said artist. And this latest excursion by Hess continues exploring pretty much the same stylistic expression as he did back then as well as on his second production "Timanfaya" – a modern form of symphonic art rock blended with ambient elements such as one may find in new age compositions. This time around Hess has opted for the creation of an epic though, as well as creating an album with a charming, vintage character to it. First and foremost, Hess has chosen vinyl as the chosen format for this album and it is sold as a vinyl and CD bundle, but where it's stated pretty clear that mix and production has been done with the vinyl release in mind. And a direct result of this choice is that the long epic composition making up this disc has been divided into two parts, thus following up on an old tradition in progressive rock. That this is a very deliberate choice can be seen by the fact that the CD edition has two tracks as well, despite the fact that the two parts could have been mixed as a single entity on that format with ease. Both parts of the epic creation here share several similarities, which is natural. Mellow, lush and often ambient sounds will form the start of a theme, and gradual additions of instruments and sounds take the theme from a humble start to a rich, detailed soundscape. At a certain point the theme mellows down to a new serene segment, and the gradual enrichment of the theme takes place again. Both parts of the composition are constantly evolving, moving forward and changing, but never to the point of being chaotic or stressed – the listener is given ample time to enjoy a theme prior to the introduction of the next one, but the changes occur before the themes are overly explored as well. The main similarities between these two parts of the whole occur at the start of the second part. From the onset here exotic sounding elements are introduced and utilized until just about the halfway point, adding an eastern and at times more specifically Chinese feel to the themes explored. In the most energetic segments similarities to Ozric Tentacles are evident, although one might add that this sound isn't explored for too long. First and foremost this is a creation with a firm foundation in so called neo progressive music though, with stylistic traits which make it tempting to compare The Healing Road with an artist like Mike Oldfield.
Conclusion. Not quite perfect, and with a few short flawed moments, but even so Hanspeter Hess has issued another strong and compelling production. Distinct melodies with rich moods and atmospheres, and although not too innovative, breaking down and challenging musical boundaries, this is a quality release. Those who enjoy a modern take on instrumental symphonic art rock should find this release to be of interest, as well as those with a keen interest in epic, long compositions of the instrumental variety.
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