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Unwritten Pages - 2010 - "Part 1: Noah"

(84:35 2CD, Progrock Records)


****+

Prolusion. UNWRITTEN PAGES, from The Netherlands, apparently started out by chance, with a science fiction story that started developing a life of its own and sent creative trio Frederic Epe, Michel Epe and Glenn out on a quest to craft a rock opera suitable for it. From 2005 and onwards the album slowly took shape amidst a continuous struggle to finance it and follow the whims of the muses guiding the creators, with notable musicians such as Karl Groom and Damian Wilson adding their input as the project evolved. In 2010 what one might assume is the partial end result came in the shape of the double album "Part I: Noah", subsequently picked up and released by the US label Progrock Records.

Disc 1 (43:49)
*****

TRACK LIST: 

1.  This New World 5:35
2.  The Boy is Awake 3:41
3.  In the Name of Ishmael 7:35
4.  Royalty & Conspiracies 6:31
5.  Red Ashes 3:01
6.  Solar Blast 6:45
7.  Deimos Theme 6:57
8.  Blowing Red Ashes-I 3:44

LINEUP:

Frederic Epe  vocals; keyboards
Sander Stappers  bass 
Davy Mickers  drums 
Michel Epe  guitars 
Glenn  guitars 
Karl Groom  guitars 
Damian Wilson  vocals 
Ruth Maasen  vocals 
Lothar Epe  vocals 
Ali Jemail Gamy  percussion 
Analysis. Holland is a country you can associate with a lot of different topics, be it their dams, their great painters throughout history or the rather liberal legislation they have towards milder varieties of mind enhancing substances. In progressive rock circles one might argue that Ayreon is amongst the most well-known projects surfacing from this country, and the success of its creator Arjen Lucassen in this endeavor has inspired countless others to craft elaborate rock operas for the last decade or so. Unwritten Pages is another addition to this part of the progressive rock universe, and making their initial effort a double CD production with a name strongly indicating that more is yet to come certainly speaks volumes as far as ambition is concerned. And it certainly is a well-planned creation that unfolds in the first half of this opening chapter of what might or might not be the initial step of a longer saga. The compositions change and alter extensively, corresponding to the different roles and scenarios that unfold, in effect crafting a rather eclectic musical tapestry for the proceedings. The science fiction nature of the storyline is underscored by frequent utilization of space-tinged, fluctuating keyboard textures; digital strings provide the backdrops for the reflective, atmospheric moods, and also add dramatic tinges to the heavier hitting dramatic parts of the compositions when needed. Galloping riffs, riff cascades and lighter wandering guitar excursions cater for a great deal of variety throughout, and most tracks are set up with at times starkly contrasting themes that craft a good and stable level of intensity. In style, I'd place this act somewhere in between the aforementioned Ayreon and German proggers Sylvan, undeniable prog-metal in general, but with frequent ventures into musical realms many would describe as neo-progressive. But while the planning is impeccable, the execution doesn't quite manage to be top notch on this first CD. Many songs come across as musical backdrops for the storyline more than anything, intriguing and interesting if you follow the lyrics closely, but less appealing as musical works in their own right. First and foremost due to the nature of the contrasting elements used, where abrupt changes from one theme to one of a vastly different nature are used much more extensively than transitional phases or by using subtle elements transporting the listener from one mood to a new atmosphere. As a total listening experience I found this approach more distracting than enhancing. Most numbers do contain quite a few intriguing themes and motifs though, and on efforts like Red Ashes and Solar Blast the music and lyrics blend together really well, where the eclectic and contrasting elements of lyrics and music meet in a very well and at times brilliant manner, the chorus parts of the latter among the most breathtaking experiences on the first half of this production.

Disc 2 (40:46)
****+

TRACK LIST:

1.  The Uranium Machine 5:15
2.  Falling Stars 8:24
3.  Unexpected Twists & Turns 3:24
4.  These Haunted Days 4:14
5.  Blowing Red Ashes-II 6:13
6.  Flora 7:50
7.  Life 5:26
Analysis. As this is a concept creation crafted by one unit, it comes as no surprise that the second disc of this 2 CD set contains music exploring pretty much the same territories as the first. Vintage school progressive metal is the name of the game here as well, with strings and synths crafting textures and melodies whilst enhancing the moods and themes provided by the guitars. As this production follows the rock opera tradition, the roles from the initial chapters are followed up on, and the seven parts provided all seem to be as closely planned as the initial eight from a thematic point of view. Musically I found this second half of this creation to be slightly more cohesive, with the transitions between the different moods and stylistic variations smoother and the contrasting elements utilized applied with a more marked emphasis on natural flow. And in general I get the impression that the band and the composers have developed their skills as the creation of this album has evolved, and that the parts on this CD are slightly improved compared to the first. But Unwritten Pages aren't masters of their craft yet. There's a fair amount of talent that has been applied in the creation of this concept album, but it is talent yet in development, at least to my ears. This is an ambitious act though, and it should be fairly interesting to see how much they have learned from the experience they had in crafting this album: The lessons learned from this production to lead to improvements on a possible second part of this conceptual journey.

Conclusion. With "Part I: Noah", Unwritten Pages have launched their initial effort with a fairly ambitious rock opera. And while not quite the finished article, this is a rather enjoyable effort. If science fiction-based concepts and progressive metal sounds like a good mix to you, this is a double CD that just might be of interest, especially if you are the type of person who will listen to the music with the CD booklet in hand, following the lyrics and the story explored with close attention.

OMB=Olav M Bjornsen: December 3 & 4, 2010
The Rating Room


Related Links:

Progrock Records
Unwritten Pages


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