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(45:31, Long Hair Music)
TRACK LIST: 1. Mother Sun and the Other Son I 25:12 2. Under the Ardent Sun 20:19 LINEUP: Jonas Wingens – vocals; guitars Geoffrey Blaeske – guitars Rachid Touzani – bass Ray Dratwa – drums
Prolusion. The German quartet THE VOID'S LAST STAND was formed in 2007 by Wingens and Blaeske of the recently disbanded outfit The Void, and with the addition of Datwa the now threesome started writing and rehearsing their own material. With the addition of bassist Touzani in February of 2009, the band became a going concern; soon after they were signed by Long Hair Music’s imprint Malesch Records, which issued their debut album "A Sun by Rising Set" in November of 2009.
Analysis. Progressive rock is, or at least was, a wide and boundary-free variety of music where artists had a desire to expand and transcend stylistic boundaries. Instrumental skills were an important ingredient of the genre, a general philosophy to not adhere to any written or unwritten rules or protocols limiting creative freedom another. Tastes and perceptions should ideally be challenged, and the creation of art for art's sake was and still is the guiding light for many artists exploring this vast musical realm. Traditionally, the subset of art rock adhering closest to these principles has often been described as avant-garde, a style explored by artists such as Frank Zappa and Samla Mammas Manna. Musicians inspired by the Rock In Opposition mantra of playing "the music the record companies don't want you to hear" are also usually placed within this context. The German quartet The Void's Last Stand belongs to the more recent additions to this part of the progressive rock realm. "A Sun by Rising Set" is a sonic experience that truly deserves the description challenging. The recording contains two massive epics, the shortest of which clocks in at just over 20 minutes; both of them are of an at times wildly eclectic nature ranging from 70's funk-inspired material to aggressive themes with a stronger resemblance to hardcore in style. Intricate instrumental movements and quirky themes appear on regular occasions, and the lead vocals of Wingens are impressive in terms of range as well as expression. Those fond of tracking down possible influences should have a field day with this one, and I suspect Frank Zappa is a name that will come to mind to many whilst listening to this production: Mostly due to the sheer variety of styles explored, with ample room for good old-fashioned blues rock and gentle psychedelic rock in between the more extreme parts of the styles covered. Some of the more fragile moods may even point towards Gentle Giant, the elaborate details so much of a permanent feature throughout making that association natural despite the lack of advanced vocal harmonies. But as impressive as many aspects of this production are, it is also one that features a trait of a distinctly divisive nature, namely the lead vocals. Both songs feature an extensive amount of vocal passages, to the point of meriting a description as vocals-dominated. And singer Wingens has opted to stay away from a common vocal style as much as possible, instead opting for the unusual and highly theatrical, more often than not in a manner with a stronger resemblance to a caricatured dramatic delivery than one you might encounter while enjoying a play at your local theatre. Weird, uncommon and experimental, with mannerisms of a kind that often made me think of dadaism. I enjoy a fair bit of vocal theatrics if well performed, but when as overly done as in this case and as extensively used, this specific feature became a negative asset for me, a distracting element that subtracted from rather than enhanced the total musical experience they are a part of. As such, I suspect "A Sun by Rising Set" merits a description as a love-it-or-loathe-it type of album: a production with dominating, idiosyncratic traits you have to appreciate to be able to enjoy.
Conclusion. If you like your music experimental, highly challenging and provided in portions of epic size, The Void's Last Stand is a band you probably should investigate. Covering a vast array of different styles, from blues and psychedelic rock to hardcore punk at the extremes and always with room for experimental, intricate inserts and themes, comparisons to Frank Zappa are almost inevitable. The highly experimental nature of the lead vocals will be an alienating factor though, and as such this a band and a CD that merits further investigation prior to a possible purchase. My personal taste doesn't sit well with this album due to that particular trait, but I can certainly see others finding this production to be a treasured item. It is a well-made and carefully crafted example of avant-garde art rock, and any likes or dislikes will be due to personal taste rather than any technical or compositional features.
OMB=Olav M Bjornsen: March 6, 2011
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