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Eclectic Prog

4.05 | 114 ratings

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5 stars I had heard about this band from Tashkent, Uzbekistan but never heard their music. So one fine day, I was casually surfing around, having nothing better to do than listening to a few selections on progstreaming and I clicked on 'Sodom & Gomorrah', expecting very little and perhaps only casually giving them the benefit of doubt. Boy, was I in for a special surprise! My first foray into and I am kicking myself why I didn't look up these gents before! Within the opening seconds of the aptly titled 'Intro' I was whisked into a sandstorm of colossal melodies, bombastic playing and unexpected aural pleasure. The acoustic guitar- led theme is drop-dead beautiful while its immediately following electric cousin is brash, bold and brave. These gentlemen are killer instrumentalists, extremely gifted at their respective implements but heartened by some superb ideas. The music was composed by keyboardist Albert Khalmurzaev, who arranged a deliriously modern masterpiece based on the rather famous biblical story of eternal damnation and apocalypse. The style is highly reminiscent of soundtrack music and as such, contributes to evoking deep and personal images within each listener's realm of consciousness. I certainly am gung-ho for this kind of premise! In fact, this is not a collection of songs but rather a whole one piece slice of cinema music. It should be viewed as such! I found myself reminded of the now defunct French band Xang, a heady mixture of styles that emote deeply.

This is an all-instrumental extravaganza of the very highest order, there have been some very good ones lately (Carpe Nota, Progenesi, Edwin-Durant, The Inner Road, Mantric Muse etc') but these guys just smoke! Guitarist Vitaly Popeloff is masterful and inventive, showing considerable talent on both acoustic and electric instruments, liberally showering the arrangements with tight and bright solos with a huge palette of styles from Gilmourian flourish to more fusion/jazz-rock artists as well as some Satriani/Vai flurries. Bassist Andrey Mara-Novik bustles along forcefully, having a solid low end being ultra-important in an all- instrumental presentation. Drummer Badirov is well known and respected for fronting his own musical collective and he bashes with inspired determination and technical prowess, which this kind of music desperately requires. Albert is helped by second keyboardist Yevgeny Popelov, which gives the music such diverse colorations, a living breathing entity that is always compelling and thoroughly breathtaking, with searing melodies that I have been humming ever since'.

'Prologue' has eerie intonations, as if the devil himself was busy humming his anger in the next room, the bass, keys and guitars in metronomic unison, playing together in some Sinai sandstorm playground, stinging guitar and syncopated drums offer up some serious emotions. Totally brilliant! This exoticism is then morphed into an ultra-modern sheen on 'City', using current beat stylistics and a synthesizer melody that beckons the heavens, with a sensational guitar alliance. You swear you have heard this before, an eclectic mix of jazz, lounge, club and rock, all mixed together.

A Supertramp-ish harmonica introduces 'Lot',( according to the Bible, Abraham's nephew ) the connection quickly veering into Floydian territories with a Gilmourian flourish that will make David proud, easily as juicy as any PF piece, full of restrained gusto and evocative flair. The floating synth work combines perfectly with the strict rhythm. But it's the magical return of the original refrain heard on the opener that really stabs at the heart. This piece in particular has me mesmerized and constantly whirling in my brain. Before things get to comfortable, 'The Capture' kicks it into overdrive, a hard-rocking, bruising musical monolith that throbs fiercely, raspy guitars vying with searing leads (what a darn melody again) and torrents of keyboard adventure. The bass and drums veer into heavy jazz-rock territory, a raging quintet of insane musicians at their finest.

Forever challenging the listener to new horizons, the church organ gets to take a bow in 'Black Feast I', creating another distinct reference to ancient times but with a modern rock framework that is vibrant, fresh and totally exhilarating! Just enough to get ready for another highlight piece, the low-end propelled space rock anthem, appropriately named 'The Orgy', where the mood gets sensual and perverse as expressed by the lewd bass , the lascivious guitar screwing the horny keyboard onslaught hard and fast, just like she likes it! This piece should be x-rated, it's so suggestive and pernicious! Whew! Now before you get all puritan on me, the story of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrha involves perversion and impenitent sin and their fall occurring with a proverbial manifestation of God's wrath. Nowhere is this best expressed by the sheer brutality of 'Folly Mob', where mechanical panting, an insistent synth alarm and an uncanny resemblance to classic Blue Oyster Cult meeting Magma- styled choir work , complete with a Buck Dharma like solo man the barricades! Blood on the rooftops, secured by a stellar Oriental synth segment straight out of the Mongol Invasions and then finished off by a crystalline acoustic guitar and harmonica lullaby! Absolutely irresistible!

'The Blindness' comes with thunderclaps amid the dense storm of unforeseen doom, huge bursts of synthesized squalls appear on the horizon, pushed along by electric guitar winds and tectonic drums. For whom the bells toll, the cowering voices appear as a sub- plot amid the lurid organ layers, more choir work. On the imperial 'Black Wedding' a thumping bass-synth announces a splendorous new melody, sounding much like a cimbalom (treated guitar and synth effects), the epic and the modern collide in total harmony, creating a surreal sensation of attending some dark union, malevolent and austere. Howling choirs appear to initiate another go through, the bass this time more insistent and the clanging melody heightened by the repetition. Third time magic and the now familiar melody is now firmly entrenched in one's mind!

'Black Feast II' is the return engagement of the previous part 1, another tic-tac metronome of kismet and anguish, deeply beautiful yet disquieting and scary. The rash, almost Frippian guitar rumbles forward with colleagues firmly in tow, a Larks Tongue in deep Aspic reminder, that segues into the menacing 'Procession', a highly interesting hodge-podge of sampled sonics , as if surfing a radio dial, with saxified insanity, some R'n B effects, Brufordian thumps and a section that is straight out of the classic Crimson King catalogue. This in turn segues into Elvis samples and more horror movie sonic scenarios in 'The Escape' where the main theme is repeated once again, a theme for the ages that will give you goosebumps. This chaotic arrangement leads straight into the final catastrophe, aptly titled 'To The Flames', whereby the sinning cities are destined to obliteration, desperately screaming souls all instantly incinerated! Judgement day had arrived!

The whole thing just sparkles from beginning to end, no weak moment, no turgid second to distract the listener. Just pure, unadulterated enjoyment, a perfect definition of what a progressive rock album should be! Easily the biggest unexpected surprise of 2013, a iconic piece of symphonic prog I intend to venerate for a very, very long time. At least until the next doomsday event arrives in our neighbourhood! In my current top 5 for 2013, easily!

5 Pillars of Salt

tszirmay | 5/5 |


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