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Mongol - Doppler 444 CD (album) cover

DOPPLER 444

Mongol

 

Jazz Rock/Fusion

3.52 | 25 ratings

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Aussie-Byrd-Brother
Special Collaborator
Rock Progressivo Italiano Team
4 stars Another one-and-done prog band, Mongol played a heavy and high energy style of instrumental fusion that also drifted over into genres such as symphonic prog, Zeuhl and even a touch of the Canterbury sound. For their highly regarded sole release from 1997, `Doppler 444', their sound was characterized with endless movement through frequent rhythm changes within a chaotic musical environment. There's not a lot of jazz moments for a fusion album, instead the band liked to incorporate blitzkreig keyboard solos and extended electric guitar runs with a driving, powerful momentum, performed with that trademark precise Japanese technicality. Once in a while the music sounds like a bit of a clinical showcase, but other times the delirious enthusiasm and over-the-top mania the band presents will really make you smile!

There's definitely clear influences from bands past and modern for the time worked into Mongol's frantic take on proggy fusion. The busy `Garadama' features bombastic Emerson, Lake and Palmer-styled attacking keyboard pomp blended with epic melodic lengthy guitar soloing and the romantic synths of Pendragon. The serrated edge of `Driller' could easily have been on King Crimson's `Thrack', and occasional passages scattered throughout the album recall the instrumental virtuosity of Dream Theater. The brief `Homewards' could be an outtake from an Ozric Tentacles album with it's oriental rhythms over emotional guitar soloing. Andy Latimar and Camel are also clear influences in the slower parts of the album, and, to my ears, some sections of `Merazoma' and little moments scattered around remind me of video games I played in my youth from the same era, perhaps something off the Genesis or SNES?

My favourite track is the 18 minute `Greatful Paradise', an unholy cross-breeding of King Crimson and Weidorje, an intimidating brooding sledge-hammer of Zeuhl that just never lets up. It's no surprise to read in the CD booklet that bass player Naoto Amazaki regards Bernard Paganotti as an inspiration. Just listen to the dark dirty groove of his pulsating thick fretless bass, building up an imposing hypnotic fury and forcing you to surrender! After a short eerie ambient section, the band goes mental and tears through a maddening rapid-fire delirious run of loopy synths and twisting guitar mangling.

The most recent reissue, billed as the `complete version' (I'm not sure what exactly was edited in the original CD release?) comes with three bonus live recordings. After a guitar heavy first half, the upbeat and cheerful Canterbury-styled `Lammy' suggests the band were overdosing on Egg's `The Polite Force' and National Health at the time, along with the two U.K albums. An expertly tight and heavy reading of `Merazoma' is even more overloaded with E.L.P bombast, and `Greatful Dead' is a live version of a segment of the Zeuhl closer retitled, a shame that it doesn't quite have the same level of brutality as the studio recording.

As much as I really enjoy this album, I do find it all a little overwhelming and totally exhausting! There are times when it drives me up the wall and really wish the band would calm down a little more, as it's essentially all about energy and movement, very little in the way of emotion or making the listener think! That's not necessarily a negative thing, so if you want something resembling the musical equivalent of a quick adrenalin-shot straight to the heart playing by supremely skilled and professional musicians, look into `Doppler 444'!

Four stars.

Aussie-Byrd-Brother | 4/5 |

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