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Soup - The Beauty Of Our Youth CD (album) cover




Crossover Prog

4.06 | 28 ratings

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4 stars Even though that Andalusian delicacy gazpacho is called a chilled soup, it does not mean that Norway can claim that prog bands Gazpacho and Soup both taste the same. This Soup is somewhat more ardent and fiery and is best served piping hot. The propensity for grandiose and sweeping melodies is such that I am reminded of more of recent Anathema, not the easiest task as lead lung Vince Cavanaugh can bellow and croon with the best of them. But Soup's vocalist Erlend Viken is awe inspiring, daring to enter fellow Norwegian Morten Harket territory (Yes, the Aha guy, but what a voice, phew! That proggy electropop sensation had their two first albums cause quite a sensation). This is my first foray into this mysterious band, a crew that just may elevate itself to the loftiest prog throne, its craft exquisitely honed and sculpted to perfection. The songs start out like a cold dewy morning, waiting for the sunlight to pierce through the clouds and explosively symphonise the arrangement with sweeping crescendos of sheer musical delight, giving the arrangements a nearly operatic sheen. As the title might lead you to believe this is all about nostalgia, of times gone by with shimmering memories left behind as comfortable reminders, certainly a notion I admire and deeply enjoy. Also very romantic music, indeed.

Comparisons to above mentioned Anathema, as well as Muse or even Coldplay are perhaps accurate but truth is that Soup forges its own style, a rare combination of accessible yet romantic, spirit-driven and intense stories. Vocalist Viken also provides massive amounts of piano (always a good sign), solid rhythm section that pulses when needed as both Jan Tore Megard and Thomas Nyborg seem totally inspired, while guitarist Orjan Langnes provides wall of sound textures that serve to heighten the pleasure. This becomes apparent on the enigmatic opener "The Spirit Lodge", an upward spiraling melody, a distinctive cello grooving along classically and providing the impetus for the celestial choir that highlights the song. The apotheosis is reached and then the afterglow kicks in, a very sexually intense demeanor that bodes well for the remaining tracks. "Our Common Ground" is more conventional from the get-go, certainly poppier in spirit, heavier in scope and denser in sound. Bassist Megard carves deep furrows on which massive strings engulf the arrangement, though through all this thunder, the voice travels between tender and explosive, even when the solemn piano sits in the spotlight alone to send this one into the night.

Piano is again the lead for the ballad "This Place is a Dream", strings heightening the vocal panorama, as another wall of sound crescendo comes shining through the clouds. The three-pronged melody is drenched in classicism with plenty of opaque choir work (both synthetic and organic), the glittering piano being the obvious shepherd into the segue piece "Transient Days", full of rumination and souvenir, of a time effectively gone by and relevant only to those who prefer to think and inquire about the future. Powerfully intransigent.

But the next four pieces should really provide the corner stones for this release, being firstly longer pieces (6:41 to 8:13) and thus with more oomph, lasting effect and omnipresence. It will turn out to be a mixed bag, though. First up is "Memoirs of an Imagination", Viken's expressive voice slowly exalting towards some distant star up there in the galactic sky. The Anathema-styled chord progression on the chorus is evident and convincing, while the piano work settles the dust only to elevate the melody once again. All of course bathing in the trembling guitar and keyboard symphonics.

But "Loralynn and the River Lady" has softer child-like tones, haunting and hushed voice adding tons of effect and hue. But halfway through, the piece suddenly plods rather loudly and fails to impress in the more explosive final moments. The explosion is muddy and disorderly, in-distinctive and thus unappealing. I even caught myself cringing slightly (something I only do when someone accidentally mentions my ex-wife) which is not a prog pleasure principle at all.

Thankfully "Clandestine Days" makes up for it in spades, being the most involved track here by far, deeply melancholic and emboldened by a refined melody, unassuming drums and a gloriously high- pitched vocal. This is Soup at its finest, clanging web-like guitar with a morose bass solo and uncomplicated drum escort. Definitely an Anathema feel, complete with the powerful chorus, as Viken howls like a delirious wolf glaring at the moon. This is utterly spectacular, no two ways about it!

The splendid finale "A Life Well Lived" immediately focuses on the profoundly nostalgic lyrics, just grand piano as a foil, and thankfully embedded with a lovely European styled melody. The build-up is deliberate but focused, attention to detail as well as emotional impact being the norm, serenely expanding in vivacity, until the chorus becomes almost unbearably celestial, guitar screaming through the pale. Another winner!

Fans of Anathema, Pineapple Thief and Gazpacho (to a certain extent only) will enjoy this recording.

4 teenage reminiscences

tszirmay | 4/5 |


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