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Ageness - Scarab CD (album) cover





3.63 | 41 ratings

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4 stars Finland, 1983. Just about the most anti-prog musical climate you can imagine. Not even the British Neo proggers MARILLION and others have found much sympathy in the public yet. Five school kids form SCARAB and make a prog album, distributing the 180 copies themselves. "The band broke up after a major tour was cancelled and frustration for the Finnish musical circles became unbearable to us (Finland was actually a New Wave Paradise)."

In the next decade AGENESS belonged to the small bunch of Finnish prog revivalists. At the time the prog association Colossus was founded too. Since the band's roots are unquestionably in SCARAB whose frontman and composer was the keyboardist-vocalist Tommy Eriksson as well, it makes very much sense that Scarab's studio and live recordings from 1983 were released on CD with the words 'Two Vintage AGENESS Recordings' printed on the cover. "Just recently it became in to my knowledge that the value of the original vinyl version (only a few copies left) has risen to unbelievable heights", Tommy writes in the liner notes. I'm very glad I finally got the chance to hear this brave chapter in the Finnish prog history.

The opener 'Day of Doom' starting with a wind effect is aptly titled as one immediately senses the dark drama in the music. The sound reminds the 80's commercial hard rock, with an emphasis on organ-oriented keyboards and the addition of violin & viola. KANSAS of this era may sound similar to some degree. The GENESIS influence is not quite as obvious as on the Ageness output, but it comes audible here and there. And I bet the "musical box" in the lyrics of 'Asylum 32' refers to no other than Genesis. That track gives a big role to the violin, though mostly in a riff approach.The short and tight 'Haze and Visions' feels at first like a very straight-forward rocker, but it's not without a prog attitude either. 'Dor-en-Dor' offers more Genesis-reminding complexity and Banks-y keyboards. By the way, Eriksson's vocals remind a lot of IQ's Peter Nicholls!

The brief album's compositions get better towards the end. The minute-long 'Sand Finale' is the only instrumental, and the tracks after it have a deeper and more mature atmosphere. Maybe we should talk about an EP or mini-LP because without the 7-minute, originally excluded 'Mortal Wings of Sin I' (a highlight, no doubt) the vinyl has been approximately half an hour long.

If Marillion's debut was very strikingly against the contemporary pop/rock especially in the epic song structures, Scarab's music stays a bit closer to the slightly poppy, hard edged rock of its time, but without sacrificing the totally unfashionable progness. They definitely were pioneers who were swimming against the tide. For an advanced prog listener this hardly offers anything new but it has stood the test of time better than I expected.

It's interesting to note that the live set (recorded in Helsinki's Tavastia, June 30th 1983) offers six other tracks. They're quite similar in style with the studio tracks, but sadly the sonic quality really could be better. Anyway they are a welcome addition already for the curiosity value alone. 3 stars!

Matti | 4/5 |


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