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Outer Limits - Stromatolite CD (album) cover

STROMATOLITE

Outer Limits

 

Symphonic Prog

4.00 | 57 ratings

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FragileKings
Prog Reviewer
4 stars I've been living in Japan for most of the last 16 years and even though I checked out many indie groups when I first arrived here, I never got to know any real prog bands. Japanese pop being what it is, I wasn't sure if there were any prog bands that would truly appeal to me. As it happened, a few months ago I stumbled across a post in the PA forum about Japanese prog bands and Outer Limits were one of the dozens of bands mentioned. I picked them to find on YouTube and gave a listen to some of their music from this album, "Stromatolite". I liked what I heard, but CDs in Japan are typically around $30 and I hesitated to pay that much when there were so many other albums I wanted that were cheaper through the Marketplace. At last I brought this baby home a couple of weeks ago.

This 2007 release was Outer Limits' first album in twenty years. Prior to this, they released a few albums in the 1980's. I don't know anything about their earlier efforts, but this album is quite a piece of work.

First, there are ten tracks of which six are instrumentals. If you are worried about the lyrics you should know that they are all in English. The singing good enough and the accent not nearly as strong as some indie bands I have heard, though the incorrect pronunciation of some words is still typical of many Japanese speakers and the lyrics sometimes sound peculiar. Overall, though, over the passing grade.

The music is a cross between a seventies symphonic prog band with lots of rock guitar and organ or synthesizer and more symphonic groups as the violinist, Takashi Kawaguchi plays some mean strings and there are also horns that emphasis the symphonic approach.

"Cosmic Velocity" is a great opening track immediately showing us the charging energetic rock band side of Outer Limits but with some fiery violin work. There's a mellower section with more violin just past the middle. I can picture this as a movie soundtrack.

"Consensus" is musically a very interesting track with a bold horn section and some orchestral instruments making it sound like a movie soundtrack again. The vocals come in, two vocalists, singing low and almost hypnotically. The effect is good but the lyrics have me with a question mark over my head. For example: "Excuse me, you're too noisy. Excuse me, I hear you everything in mixture. Excuse me, don't understand you. It's all I have to do to comply." Getting past that, however, the music is quite an achievement of music for rock band and orchestra. It had me thinking of The Enid in a way because the rock band seems to be part of the orchestra rather than accompanied by an orchestra.

"Lullaby" is the first disappointment for me. A sappy ballad with lots of violin, I can't get interested in this song until near the end. The lyrics about "my princess" turned me off from the start. The mispronounced "blocken smile" stands out, too. But what is this song about? One line says that she "can't hold things down". Does this princess have the stomach flu?

"Algo_Rhythm. C" rocks out like a piece of Kansas. There's heavy guitar and organ and more blazing violin. There's also a pleasant acoustic passage for guitar and violin that adds a nice surprise. This is followed by "Caprice" which is a classical violin solo. It's good I guess but it's not my taste so I can't say whether this performance is brilliant or not.

"Spiral Motion" is another favourite instrumental track of mine. It's a decent length and sticks to its musical motifs without wandering around. There's more rock guitar and a pipe organ, too. At one point I found myself thinking of Alan Parsons Project. In fact, there seems to be a strong late seventies prog influence on much of the album.

"Dahlia" begins with what sounds like a prog guitar instrumental and then turns into a late seventies prog rock song. There's some nice piano and later synthesizer. The vocals are pretty good and suit the lead vocalist's range. At times I feel it sounds foreign like RPI, though I have only heard three RPI albums so far. There are some surprising intense moments in the music that swiftly turn back to smooth and more emotive music, and then once more jump back to heavy.

"Pangea" has a mysterious beginning but soon the horns are back and once more I'm thinking Alan Parsons Project. Then there's a strange synthesizer solo and the violin is back. Now it sounds like Yezda Urfa meets Premiata Forneria Marconi. Clearly, though, music composition is Outer Limits' forte.

We get a short pipe organ solo which for me is once again nothing outstanding. Then we reach the final track, "Constellation" which gives us everything we've heard so far and more. Heavy guitars, horns, synthesizer, acoustic guitar. This is a 9-minute plus epic song that delivers various musical motifs before the lyrics even come in. It sounds a bit typical of late seventies pop prog but cliches aside, this song is executed remarkably well. The harmony vocals are good and at one point a female guest sings with a soft operatic voice. This has to be the best "song" on the album.

Though you are not likely to find this album at a low price anywhere, I do recommend fans of late seventies symphonic prog to check it out. This is a very solid effort here!

FragileKings | 4/5 |

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