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Proteo - Republikflucht! ...Facing East CD (album) cover





3.91 | 22 ratings

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4 stars Two things influenced my decision to order this album and subsequently enjoy it. Firstly, as a child refugee from Communist Hungary, I have always had a morbid fascination for the German Democratic Republic (aka East Germany, aka DDR), devouring books and movies on the subject of an insane society with the highest ratio of citizen to snitch in recorded history (one in six worked for the Stasi secret police). From 1948 to 1989, dissent, travel and western influences such as music and fashion were strictly 'verboten' (illegal). The country was totally subservient to Moscow's authority. Secondly, Camel's Andy Latimer devoted an entire album to the life in the socialist paradise with his 1984 work 'Stationary Traveler', a remarkable effort that attempted to depict the GDR and its gloomy hypocrisy. French band Pulsar also did the GDR justice with the brooding Gorlitz album, another thrilling Trabant ride into grayness. There is a great joke about the hilarious PVC automobile, a donkey and a Trabi are next to one another in a parking lot and the ass asks 'What are you?', the Trabant answers 'a Car!' , to which the long-eared animal replies smirking 'yeah and I am a horse!' . One can throw in the Oscar winning movie 'The Life of Others' (2006) as another eye opening glimpse into crass human stupidity, among many others cinematographic insights ('The Prize', 'Torn Curtain', 'Der Tunnel' and 'Barbara' among many more).

So when Italian (from Trieste) band Proteo launched this 2013 album to critical acclaim (two respected reviewers gave this a great thumbs up), I took the merry plunge into this 'Escape from the Republic' which was the word used by many to leave the GDR unlawfully, as emigration was considered a crime against the state. Also intriguing were the various mentions of musical influences ranging from the Fixx (a huge non-prog favorite) as well as my beloved Roxy Music. Also hints of Gino Vannelli (the vocals), Santana (lead guitars), the Police (rhythm guitars) and Rush are evident. There are two axemen, one (Matteo Copetti) with a clear Carlos Santana lead guitar style and the other (Marco Paulica) with an Andy Summers/Jamie West-Oram (the Fixx) rhythm riffer technique, and the two are simply tremendous together. The sneaky bass is held firmly by Alessandro Surian and Fabio Gorza handles the technical drums. Throw in some delightful saxophone and some unaccredited keyboards and you get the full deal.

The opening salvo 'Echoes Mankind' is a complex, cinematographic and harrowing piece that has somber tones, loaded with innumerable sound and voice effects, blaring alarm sirens, vibrating beats, all meshing together until the bass, drums and slashing guitars announce the vocal line. The suave juxtaposition of the two guitar styles are brought to the forefront and instill a pace that will continue on until the very end of the album. Drummer Gorza in particular uses that choppy Stewart Copeland style to great effect.

The other tracks are pure bliss, like the marvelous epic 'Berlin', a 13 minute excursion through a divided city, sliced by a harrowing wall of barbed-wire, snarling dogs, mine fields, guard towers, searchlights and snipers. The contrast between the grey and dark East with the brightly illuminated West was incredibly obvious to anyone on either side of the divide. The Police/Santana mood is thrilling and exalting, driven by furious rhythms and choppy vocals. The attitude is 'wunderbar' and upbeat, just like the Kurfuerstendam on a bright summer day. The scintillating and extended guitar Copetti solo is simply masterful. This breathtaking formula is repeated on the funkier 'Eastern Fields' with Paulica doing a passionate imitation of Cy Curnin (the Fixx' rather sensational lead vocalist), fully loaded with soaring electric guitar soloing, changing moods and thrilling technique.

The brief 'Funny Girls Playing Double Dutch' sounds like a throwback to Dexy's Midnight Runners or Prefab Sprout, presumably to offer a bit of levity, as well as some humor. The intricate 'Four Leaf Clover' is another highlight track, a 10 minute+ epic that certainly has a jazzy sheen, hinting at Steely Dan, with a delectable guitar interplay that will blow guitar fan boys sideways. The adamant vocals will recall TFF leader Roland Orzabal but the sustained lead guitar licks from Copetti will really stun a few out there, rapid, technically dazzling and insistently soaring.

'Republikflucht' is the final piece and again offers a sexy intro with shifting guitars and determined beat, a true joy for the ears, head and feet. Lots of mood changes, softer sections colliding with raging passages, the arrangement palpitates endlessly. Copetti sizzles along with his extended electric frenzy, unyielding and obstinate.

While the Police or the Fixx might seem odd bedfellows, truth is there is not many who dare to plunge into that odd direction. Proteo is a delightful band and this album certainly has multiple merits. I urge you to escape the Vopos and flee to the other side.

4.5 Erich Honneckers

tszirmay | 4/5 |


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