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Pandora Snail - War and Peace CD (album) cover


Pandora Snail


Eclectic Prog

3.92 | 122 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
3 stars In this increasingly fragmented digital world we share, it's reassuring to see how the Web has allowed Progressive Rock to rediscover its original grass-roots appeal, with small bands from unlikely corners of the globe now promoting their music over the world-wide aether, often (though not in this case) without even a physical CD to vend. A case in point is Pandora Snail: a (relatively) new group from northwest Russia aggressively marketing its debut album in these Archives: not a bad strategy with music that doesn't sit comfortably in a pre-fab cubbyhole.

Eclectic is the perfect word to describe their style: a relaxed but dynamic blend of instrumental, quasi-symphonic rock combining light fusion la JEAN-LUC PONTY with moments of heavy guitar machismo and rhythmic GENTLE GIANT counterpoint. Listen closely and you might also detect a strain of native folk music, buried deep within the mix of other influences.

What you won't hear, to their credit, is the sort of self-conscious, retro-'70s artifice that defines so much of what passes for Progressive Rock these days. The band is simply playing what comes naturally to them, and making it sound easier than it actually is.

The group is a true ensemble too, with each member supporting the others and no single instrument hogging the spotlight. The electric violin of Artem Gareev is the obvious focal point, but Kirill Klyushin's nimble bass guitarmanship deserves a shout-out: check out his funky Chris Squire vs. Les Claypool break in 'To Catch the Wind'.

Other Archive reviewers, solicited as I was for an opinion but quicker on the uptake (the album was released over eight months ago, at this belated writing), have already described each track in detail. I would just add that the longest selection ('James Pont', at 16+ minutes) is also the album's weakest link, perhaps as a result of the quintet trying too hard and overreaching its grasp, always a worthwhile risk when attempting music of any real scope.

I applaud their ambition: the long suite gives the band an opportunity to show its collective chops. But the album works better when the band is indulging its natural melodic instincts (in the lovely 'By the Mountain River', and elsewhere), instead of straining toward the virtuoso complexity of RUSH or KING CRIMSON...laudable aims to be sure, but a difficult plateau to reach without a Neil Peart or Bill Bruford setting the tempo.

A nitpicker might, as a constructive criticism, also say the album was arguably too smoothly produced, to a point where even the noisy free-form coda ending 'After the War' sounds over-rehearsed. This is music calling out for a little raw energy, but the arrangements lean more toward the latter half of its Tolstoyan title: constructive peacekeeping over compelling warfare.

Excusable growing pains, maybe, for a debut recording. Otherwise, Pandora Snail (an unfortunate name by the way, possibly improved when rendered in Cyrillic hieroglyphs) is a band worth nurturing.

Neu!mann | 3/5 |


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