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Verbal Delirium - From the Small Hours of Weakness CD (album) cover


Verbal Delirium


Crossover Prog

3.88 | 105 ratings

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

4 stars Despite the rather obscure title and the unfortunate abbreviation of their name, not to mention its connotations with rambling on and on without any sense - unlike, I hasten to add, the writer of this piece, no matter what you've heard to the contrary! - verbal diarrhea is the last thing you could accuse these guys of. Together since 1999, it nevertheless took these five lads from Greece of all places ten years to put together their first official album - though there was a demo back in 2007 which seems to have been deleted - and this is their second effort. I was so impressed by this that I immediately bought their debut, and although I haven't listened to it yet I'm expecting great things. The key factor about Verbal Delirium (no I will not call them VD!) is that they mesh many different styles of music together, as do many prog bands of course, but Verbal do it in a way that surprises and takes you unawares. Take the opener for instance. It's built on a soft little drum pattern with a whispered vocal that reminds me of no- one as much as Matt Johnson, a quiet little piano passage and a gentle little flute sound that recalls seventies Floyd. I can't place it but that keyboard/flute melody is very familiar. Could be classical. Could be Marillion, Zep, or something completely different. Speaking of something completely different, you've just about assigned this band the level of Big Big Train or maybe early Genesis when suddenly it blasts into a heavy guitar and organ riff that you just do not expect.

Mind you, it's almost four minutes into the five-and-change that "10,000 roses" runs for before this about-face happens, and indeed it's that long too before the vocals come in, and quickly thereafter it returns to the soft, pastoral piano and crying guitar on which it fades out. As the kids say, awesome. And a great opener that just reminds you not to judge from the first few minutes of a song, or album. "Desire", then, also opens on a gentle passage of piano and guitar, again recalling early Genesis but with some folk rock added in. The vocal this time is soft, almost breathed rather than sung, and in ways reminds me of It Bites. It may be seen as a racist comment, but I'm constantly amazed how "foreign" singers can sound so English. There's not a trace of a Greek accent here - not that I'd recognise a Greek accent if I heard one - but the vocalist, who goes by the name of Jargon, has perfect English and not a hint of any accent. Like the previous song, this one soon morphs into something more powerful, ditching for a while the Tony Banks style synthesisers for a heavier, perhaps more Spock's Beard vibe, the percussion coming in hard and heavy and some fine neoclassical piano joining the melody before it too all winds right back down into a solo piano ending and into a very short instrumental called "Erebus."

I've read other reviews of this album and the band has been compared to Van der Graaf Generator. I see this now in the instrumental, in the somewhat jazzy brass, but it doesn't last long before we're into a big bassy upbeat piano to open "Dance of the dead", and it's here indeed that Jargon on piano and Nikos Nikolopoulos on both sax and flute really shine. Again I see the VDGG comparisons, but I'm not the biggest authority on that band. I have all their albums but have listened to only one or two, so personally for me the sax brings more to my mind Supertramp than VDGG. Interestingly, this turns out to be two instrumentals in a row. Speaking of Supertramp, some piano very much in their style introduces one of the standouts on the album, the almost nine-minute "The losing game", where the title of the album is mentioned (there is no title track) and again Jargon's voice is controlled but strong, soft yet insistent.

Some fine mellotron recalls the best of seventies prog, and some great sax from Nikolopoulos brings the Supertramp influence back in, along with some very Roger Hodgson guitar courtesy of Nikitas Kissonas; in fact, put Hodgson or Davies behind the mike and this could very well be the latest Supertramp song. If they hadn't gone to total sh*t after the last album. It bops along with real purpose, and throw in some Steely Dan guitar while you're at it, sure why not? Just makes a good thing sound even better. An almost three-minute instrumental outro that really allows our Nikos to give vent to his pipes on the saxophone delivers the icing on this very tasty cake, and we've still got four tracks to go. Well, three and a bit.

"Disintegration" opens on a rising bassline that reminds me of the beginning to Foreigner's "Urgent" then pounds out into a real nice little rocker with hard guitar and a great hook. It's almost metal until some high-pitched mellotron comes in, but then that drops out again and the guitar takes the melody. Sort of a semi-punk feel to it, the likes of Buzzcocks, The Knack or maybe Blondie. Then a sense of Threshold in the midsection with big droning synth and some nicely-placed piano before the bass and percussion brings it all back up to a head and the guitar powers back in. Some fairly manic piano before Kissonas takes off on a really smooth guitar solo and a big organlike finish then takes us into thirty-seven seconds of "Dance of the dead (reprise)", which is of course the third instrumental, though really it's just hammered chords and notes on the piano, sort of marking time before we hit the other standout, the beautiful ballad "Sudden winter".

A rippling soft piano opening from Jargon which puts me in mind of ? well, nothing really. This is Verbal Delirium's own signature sound. Actually, here I can hear a slight inflection in the vocal, but that's nothing to complain about. Makes me think of Riverside, can't say why. Very emotional song, with again a hook to die for; would make a great single but it's about five minutes too long at just over eight and a half minutes. Not too long, not at all: just too long for a single or radio airplay. And there's the gorgeous sound of mandolin, which fits into this song like the slimmest glove fits on a lady's hand. God I love mandolin music! The track ends in the seventh minute but then comes back with a sumptuous piano reprise that just adds a final layer of delight to this beautiful song.

And being a prog album, you'd expect the obligatory epic, wouldn't you? And you would not be disappointed, my friend. "Aeons (Part 1 and 2)" runs for almost thirteen minutes, and closes the album in superb style. The first part is a soft atmospheric melody driven mostly on piano with a gentle, almost sotto voce vocal that mirrors the best of early seventies Gabriel, then it kicks up in about the second minute with a powerful, dramatic, almost ominous guitar and slowly pounding drums with the vocal getting sort of chanty is the only way I can describe it. Not quite a mutter, not quite a growl (a grutter?) before the tempo picks up and the guitar takes over, Kissonas driving the tune now.

I'm not totally familiar with either but I think there's a sort of merging of ideas from Porcupine Tree and Riverside here as the track cannons along, only to slow right down then with a sort of eastern sound - or maybe it's from their native Greece - on the piano accompanied by some nice thumping bass. From here it goes on a sort of spacey keyboard/guitar romp for a few minutes, with echo and reverb and god knows what else, and sort of moaning voices like spirits trapped in a netherworld of ? ah you have to hear it. Bit like the end of "A day in the life", though not really. I think at this point we've crossed over into part 2, though I do find that this section is a little overdone and stretched rather to breaking point. The vocal comes back in around the ninth minute, spoken only though in rhythm, while the effects go crazy in the background, and again I have to say this smacks of a song being extended beyond its natural run just for the sake of it, a thing which a lot of prog rock bands are accused of, often rightly.

It's a pity really as it almost - but not quite - leaves a sour taste in the mouth when you realise how the album is going to end. It's been consistently great up to that point but then it just fades out like a bad Hawkwind remix and you're left with a feeling of being ever so slightly cheated that the epic consisted of about five to six minutes music and almost the same in effects, long-drawn out echoes and moans, and not a lot else. Sad.

Even given the somewhat flat and disappointing ending, there's still so much to recommend in this album that I would almost ignore the last six minutes or so of the closer and just concentrate on the previous seven-and-a-bit tracks. For a band from Greece whom nobody seems to have heard of, this album is nothing short of a stunner, and I can't wait to hear what comes next!

Trollheart | 4/5 |


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