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Arabs In Aspic - Syndenes Magi CD (album) cover


Arabs In Aspic


Heavy Prog

3.97 | 164 ratings

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5 stars A 'hello-how-are-you' from Aradabia. Or, if you prefer, back to Aradabia. Aradabia rules OK! From Aradabia with love. After two song-oriented albums reminding Cressida's debut, the band returned to their early heavier sound more or less in the vein of Atomic Rooster. Some reviewers also compared early Arabs In Aspic to early King Crimson, Bodkin, Northwinds, Wicked Minds and even Black Sabbath. This all is more or less true. But most of all, the music of Arabs In Aspic reminds Arabs In Aspic. Surely their music has sources and predecessors, but first of all it's original and distinctive.

Their new one, Syndenes Magi, is even more 'aradabian' than Aradabia itself. While the band's second studio release included five songs and one suite, their fifth full-length album consists of three long and complex epic suites. Each of them is heavy enough to be compared to early Arabs and therefore (following the existing cliche) to Atomic Rooster, and - on the other hand - refined enough to be compared to no one else. This is nothing but Arabs In Aspic who found a new source for their inspiration and started to explore it. And the result is more than impressive. A month ago I would say that their best album IMHO is still Strange Frame Of Mind. Now I'm ready to modify my personal mind frame: Syndenes Magi is undoubtedly their best at the moment. And there's a great chance that their next will be even better.

Apart from the amazing music, a nota bene is that the album is their first ever sung in Norwegian. This is an important moment deserving a huge comment.

Since 1970s, many non-UK/US/Canadian/Australian prog bands sought to sing in English. Yes it allowed almost everyone around the Globe to understand what they sang about, but also led to confusions. Just remember the debut album from Novalis which had all chances to become a worldwide recognized masterpiece but was killed by English lyrics with grammatical errors. After that, Novalis started to sing in German, and we must thank them for that. Remember the only album from Tale Cue, Voices Beyond My Curtain, from 1991. Musically, it was one of the most important events of 1990s and will remain an incomparable chef d'euvre until music exists. But the erratic English lyrics irrevocably stripped the album of the status it musically deserves. Enfin, remember the splendid Italian 1990s keyboard-dominated prog metal band Presence with their absolutely stunning female vocalist... who sang in English with errors. That's the only reason why Presence will never be rated as high as (for example) Dream Theater in the coordinate system of prog metal.

No need to prove that the best way to write good lyrics is to write in your native language, even if you think that you speak English quite well. But it automatically reduces the number of listeners who would be able to understand and appreciate your lyrics. On the other hand, current online translators are enough to help you to understand what the lyrics are about. Of course an auto translation soft does not allow appreciating the lyrics as a work of poetry. But is this really necessary? Even a good lyricist/songwriter is not a guaranteed poet. At least I know just a few genuine poets among the rockers and progsters. Neil Peart, Ozzy Osbourne, Ian Gillan, Ian Anderson, Steven Wilson, Syd Barrett, Marc Bolan... who else? I am even not sure that Jon Anderson, Peter Sinfield, Peter Gabriel, Bob Dylan and Roger Waters are instant poets, perhaps they are rather excellent lyricists... By the way, I know at least two non-English speaking but English writing genuine poets in prog rock, Jerker Rellmark (Masque, Sweden) and Herbert von Ruppik (Rousseau, Germany).

But even this is not the main thing. I've no idea if the English lyrics from Arabs In Aspic (on their previous albums) are good or... hmmm... or very good. I don't know if they could be considered a poetry or not. On the other hand, I do know what the Norwegian lyrics from Arabs In Aspic (on their latest album) are about, I did read reviews. They sing about instability of our current world (right?). But anyway, should they sing in Norwegian or English, they are a purely Norwegian band. I mean the spirit of their music. Hope you all agree that in fact we deal not with abstract 'progressive rock in toto' but with national prog scenes/schools. Yes they form a whole, but each of them has strongly expressed features of a given national culture, though they are often difficult to verbalize and there may be no loan elements from the traditional music. I cannot say why Kalinov Most is a Russian band, their music is not similar to Russian folk songs - but it's very Russian nevertheless. I cannot say why Topos Uranos is a common example of Brazilian prog, I even vaguely imagine what Brazilian traditional music really is, but Topos Uranos is very Brazilian. I cannot say what exactly Norwegian may be found in the music of Arabs In Aspic, all the more that they are often compared to non- Norwegian Atomic Rooster, - but their music is distinctively Norwegian. Not in the same sense as (for example) Kerrs Pink or even Wobbler, but very Norwegian. (I am not sure that you all do understand me, but I'm 100% sure that Edvard Grieg or Rikard Nordraak would.)

And that's the main reason why a band who represents a national prog scene should better sing in their native language than in 'international' English. Strangely enough, none of us is surprised when we listen to an Argentinean, or Finnish, or Spanish, or Turkish... or Russian prog band diligently singing in English - while we wouldn't even believe our ears if we heard Maria Mordasova singing Russian chastushkas in (for example) French, it would seem an Alptraum. In other words, we used to link traditional music to the native language, but we still consider prog music 'international' or, if you like, 'supranational'. Meanwhile, just listen to the music and you'll hear that prog is first a part of national culture, and only secondly a part of global music market. And I think it's correct if a prog band proudly emphasizes what national culture they represent. Arabs In Aspic sang in English for fifteen years. Now they've switched to their native Norwegian. What to say? THEY ARE RIGHT.

proghaven | 5/5 |


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