Progarchives, the progressive rock ultimate discography - Overlook CD (album) cover



Eclectic Prog

3.94 | 115 ratings

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5 stars Fromuz already caught my attention with their debut album Audio Diplomacy. Well, if by caught my attention, I mean blew me away, then I suppose that's a fair statement. Basically, the band proved to me completely that they are one to listen to and check out whenever they put any new thing out there. It just so happens that Overlook is the first new thing they've put out since Audio Diplomacy--as in, this is their first studio album proper.

And this release in truth is not disappointing at all.

The music is still instrumental, and these four fellows are a rare band that completely deserves a license to make entirely instrumental albums. For Overlook, they trade in the jam session feel for a more involved, complex system of changes and overhauls. Featuring only five songs yet granting us 70 minutes of music, this album on paper runs a terrible risk of being horribly hard to swallow. And while it is not an easy album to simply understand from the get-go, it nevertheless features enough clever hooks and superb melodies to keep listeners interested. Of very important note is the incredibly good sound of this album. The mixing and mastering and whatever is so very dynamic and deep in a way that does not seem to happen often in modern recordings. The keyboard sounds are full, the drum sounds deep, the bass actually PRESENT, and the guitar filling the slots it needs to without overpowering everything else.

One of the strengths of Fromuz as a band is their ability to cross over. Not just between different genres, exactly, but more importantly between integral frames of mind. A lot of bands make a shift from, say, progressive rock to metal by simply adding in distortion and making the softer bits heavier. Truth is, though, that metal and rock start from different points of view. Rock is more focused on the melody, while metal seems based off riffs. There have been plenty of discussions about this, and I'm not here to argue that point, but just to point out that Fromuz can shift instantly (and rather cleverly) between a rock frame of mind and a metal one. Sometimes their music is very riff-based, while other times it's about the overriding melody. Others, still, can be dominated by a space-rock sort of ambiance. Suffice to say, the band has some nice flexibility. On to the individual tracks, then:

Stone Salad opens the album with a piano motif that will appear later a few times. I must admit, this seems to be the weakest song on here. Some of the transitions are a bit sketchy, and there is a four minute bit about eight and a half minutes into the song where the band noodles around for a little while. This bothers some of the fans, but the more I listen to it, the more I appreciate what it does for the remainder of the song. All in all a good track, but not a great one, and one that might lower the rating to four stars were the rest of the tunes so well compiled.

The rest of the tunes continue with Other Side of the Water, what seems to me to be the most overall mellow and gentle song on the album. While it features heavy moments, there is a strong Camel vibe to a fair portion of it, with a neat little ending piano bit that reprises the main theme in a very Opeth sort of style. This track is a pretty good one, but not quite as strong as the final three, I feel.

Crashmind is still my favorite track off Overlook, and it's not much of a surprise to me, really. This one is just brimming with energy and excitement almost the whole way through. This features the underlying metal mentality I mentioned earlier, mostly dancing around a couple heavy riffs. These heavy bits are interrupted (or, rather, segued between) by thick ambient sections. The keyboard sounds on Crashmind are some of the best on the album, I think, and quite possibly some of the most interesting I've run into in the world of prog as it is. To me, the highlight of this tune is the clean guitar solo in the middle, playing over some psychedelic chords, that sounds like a wonderful hybrid of Frank Zappa and David Gilmour, while plagiarizing neither. The piano motif that opens the album reappears to close this track, with a bit of twisting and toying in there.

13th August opens very much like a King Crimson track, though that feel vanishes in an appropriate timing. I have to applaud this song, because to me, it feels like it brings the largest number of elements together the best. Switching from mood to mood while not sacrificing flow or interest is an impressive feat. One of the most interesting bits of this tune is the short keyboard patch bit a few minutes in, featuring a human voice bop boping or something. It's a classic Fromuz moment that shows a lot about the band: a sense of humor, a sense of adventure, and wonderfully creative drive. Also of note, this song happens to have some bits of true guitar shredding in it, though they are not oppressively so, while the rhythm section seems to draw a lot from, interestingly enough, Symphony X, to my ears. Much (I believe--music theory is not my strong suit) of this song is in 13/8 time (see the connection with the title?), yet it plays not like a band that is trying to write a complicated song in an unusual time to be more proggy. It sounds natural, and for a band to play something unnatural and make it sound natural is a huge point of interest to me.

The final track (yes, this review is long, but that happens), Return to W.I.T., brings back the theme from an Audio Diplomacy track, Wax Inhabitants Town. While that song is only an average one to me, the theme sounds absolutely golden here, helped a lot by the much higher quality of production and mixing/mastering. Eventually, the tune segues into likely the heaviest and wildest section in any Fromuz song. This bit sounds like what Liquid Tension Experiment always wanted to write but couldn't seem to figure out. The ending works itself out slowly, with the opening theme rehashed in a multi-voice chant, and then a full wall of keyboards reprising the opening piano melody, leaving the album feeling full and completed.

I know that was long, and if anyone actually reads it, I guess that makes this a worthwhile thing to write. I haven't been a fan of the band very long, but at this point I would not be remotely surprised if Overlook ends up being my favorite album of 2008. Yes, it's that strong, and yes, the wild creativity and fun of Fromuz is not something to be ignored, especially in light of the excess that a lot of other instrumental and fusion bands seem to be choked by. Check this one out. Very highly recommended.

LiquidEternity | 5/5 |


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