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Xang - The Last Of The Lasts CD (album) cover

THE LAST OF THE LASTS

Xang

 

Crossover Prog

3.61 | 23 ratings

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Cesar Inca
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars "The Last of the Lasts" was indeed one of the most amazing prog albums in the year 2007: the French ensemble Xang really went to high places with this opus, which comprises a repertoire so consistent and so eclectic at the same time. The opener 'Sacrifice' kicks off with a heavily Mediterranean vibe, featuring soft acoustic percussion and Flamenco-oriented acoustic guitars. The mood is quite joyful at this point, but then the pulsating bass brings a shift of things toward an ambitious exercise on symphonic rock that benefits enormously from the motif twists that occur along the way (including a circus theme and Arabic fusion). The last portion features an explosive synth solo in which Vincent Hooge combines Wakeman's stylish pyrotechnics and Ordford's dynamics - awesome! 'On Leave' is a whole different nature: 6/8 jazz-rock set on a powerful framework that sounds like a mixture of Niacin and Tribal Tech. At least, until things turn into a slightly creepy ambience: that is where Xang states a heavy prog thread with a subtle spacey touch. For the final section, the track returns to the original 6/8 tempo on a jazzy note, culminating in a exciting 5/4 coda. The 11+ minute long 'Verdun' follows, beginning with a clear melodic path quite related to the standard of neo-prog (Versus X-meets-Twelfth Night), yet with a darker vein that soon erupts during a brief prog-metal escalade. The next section features an eerie Watkins-inspired synth solo, properly installed on a constrained instrumental frame. The remaining part of this section stand somewhere between melodic prog-metal and classic prog (Yes, ELP) with a hard rocking twist. The piano chords rolling up and down like sea waves and the guitar adornment that flows like an autumn breeze is lovely, but mostly, a brief prelude to the patently bombastic section that follows: this one brings the prog-metal/classic prog thing to a more frantic level. 'Sons of the Empire' is an interesting landscape of industrial effects plus a soliloquy, military orders, a warning siren, a crossfire, a radio reporter... The track is segued into the very prog- metal 'Mud', whose rough dynamics mixed with eerie jazz-oriented moods kind of reminds me of experimental metal acts such as Canvas Solaris. A radical change occurs when 'Roommates' settles in with its bohemian moods, pretty much reminiscent of the night club spirit that used to be embraced by the night owls in the early stages of the XX Century. A second section shifts into an exercise on modern symphonic rock, with a coda that displays a somewhat disturbing set of industrial synth layers. 'Trenches' finds the band once again exploring the mixture of prog-metal and classic prog that they had already mastered in some preceding tracks: just like the previous track, the track's end consists of a brief set of industrial synth layers. The album's last 8+ minutes are occupied by 'Gas', a slow sonic travel that is focused on distant atmospheres on an elegiac tone. The minimalistic approach and hypnotic repetition of the main layer-filled motif states a captivating marriage of post-rock and "Kid A"-era Radiohead, with a slight touch of the introspective side of Can. This piece is really beautiful as it is sad, which in my opinion/speculation is like a portrait of the desolation that fills a battlefield after a battle, only surrounded by the remaining gas after the shooting of various war weapons. The fact that this portrait of tension, destruction and sadness is inspired by the WWI enhances the main idea: that no matter how cruel and ultimate a war can seem, human nature eventually won't let it be the last. A terrible contemplation about human beings translated into great prog rock by the guys of Xang.
Cesar Inca | 4/5 |

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