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JOURNEY OF THE YAK

Yak

 

Neo-Prog

3.78 | 37 ratings

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Ivan_Melgar_M
Special Collaborator
Symphonic Prog Specialist
4 stars A few days ago I received a PM from Martin Morgan, keyboardist of the British band YAK, asking me to review his album (A big risk, because when an album doesn't impress me, I say it loud and clear), so he sent me a copy of Journey of the YAK which was released on November 14, 2008.

As usual and to avoid conditioning my review to previous releases, I didn't told him I was already familiar with the band due to their surprising debut Duck Side of the Moon (Nobody could expect an original and solid release with such a terrible name), an album that was conceived in the 80's but only saw the light in 2004.

So when I received the copy of "Journey of the Yak", placed it on my car's DVD before a long travel...What a surprise, the album is even better than the already good debut, the sound of the band has evolved to such point that I believe it's unfair to have them in Prog Related, today YAK is a borderline Symphonic/Neo Prog band or at least Crossover, but shouldn't be left in a category for not purely Prog artists.

Martin's work on the keyboards is simply impeccable, even more impressive when you notice that YAK is a trio with Dave Speight in the drums and Gary Bennett in the bass, so Martin has to synthesize the missing guitars, flutes and other instruments , and his use of Mellotron is delightful, reminding me of GENESIS early albums.

But it would be unfair to rest any merit to the other members, because a band is as good as their rhythm section because they are the spine the spine of the band over which the keyboards can create and even improvise if necessary.

The album starts with the pompous Gates of Moria, but don't expect some soft Medieval Tolkien based track, the band hits us with all they have, the keyboards immediately take the lead with lush and versatile performance, but the real strength is provided by the rhythm section that carries the wight of the song.

It's obvious they have a bit of the 80's sound, but all the music has it's main origins in the classic Prog pioneers of the 70's, but without falling in the easy path of cloning anybody. Very solid opener.

Entangled in Dreams begins soft and oneiric, with a guitar entrance (Guess that played with synths) that suddenly stops and leads to a re-start with a piano that carries a soft jazzy hint.

And then, the radical change comes, it's time for a vibrant passage that had me at the border of insanity trying to discover which band it reminded me, after a couple repetitions the name came to my mind, the keyboards reminded me of UK (Danger Money era) being that Martin's style is very reminiscent of Eddie Jobson. After another radical change into a calmed melodic section, the band shows their power with the grand finale that flows perfectly to the end.

In Jadis of Charn YAK surprises with a pompous Baroque introduction with bells and organ, a soft but haunting Mellotron choir maintains the dark atmosphere and then, the band explodes in the vein of Nothing to Loose by UK but with a more elaborate keyboard, a very radical change that as usual was unexpected.

As usual the song flows perfectly from start to end, this time with less changes than in the previous track and crafted perfectly so every section links perfectly with the next one, 11:30 minutes of pure Prog Rock.

March of the Huorns is another long track that also starts with a short Baroque intro, but in this occasion they hit us with a sonic wall almost instantaneously, as in all the album, the Eddie Jobson influence in the keyboards is more than evident, but we must not forget the perfect work of bass and drums.

The constant dissonance between the rhythm section and the keyboards is outstanding, as if bass and drums were always with the feet on the ground, allowing Martin Morgan and his keyboards to wander through the space with the confidence that a strong anchor is there to take care of the coherence, fantastic team work, one of the most solid ones I heard lately.

The first part of Dearly Departed is a dramatic piano performance in which the skills and versatility of Martin are placed in evidence, then suddenly the rest of the band contributes to create a soft and lets say Classically inspired melody that works as a short interlude between an epic and the closer.

The album is closed with Journey of the Yak a beautiful song that reminds me of 4 men era GENESIS with a touch of STRAWBS, soft but at the same time powerful, but nothing is predictable with YAK, suddenly and without previous announcement they jump into an incredibly frantic passage that reminds a bit of the most Symphonic oriented works by Jean-Luc Ponty, just when I was expecting that they will finish with this energy, but the music morphs again into a more delicate finale.

It's always pleasant to listen a relatively new band making good music inspired the Prog pioneers but at the same times with a fresh approach that fits perfectly in the 21st Century.

Four stars without any doubt.

Ivan_Melgar_M | 4/5 |

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