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Atoll - Tertio CD (album) cover

TERTIO

Atoll

 

Symphonic Prog

3.66 | 61 ratings

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Neu!mann
Prog Reviewer
3 stars The second of ATOLL's two classic albums (after "L'Araignée-Mal" in 1975) is musically less interesting than its predecessor, but more immediately accessible to anyone able to recognize the obvious role models. This was a band that spent most of its abbreviated life span looking for an identity to call its own, and here they finally nailed it, after what must have been a serious overexposure to the music of YES.

I don't mean to suggest that, like so many other copycat bands, they sound just like YES: they don't (even if some of guitarist Christian Beya's riffs are unmistakably Steve Howe inspired). But all the subtle shades of fusion that so effectively colored the previous album have been jettisoned here in favor of a stronger, more confident symphonic rock sound that clearly owes a stylistic debt to the English Prog pioneers without in any way sounding like a plagiarism.

If anything the group had more in common with ANGE, their compatriots on the Gallic Prog scene and always one step ahead of ATOLL in sales and acclaim. Christian Beya was even asked to join ANGE around the time this album was in the pipeline, but declined what must have seemed an almost irresistible invitation to fame and fortune out of loyalty to his own struggling band mates.

And ATOLL singer Andre Balzer shares with Christian Decamps a similar urge toward verbal histrionics. But where the ANGE vocalist is often compared (not altogether reasonably) to PETER GABRIEL, Balzer is more a cross-channel analog of PETER HAMMILL, in the way his voice is able to shift from sultry croon to satanic croak in the span of a single melody.

Gone is violinist Richard Aubert, but the remaining quintet of players (in the traditional line-up of guitar, drums, bass, keyboards, and vocals) is more focused here, from the first, circular chords of the catchy opening track "Paris, C'est Fini" to the mock- Gregorian chant fade-out of the epic, two-part, fourteen minute "Tunnel" (fourteen of the most exciting minutes in any Prog library, I might add).

The only song that doesn't really work is "Gae Lowe (the Duel)", not coincidentally also the shortest track on the album. The best Progressive music is always able to blend conflicting ideas into a cohesive whole, but instead of having a natural flow this sounds more like a K-Tel medley of rejected outtakes.

Elsewhere, the ethereal backing vocals are provided by Lisa Deluxe and Stella Vander of MAGMA, showing that ATOLL was certainly mixing with the right company. But it's too bad they were such late bloomers: by the time the band had mastered the classic symphonic style (this album was released in 1977) the party was just about over.

I can't really call it essential listening, if only because there's little here that hadn't already been done elsewhere (and because the Musea CD adds no bonus tracks to the original album's skimpy 37-minute running time).

But let's put it in perspective: over their entire career ATOLL may have only produced two really strong albums, but that's two out of a total of four studio albums altogether, a batting average most bands would be proud of.

Neu!mann | 3/5 |

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