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Orion - Orion 2.0: Virtual Human CD (album) cover

ORION 2.0: VIRTUAL HUMAN

Orion

 

Symphonic Prog

4.26 | 42 ratings

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TCat
4 stars Here we have another band formed many years ago, 1975 to be exact, who had disbanded, and now have reformed. Over the years, ORION has produced 5 full-length albums, the fifth album released in September of 2019 which is named "Virtual Human" goes under the band's new moniker "ORION 2.0". Maybe this new moniker is to reflect the reforming of the band, or maybe it is to distinguish the band from other bands with the same name. Whatever the case, this symphonic prog band as founded by vocalist and flautist Laurnet Delenne who gives the band a folkish flavor, by keyboardist Janusz Tokarz and Franck Mormosa on guitar.

The band released one album in 1979, and then we didn't hear from them until 2013 and they have loyally released an album every two years since then. None of the original founders are on this album, except for Tokarz, who only shows up as an additional keyboardist on track 5 and who serves as a co-producer. The core band for the 2.0 version of the band are Jerome Nigou on vocals, Pierre-Jean Horville on guitars, Paul Cribaillet on keyboards and piano, Eric Halter on basses, and Cedric Affre on drums. The album consists of 7 tracks and has a total run time of just over 40 minutes.

"Virtual Human" starts off with a good amount of energy and has a nice neo-prog flavor, but when the airy vocals come in, the music takes on a jazz flair, and a fusion sound progresses from this point, with nice, almost funky guitars nnd bass, and lovely piano. An occasional power chord or two remind us that this is still rock, and the music churns into an exciting and rousing guitar led ending. "T.OW.U." continues with the slight jazz/rock sensibility, which again becomes more apparent when the vocals start. The instruments always follow suit when the airy vocals start, but when there are instrumental breaks, things typically get heavier. All in all, it makes for a nice contrast. This time, there is a more obvious leaning towards progressiveness when the music transitions from the vocal to the guitar solo. Again, the sound is clean and quite appealing.

"Run for Life" begins with a long instrumental introduction, and the sound continues in the same vein of a neo-prog sound, but the vocals come in well into the 2nd minute and the music becomes very mellow and pensive. After the vocals, a nice jazz piano-led interlude takes over. At this point, the lyrics have been in English, but "Le Nuage" is written in the band's native French. The music in this case is more straightforward and has a commercial feel to it. The pop/jazz sound reminds me of my days in Italy listening to Pino Daniele. Once again, there is a nice guitar-led instrumental at the end. "Silicon Cirkus" is obviously heavier with an almost southern rock feel to it, until the robotic voice comes in that reads the lyrics in a monotone, and then the last stanza is sung. The robot voice comes back in French after this. Meanwhile, the music plays along with a repeating background until the regular vocals come back again, then the music again takes a darker and more southern-rock feel that mostly comes from the guitar style. By the ending, the music ventures off into other avenues from a heavy interlude, to a jazz-groove infused guitar solo to end it off.

"Silicium" is the longest track at almost 8 minutes, and starts off slow, pensive and a bit ominous. The slow tempo continues, another jazz guitar solo, and then soft and airy vocals again as the tempo stays soft and slow, this time the lyrics are all in French again. The slow jazz fusion is a nice change to the more upbeat tracks as the band takes on their inner George Benson. The track just takes its own slow and sweet time. Very relaxing. The last track is another 7+ minute track called "Shagreen". The rhythm begins immediately more upbeat and a bit more complex. After a while the music takes a more solid and power chord led turn before finally going into jazz fusion mode again as the vocals come in. The melody is more of an untraditional sound, losing the verse, chorus structure and also becoming more complex, though still quite accessible. The track is more of a concept style and is based on a classic French fantasy novel "La peau de chagrin" written by Balzac in 1831.

Overall, this album takes on a surprisingly jazz feel with occasional outbursts of heaviness and progressiveness, but staying on a more accessible feel. The jazzy attitude of the music is a nice path for the band to take, but as a result, doesn't really say much for the Symphonic tag that the band has. Yes there are progressive traits to the music, but they are not strong as the band chooses to stay on a smoother path with the nice jazz style and occasional spurts of progressive meters and riffs to keep it all interesting. After all is said and sung, the album is enjoyable and one that I can say I would come back to from time to time. The sound is mostly bright and slick with great production and sound, and some high quality passages where the musicianship shines through well.

TCat | 4/5 |

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