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Millenium - Exist CD (album) cover





4.05 | 132 ratings

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4 stars The storied reputation of Polish neo progressive rock is being earned day in and day out. Proponents from that country adapt the sweeping epics of their British antecedents with the simple sense of melody of their local compatriots. In the case of MILLENIUM, add in plenty of that deliberate Dave Gilmour soloing and vocals and you are looking at and listening to one of the more ear-pleasing albums of the last decade.

I usually back off when I see a track listing with only a few pieces, each of greater than 10 minutes in length. Neo prog groups in particular tend to overflex their rudimentary prog musculature until they lose all tone. It's true that COLLAGE's classic "Moonshine" contained several epics that worked well, as did SATELLITE's first couple of albums, but all of these contained interspersed cuts of "normal" length. But Millenium pulls it off admirably by arranging songs around fundamental melodic lines and branching out around them, such that the tracks, while not quite suites, provide both continuity and security to the fragile listener.

All 4 opuses are strong, but my favourites are the first and last, telling the story of pre-birth and wished-for eternal life of our existence. In the first, "Embryo", I am reminded of fellow Poles ANNALIST as the tune begins reflectively, albeit with a notable processional rhythm. The lead guitars from Piotr Płonka are Floydian, a la Shine On, but are not out for a long jam, just to set the stage. Łukasz Gall's expressive voice is in the league of Robert Amirian (and Dave Gilmour), as much in style as substance. The tune is mostly mellow, but with a tuneful more aggressive component that slips in and reappears later. In between is an ambient and richly melodic section led by Ryszard Kramarski 's synthesizers that gently capture the spotlight, but not for the last time on the disk. Indeed I have not drooled over keys this much since some of ELOY's masterworks of the late 1970s and early 1980s. This is the good stuff!

In the album closer, "Road to Infinity" drags us into the current much more quickly but just as effectively. More moogish sounds assume the lead backed by the full band contingent, even strummed acoustic guitars. A more aggressive angular melody ensues before another extended dreamy sequence. It all fades out with a delicate piano figure. The grand sweep and contrasts have as much going for them as in Satellite's best work.

The middle cuts are not quite as good overall, and contain somewhat more poppy segments, and even some nods to HAWKWIND in "Rat Race". The spoken word parts in this track are a bit too much of a novelty item and wear thin after a few listens, so I end up fast forwarding through their silliness. But the track culminates in a fit of BARCLAY JAMES HARVEST tinged emotion reminiscent of "For No One" that more than salvages its reputation. "Up and Down" includes master organ work in the early going, and a delicate extended lead. Its only notable flaw is in some odd vocoder type bleeps and burps that just don't work, but don't sink the ship by any means, especially when redeemed by a delicate lead guitar over bass passage.

This wonderful album will furnish all but the most hardened progger with 55 minutes in which to thrive and flourish, rather than simply perpetuate your musical existence. And that is the essence of good music, whatever its genre or millenium. 4.5 stars.

kenethlevine | 4/5 |


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