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Little Tragedies - Cross CD (album) cover


Little Tragedies


Symphonic Prog

3.82 | 38 ratings

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Special Collaborator
RIO/Avant/Zeuhl Team
3 stars My first approach to Little Tragedies was through their second album, "Return", which left me thoroughly underwhelmed. Indeed, their particular brand of bombastic, ambitious retro-prog is not for everyone, no matter how accomplished it may be. "The Cross", however, is definitely a much more mature effort, though it does take a lot of attention and repeated listens to be fully appreciated.

As Little Tragedies' mainman, Gennady Ilyin, is a classically-trained keyboardist and composer, it will not come as a surprise that the band's music scores very highly on a technical level. Luckily, unlike other bands (especially in the field of progressive metal), Little Tragedies avoid ultimately pointless displays of mere technical prowess, and concentrate on producing music that flows in a pleasant way, with some occasional moments of lyrical beauty. Besides the obvious influences from vintage Seventies prog, there is a lot in Little Tragedies' music that harks back to the great Russian composers of the 19th and early 20th century. The epic sweep of their sound largely manages to avoid cheesiness, as do their lyrics, based on authentic poetry (in this case written by early 20th century poet Nikolai Gumilev) rather than some dubious concept. Kudos are due to MALS for including English translations of the texts in the CD booklet.

With the sole exception of the lively "Tanets" (i.e. 'dance'), influenced by Russian folk music, all the tracks on "The Cross" have vocals. Unfortunately Gennady Ilyin delivers Gumilev's verses in a style closer to reading aloud than actual singing, while the band's peculiar style would call instead for a commanding, dramatic voice. The poetry itself has the vividly descriptive, almost visionary quality typical of the Symbolist movement, coupled with a strong mystical flavour, and Gumilev's fascination with the exotic.

Musically speaking, "The Cross" is a veritable orgy of keyboards - synthesisers, Hammond organ, piano, even harpsichord. Little Tragedies' sound on this album is purely symphonic, almost devoid of any contaminations with the harder-edged forms of prog - with the sole exception of the powerful double-bass drumming that often underpins the lengthy keyboard passages. The occasional presence of woodwind instruments adds a romantic, atmospheric note to tracks such as the stately "Portrait of a Man".

The album's longest and most complex composition is the 19-minute, mostly instrumental "The Voice of Silence", which alternates fast-paced passages with slower, majestic ones. Yuri Skripkin's precise, high-energy drumming lends further intensity to the more dramatic keyboard flights. The Gothic-tinged "Behind the Walls of the Old Abbey", bookended by harpsichord, develops into a no-holds-barred synth-fest much in the style of ELP's "Toccata"; while the opening of "Lakes" may bring to mind Genesis circa "Selling England by the Pound".

Fans of classic symphonic prog, especially of heavily keyboard-based bands like ELP, will not fail to be impressed by "The Cross". However, the foreign-language lyrics, coupled with Gennady Ilyin's idiosyncratic vocal delivery, might be a turn-off for some listeners. Needless to say, this is not an album meant for those who like their prog to be actually progressive in nature.

Raff | 3/5 |


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