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The Samurai Of Prog - The White Snake and Other Grimm Tales II CD (album) cover


The Samurai Of Prog


Crossover Prog

3.90 | 40 ratings

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

4 stars For those new to them, The Samurai of Prog is a multi-national symphonic prog rock project dating back to 2009, led by Finland-based, Italian composer and bassist Marco Bernard, with permanent members Steve Unruh on vocals, violin, flute and guitars, and Kimmo Pörsti on drums and percussion ? along with a raft of guest musicians and vocalists.

I reviewed The Lady and the Lion ? volume one of a new series of albums based on the fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm ? a few months ago. The White Snake is volume two, and I was interested in seeing how the series has developed and how it compared with the first album.

I am pleased to say that the quality of the instrumental symphonic prog produced by the project remains of a high standard. The solid foundation that Marco, Steve and Kimmo create is enhanced by the talented guest musicians they have employed ? especially on keyboards and electric guitar. The music is dynamic and diverse and full of invention that would please any followers of the genre.

However, whether you take to the album or not will largely depend on the lyrics and vocal approach. This is fairy tale storytelling prog style! It can often feel like a commentary over a local theatre group's Christmas pantomime. However, on this occasion, the vocals are much less melodramatic and integrate better with the musical flow and structure of the longer, narrative-led tracks, compared to the last album.

The first two tracks are instrumentals and work well. The Tricky Fiddler is a brisk and busy track, not surprisingly dominated by Steve's violin, which combining playfully with lush retro-keyboards, flute and lively electric guitar creates a Kansas/Tull hybrid at times. Searching for the Fear is more of an ensemble piece, with each musician seemingly allowed to take the lead as the track ebbs and flows ? all propelled by Kimmo's drumming ? with prog noodlings a plenty, especially from the guest keyboards and guitar of Alessandro Di Benedetti and Marcel Singor, respectively.

The three, longer, storytelling tracks are each composed by a different guest keyboardist, and the four-part The Devil with the Three Golden Hairs by Mimmo Ferri fares least well. The promising instrumentation (including some nice guitar soloing) is often swamped by the densely-packed lyrical content, and although the vocals are slightly less theatrical than the first album, they are still overdramatic at times. The Travelling Musicians, by Luca Scherani, is better, however, lyrics and music well integrated and it flows more easily, and whilst you still feel you are listening to a stage musical at times, the vocals are stronger ? especially Elisa Montaldo as the cat and Alessio Calandriello as the rooster (just wish I could understand Italian!)

The five-part epic The White Snake has music composed by Oliviero Lacagnina, and is rather good. Fans of ELP/Triumvirat will enjoy the retro keyboards and synthesised orchestration of the Prologue onwards. At times there is a theatrical grandeur similar to ELP's Pirates. The narrative content is stronger too, with Camilla Rinaldi's vocals easy on the ear and Massimo Gori's lyrics never dominating the instrumentation. Violin, keyboards and guitars utilise the additional space given to them more effectively, and there is even some nice Irish flute playing before the proggy conclusion. The final, short instrumental The Tricky Fiddler ? Reprise rounds off the album with a more restrained, stately return to the original opening theme before a final swirl of violin.

A step up from the previous album, although despite the impressive prog instrumentation, it will largely be your liking of musical theatre and lyrical storytelling which will decide if this album, the previous one or any future releases to come from The Samurai of Prog are for you.


Squonk19 | 4/5 |


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