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Blank Manuskript - Tales from an Island - Impressions from Rapa Nui CD (album) cover

TALES FROM AN ISLAND - IMPRESSIONS FROM RAPA NUI

Blank Manuskript

 

Symphonic Prog

3.47 | 12 ratings

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Kotro
Prog Reviewer
3 stars Barren landscape

Rapa Nui, more commonly known as Easter Island, was once home to a proud civilization of Polynesian fisherman tribes turned into a relatively advanced proto-imperial society, in which relentless ambition, greed and pure vanity eventually brought warfare and their chaotic decline, dragging the island along in an ecological disaster that turned the once densely forested territory into the eerie landscape now familiar to us, long before the arrival of Europeans. Tales from an Island - Impressions from Rapa Nui is a brave attempt at a concept album telling that story, a bold move to take in this debut album by Austrian band Blank Manuskript.

After good look at the excellent artwork, we turn to the music. The marine shoreline sounds (waves, gulls) opening Breath of the Island transport us to the setting, with the soon heard tribal drumming and chanting providing the action. Halfway a mid-tempo drumming over an organ melody is introduced, and with it the English narration summarizing the story to be told. Voyage kicks of this musical narrative by means of an up-tempo, quite adventurous sounding track built upon the piano's melody, with some electric guitar and saxophone, vocals appearing halfway in the quieter sections. There is great interplay between piano and electric guitar. Society follows, a song marked by a distinct Camel-like keyboard and guitar riff intro (Lady Fantasy immediately comes to mind). There is great variation within this instrumental track, from the more retro- proggy parts that bookend it to some Caribbean inspired tunes and even Lounge music in its middle sections. The Great War ensues, with a fade-in beginning of mighty riffage (with the omnipresent piano providing the rhythm). As would befit the title of the track, it's a rather violent piece (within the context of the album, obviously). Words come into play midway, with some nice harmonies complementing the weak lead vocals (ridiculously distorted towards the end). After the War Part I is a small acoustic guitar and flute instrumental, not bad, but not remarkable either. Serves as a nice intro to After the War Part II, into which it segues, a track which has a certain Dark Side of the Moon vibe to it, beginning quite slowly and spacey, featuring some good vocals and organ, the electric guitar being played rather delicately as a discreet accompaniment, before it takes centre stage with a couple of good solos as the track builds up some intensity - this song is the first real highlight of an album that has been competent so far, but a bit lacking in excitement. As would suit any new symphonic prog band, we are treated to an epic, The Cult of Birdman. This piece begins with another fade-in of piano, synths, flute, guitar licks and somewhat martial drumming, a very rich tapestry of sounds. The feel of the song is thrilling right from the beginning, and it displays some great musicianship. Vocals remain the weakest link, but they do an ok job conveying the emotion of the track. Throughout its twelve and a half minutes, we are gifted with a series of time and mood shifts, very good melodies, some soloing from various instruments (piano, drums and guitar being the most preeminent), and some great, emotive narration. The Waiting brings the album to an end, an initially piano driven low-tempo song with some unexpected (but rather welcome) female vocals. Percussion drops by towards the middle, giving it a bit more oomph, but keeping the original piano melancholy, augmented by a wailing electric guitar solo and vocals.

As a concept, the album works rather well - it avoided some traps like the overblown and pompous composition usually found on such endeavours, retaining instead a low-key, tasteful approach throughout, without lacking energy and excitement. Unfortunately, that also didn't make for very memorable music. The 12 minute epic is filled with different sections and improvisations all competent but rather unremarkable to make it an unforgettable piece. There is much more talent and success to be found in the track preceding it, After the War Part II. All through the album, there is a bit of a "prog-by- numbers" feel to the music, often bringing to memory some later days symphonic prog bands (namely Asia Minor). The production, while not perfect and lavish, is nonetheless competent. All in all, it sounds a bit sterile, like the barren landscape of Easter Island. But just like Rapa-Nui, it has some mystery to it, and leaves us willing to wait for improvement in future releases by the band.

Kotro | 3/5 |

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