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Nexus - Detrás Del Umbral CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

4.05 | 136 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars Formed in what I've always referred to as the Second Wave of Progressive Rock in the late-70s, it's interesting to see another example of this, this being Nexus's first studio album some 20 years after that fact.

The optimism and yet simultaneous dark, ominous disposition of our opener, "El Despertar" ("The Awakening"), is something else. Some synth sounds and a certain melody therein reminded me of Tarkus- Trilogy era ELP. Big, expansive and, to wrap up thoughts, just plain tense. Definitely cause for excitement of what's to come. Quiet tension leads us into "Condenados" ("Condemned"), the first of four mini-epics on the album. This is our introduction to the vocals, performed by Mariela González. She has a deeper register, though, clearly talented as she may be, I'm not so much a fan of her vocals here. And so, in this case, it's driving my rating downward [for the song specifically]. The composition here is relatively strong, featuring loose but big drums and spacy, string-like keys, but the vocal melody itself is just boring to me. There's something reminiscent, I think, to Pink Floyd's "Young Lust" in the guitar riff's simplicity at the start. I had optimism Nexus were part of that wave of bands, starting in the '90s, that were breaking away from the trends of Neo-Prog in favor of the Neo-Symphonic [and in favor of my personal tastes, I feel I must add].

Clearly, instrumentally speaking, these are some talented musicians! Check out the excellent "Mas Alla Del Limite" ("Beyond the Limit")! Not in love with the guitar tone toward the end (it's just a tad bit thin to my ears), similar to that which we heard a bit on "Condenados", but the synths, I ignorantly assume performed by Lalo Huber, are just amazing (again, Keith Emerson called, and I'm totally wondering how, since he sadly passed in 2016) [Wow I'm dumb. This was released in 1999. I thought I was being funny; do I still have some chance?]. "Tiempo Sin Razon" ("Age of Unreason") is certainly a blast to the past, hearkening back to sounds not only of ELP, but of Greenslade, Curved Air, et al (I mean, help? I'm drawing a blank haha). The guitar sounds great here! Is what it is, but any tonal issues prior and forthcoming may just be chocked up to a 'sign of the times'. Vocals return for a stronger melody. And the strength of this composition, when once again compared with "Condenados", is just pushing this baby up in my book! Epic stuff, with bright synthy crescendos left and right.

"Utopia" is a slow, feeling number, featuring more Neo-Prog-ready keys and a guitar solo. It may offer you more than it had me; results, I'm sure, will vary. "La Espiral" ("The Spiral") certainly picks things back up, with the best guitar performances that we've seen thus far, awesome organ and horny lead lines. This one is a lot of fun. To me, really cool hearing this level of retro-ist era-homage. Favorite thus far, and, if nothing else, give this one a spin. It features our first daring experimentation with time, which we then hear continued on the next, "Signos En El Cielo" (supposedly "Symbols at the Sky"?), an exciting and emotive mini-epic, our longest track at just under 11 minutes. I love a good multi-section composition, and this is certainly that. We have classic variety in textures, intensity and dynamics. All slowly drops away before the first verse in the fourth minute. These melodies are far stronger than what came before and, if you don't know her, I'm at this time just going to recommend the excellent Happy Rhodes, whose 1994 album Building The Colossus is a favorite of mine. Inspired by Kate Bush and sporting a possibly wider vocal register/range, it's just great Progressive Art Rock with many hallmarks of that time. Anyways, "Signos" continues on with, again, finally delicious guitarings and an excellent feel. Frisson: Engaged. Another thing I think I'm hearing in this, just slightly, is some of the feel established in much of Rush's late-70s period. Really very cool. And this individual track sits at very nearly 4.75/5.00 in my books [To do the math(s), that means it's "very nearly" a 5/5 haha].

Thunder crashes and rain falls, ushering in "Sueño Infinito" ("Infinite Dream"). With a cool ass name like that, I was hoping for quite a bit more. I mean, they are certainly good at setting the tone--successfully setting for us a scene--even for those of us that don't speak much more than a lick of Spanish. And, at any rate, grateful then to be onto the title track, the 9-minute "Detras Del Umbral" ("Behind the Gate"). Epic, swooping synths here most remind me of Starcastle honestly (I love them; keep up haha). Fit with awesome feel, striking snare hits and huge chord progressions! For a second, my breath was taken away by the rhythmic pause at the start of the verse. The percussion returns about a measure later and I was still unsure how I felt. Some neat vocal effects are implemented as we near minute 3. Organ and synth clash in the midsection, rising and falling in intensity as this apparent battle ensues. We even briefly shift away from what I've assumed was the song's minor key, reminding me happily of Tony Banks' absolute command throughout much of Selling England. Fantastic! The drums keep up the pace as we continue to swirl around within. Continuing on from our battle scene, "La Procesion Interior" ("The Inner Procession") lulls into triumphant half-time, though genuinely it had me asking, 'At what cost?' I keep going back to this, but there's so much tension throughout this album. Definitely one of the keys to the success Detras does have.

A very familiar feeling returns on "Eterno y Fugaz" ("Eternal and Fugacious"; according to Google, fugacious means 'tending to disappear; fleeting'). With a title like that, am I to expect the unexpected, contradiction? The verse and the chords it's married are... just too little to me. Our theme-it-seems returns around minute 6, but... Yeah, no doubt this track, with this epic title, is a huge let-down. "La Batalla" ("The Battle") has a very classic quality about it. I think after "Eterno" I'm not sure I'm feeling so much excitement as this track may deserve. It's good, sure. Maybe 'fine' is a better descriptor. Finally, as the title likewise implies, we have "El Ultimo Ritual" ("The Last Ritual"). Solemn start. The horns of war are sounded with a synthetic swoop (yes, in a good way) and we are flying, met in the sky with keyboard arpeggios, pounding organ and slamming drums. Big'n to close us out for sure.

This album was certainly cohesive and attention-grabbing. It definitely had moments of lesser quality, but I still felt they brought down the overall vibe very little. I said it best after "Eterno": these moments were let-downs, disappointments at worst, not horrendous or terrible or the like. I think this will appeal to fans of their contemporaries, such as The Flower Kings, Echolyn, IZZ, Landmarq and Big Big Train.

A no-longer-as-rare round-up from an even rarer specific True Rate: 3.6/5.0.

[I'm so excited to be listening to this. It's absurd, as I haven't seriously listened to something with the specific purpose of reviewing in just over 2 months. Too long. It was great to get back into things, and I'm hoping for a trend. Gotta get these numbers up haha. Have to overcome my rustiness, in the least.]

DangHeck | 4/5 |


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