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Unitopia - Seven Chambers CD (album) cover




Crossover Prog

4.21 | 51 ratings

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Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Veteran Australian prog band Unitopia is back with a new studio album after a very prolonged period of silence, as "Covered Mirror Volume 1- Smooth as Silk" was their last in 2012 (a tremendously stimulating set-list of famous prog cover songs!). A considerable amount of excitement is now travelling around the community as a new crew joins keyboardist Sean Timms, flute and violin maestro Steve Unruh and lead vocalist Mark Trueack, namely a revamped rhythm section featuring two outright American legends in bassist Alphonso Johnson (Weather Report, Santana, Shorter, Hackett, Collins) combining with his longtime cohort, drumming guru Chester Thompson (Zappa, Weather Report, Genesis, Collins), as well as bringing in British guitarist John Greenwood. "Seven Chambers" refers to the seven ventricles located in the human heart, a rather inspired source to use as a concept for a prog album that has, you guessed it, seven whoppingly tasty and well-developed epic tracks. Gorgeous cover art and a running time of over an hour and 22 minutes makes this already an utterly desirable package.

From the very first seconds into the audition, it becomes abundantly clear that the book matches the cover. Settle into your comfy chair, close your eyes, relax, breathe, and soak in the cynosure of this experience, and make sure you check your cardiac rate regularly so as to quantify your pleasure. The compassionate introduction piece "Broken Heart" settles in with seemingly eloquent simplicity until the pump kicks in with a zesty rhythmic transition and the unexpected arrival of a colossal chorus that drives the ECG monitor into the red zone. Waves of mellotron stress the substance considerably, with aesthetic piano in tow, but the Greenwood guitar riffs on 'something is happening to me' suddenly raises the core volume, as Alphonso and Chester keep the blood flowing through the arteries. Mark's voice and delivery are paramount in the execution of the arrangement, a story told convincingly. As befits the title, "Bittersweet" is a sorrowful lament, a delicate flute fluttering in profound melancholia as Mark sings 'like a broken-down engine.' The violin colours the rainbow in the sky, all very pretty and accessible until, a surprising coronary transition shuffles into a sensational chop-chop tick-tock, a rhythmically chaotic argy bargy of funk, jazz, poetry, hip-hop allusions, and eternal smiles. Brilliant passage from one comfortable extreme to a wholly alternate zone is what makes this really stunning. The exuberant "Something Invisible" reaches out and grabs the listener with a plethora of attributes, from Alphonso's generous bass carving deep, Chester's intricate percussive display thumping unmolested, a scorching piano, delirious violin, dense grooves, and a fiery electric guitar solo all contributing to the sanguine flow.

By the time the gigantic 12-and-a-half-minute mammoth "Mania" appears, it becomes clear to anyone in the OR that this is a quintessential album that just keeps on beating, though resuscitation might be needed as this is a monster track. Powerful and grandiose as the verses are, slashed with razor guitar riffs and blasted with cannonading drums, the transitioning into a pure chorus makes the appeal immediate and profound. A reflective mid-section puts the spotlight on the lyrical content, perhaps to relaunch the vivid chorus once again to our utter enjoyment. Chester does a mini romp before Dr. Greenwood (he was a surgeon in a former life) insists boldly with a raging guitar onslaught, channeling some acidic sutures through his axe, as the menacing Vocoder counts out the cardiovascular time. A complex form of intricate prog surgery this is, and a highlight track for sure. "I am flying" he shrieks.

With a title like "The Stroke of Midnight", there may be a suggestion of some kind of mellower evolution towards another soporific realm, and as such, a temperamental expanse awaits the elegant piano to set the stage for a new consciousness. 'Numbness here, a twitching there' an awakening from a state of comatose indifference, as the melancholic violin roams along, a sensational solo easily among one of the finest ever heard in a prog piece. There is hope amid the pain, a welcome recovery room opus to soothe the trembling.

Two massive coronary tracks finish off the package, as "Helen" clocks in a whopping 19 minutes +, thrusting this into a wide panorama of passion, atmospheres, and melodies, with pleading lyrics on loneliness and gentler acoustic contrasts and surges to highlight the shadows of despair. There is an extended 'breathing machine' effect that expands into a wonderful mellotron-laden torrent of sound, quieting down to an almost playful baroque feel. Steve Unruh unleashes another dazzling violin like a scalpel slicing out a tumour, as well as providing some comforting flute panacea.

The 18 minutes of "The Uncertain" comes in at the terminal stage of the entire operation, a hospital discharge of both ambiguity and faith, as the anesthesia wears off and the psychological pain begins. The disease is beaten but the rehab is the long hard road ahead, urging for a positive mindset. The opening bars sound like an apotheosis from a long journey, orchestrations, a simple guitar, and a heart felt (excuse the pun) vocal from Mark, who dares to toss in some ELO/Beatles harmony vocal snippets. The cool arrangement then decides to raise the dosage and the blistering Greenwood barrage kicks the gurney into the parking lot, colliding with an ambulance for good measure. The voice gets assuredly insistent and a snarl or two can be discerned, followed by various vocal and sound effects that add to the enigma. A blood curdling organ, a carving violin and an injurious e-guitar splurge, each entering like a horde of interns, nurses and orderlies intent on seeing how its done in the OR. 'Beauty and Frailty' announces a glittering violin solo, the capering bass in unison with the drums, and piano remedies to soothe the stitches. Outside, the urban sounds of bongos and tin whistles clash with the surefooted fretboard sputter (with a colourful solo to boot), as if dropped back into the hustle and bustle of our daily routine, veering back to that Jeff Lynne singing El Dorado feel, full of cautionary optimism.

Love this epic album, and its fascinating subject matter but can someone please unhook my IV, please? My private nurse awaits my return ?..home.

4.5 repaired compartments

tszirmay | 5/5 |


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