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Kotebel - Omphalos CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

3.95 | 91 ratings

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5 stars The reviewer on Prognossis has turned me on to several wonderful modern progressive rock artists--though his tastes are perhaps a bit more RIO/avante garde/eclectic than mine. AFTER CRYING, GOURISHANKAR, FROMUZ, FRENCH TV and now KOTEBEL are a few of his raves that I am enjoying getting to know. Omphalos is the best of the lot, so far. I love female voices--especially good ones, with near-operatic quality, who have excellent accompanying bands (ANNIE HASLAM/RENAISSANCE, NINA HAGEN, NIGHTWISH, EPICA, DARGAARD, NIL, KOTEBEL). And I love classically influenced music (though not so much music that borrows rather blatantly from classical themes as ELP, NEW TROLLS, and even RENAISSANCE have done), so KOTEBEL is quite a find for me. Every listen seems to bring greater appreciation and geometrically increasing enjoyment. But my favorite element of Kotebel is the strong, often dominant presence of the flute. This is an instrument used far too little, IMO, in modern prog. The old JETHRO TULL, FOCUS, and early GENESIS use of flute were, for me, such highlights to the 70s.

1. "Ra" is such an amazing piece, with so many moods an themes. At first I was quite overwhelmed by it--couldn't get into it, but now its familiar themes and flow is a very treasured journey. Some of the key changes just kill me! Time and tempo changes as well. (8/10) 2. "Excellent Meat" reminds me of FROMUZ and NIL and even a little ON THE VIRG and KANSAS. Another song that took me several listens to get into. (I think the key with this album is familiarity; repeated listens seem to increase one's enjoyment and appreciation.) Organ, acoustic (Spanish) guitars, and a Bruford-esque snare really add so much to this temperamental song. Strangely: No flute! Brilliant musicianship. (8/10)

The next six songs are, I think, intended to be listened to and considered as one--a 'suite,' if you will. Especially since they all 'bleed' into one another. And that is precisely how I listen to them. They really do fit/belong together--and are, collectively, the second highest point of the album.

3. "Prologue" definitely sets a stage of mystery and awe for the Pentacle Suite. A strong Moorish influence here, to be sure. (9/10)

4. "Sun Pentacle" Flute and voice take turns singing the lead melodies, though electric guitars and synthesizers get their shots in, as well, in a moody, mostly heavy song. I feel as if I'm in an original "Star Trek" episode! (8/10)

5. "Mercury Pentacle" begins with Carolina Prieto's beautiful, long and lilting vocal notes--which are soon joined by a Spanish/classically played acoustic guitar. Briefly joined by full band?with some very delicate drum/cymbol play--before the sonics very quickly ebb away, leaving the steady acoustic guitar arpeggios alone for a while before a background flute joins. Voice and rhythm section take turns entering, disappearing, always leaving the virtuosic guitarist plucking away, sometimes joined by the distant flute melody. An amazingly textured song with plenty of unexpected sounds, riffs, and shifts. Song ends with a plaintive elctric guitar solo--a melody familiar from ANDREW LLOYD WEBER's "Jesus Christ Superstar." (9/10)

6. "Venus Pentacle" presents an acoustic side: piano, flute and cello. (And, later, some mellotron!) This song reminds me of DEBUSSEY and JEAN-PIERRE RAMPAL-MICHEL LEGRAND-ALEXANDRE LAGOYA. An absolutely gorgeous symphonic mélange of classical and jazz, European style. (10/10)

7. "Mars Pentacle" ushers back a jazzy FROMUZ sound, full band performing, flutes and electric guitars taking the first leads, synth keyboard taking over briefly (my favorite sounds & melodies of this song). Definitely a progressive rock song as it is so reminiscent of the kind of stuff ELP, RENAISSANCE and THE ENID did in the 70s. (8/10)

8. "Epilogue" takes a couple of the Pentacle Suite's previous themes (particularly from the previous and penultimate song, "Mars Pentacle") and slows them down, gives the flute, wonderful voice of Carolina Prieto (with lyrics! [Not in English]), and, later, to a slide guitar and electric guitar. (9/10)

9. "MetroMnemo." Someone asked on ProgArchives who does/has done the best ALLAN HOLDSWORTH copy and I have to answer, without hesitation, that the guitar work on this song is 'the best Allan Holdsworth playing Allan Holdsworth never did.' (Only, this may be better than anything AH ever did.) (IMHO) Even the song's construction is so similar to Holdsworth songs: full of sudden stops, shifts, time, key, and mood changes. There has never been a better 'copy.' Interesting end/fade out. (8/10)

10. "Joropo." Flute and piano & keyboard synthesizers open this song--again sounding, to me, so much like much of JEAN-PIERRE RAMPAL's work with either CLAUDE BOLLING or MICHEL LEGRAND--though, of course, added to by the presence of electronics (I suppose, in the place of orchestration)--i.e. keyboards and fuzzed electric guitar. Really an amazing journey through the undulating countrysides of pastoral Europe! (9/10)

11. "Omphalos" is quite possibly my favorite single song of the 21st Century. To be sure, it is in the top ten. Carolina Prieto's gorgeous voice carries me away to places high in the sky, high over ice-covered mountain peaks. And another performance of virtuoso musicians. My only complaint is that it may go on just a little too long (i.e. the song could have happily ended at the 5:23 mark but instead chooses to come back for a reprise of the main theme--with little or no new development--for more than another minute.) (10/10)

This is one of my favorite/"best of ..." albums of the first decade of the 21st Century. (#17) Without any doubt or hesitation, this album deserves five stars, for it is, indeed, a masterpiece of progressive rock--a true example that "progress" is still being made in modern music.

BrufordFreak | 5/5 |


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