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Rak - Lepidoptera  CD (album) cover

LEPIDOPTERA

Rak

 

Symphonic Prog

3.88 | 50 ratings

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Finnforest
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Melodic neo/symphonic journey

"Lepidoptera" is the best Marillion album that Marillion never made. Of course I don't mean to so superficially label RAK as clones when they are a fine band on their own accord, yet the point must be made that this album will appeal tremendously to fans of Hogarth-era (and even Fish era) Marillion. In my opinion this album is much more enjoyable than some of the Marillion mediocrity over the years, though not quite to the level of works like "Misplaced Childhood" or "Brave." The work is an emotional and sprawling study of change and the human condition, via the life of a girl as well as in secondary metaphor through the incredible migration of the monarch butterfly.

As Ivan notes in his bio RAK inhabit a strange space between neo-prog and modern symphonic progressive and is something of a missing link between the two. To my ears though it is somewhat closer to neo-prog in the feel of the material. The album is an hour long conceptual work broken into two acts and twenty short tracks, but really it flows along as one complete piece, the different songs dissolving into the next one.

The two main personalities of the basic RAK sound come from the work of composer and keyboardist Marc Grassi and lyricist/vocalist Dave Thwaites. Grassi's work cannot be understated: "Lepidoptera" is a wonderful set of compositions filled with memorable melodies, long peaceful interludes, aggressive bursts of energy, good cohesion and "flow." His work on the keys is solid and diverse, from the lovely shades of background "color" to the beautiful sections of piano (or synth piano?whatever it is!) to the nice array of modern energetic synth. Thwaites has a unique voice that reminds me of Hogarth but it comes with a more energetic, sometimes defiant sounding delivery. I've not seen him sing in video but I'd guess he is a somewhat theatrical performer, or at least physically expressive in his performance. The rest of the band is solid as well, fine drumming, expressive and juicy lead guitar work. It's a combination of music that is very pretty at times and emotionally charged, even frantic at times, as the themes of the songs shift from exploring the lighter and darker sides of the subjects. Soft melodic piano interludes such as "Dreams Like These" counter modern, pulsing synths sounds and distorted guitar chords in the rocking sections. "Metamorphosis:three" is also a cool section with this repeating synth motif over very subtle drumming, rumbling low end, and a lengthy but low-key guitar improvisation. Even the softer, almost new-age feel of the keys and programmed-sounding rhythms of "Those Bright Wings" works beautifully in a relaxing way. A bit of something for everyone in terms of tone and mood.

It's nice the way the album leaves room for "drift", some ideas are clearly obvious, but others seemingly develop from simply being given space, it doesn't feel like they are just trying to get you from one chorus/catchy part to the next as other modern prog seems hell-bent on doing. The many transitions on this album are handled quite skillfully. There is room for more sound treats however. This album credits a violinist but I think a long conceptual work could benefit from more strings or some different instrumentalists or more vocal variation. The production is also less than perfect but certainly respectable.

"Lepidoptera" is quite good in my estimation though well short of a masterpiece, I'd place it over three stars, not quite four, but enough to round up to four. The tri-fold insert features some gorgeous artwork from Mark Wilkinson, on both sides of all panels. Really nice touch. "Lepidoptera" is an album that will please many and I'm really surprised it has slipped below the radar of the site's many Neo-prog fans. Fans of modern day symphonic and crossover prog, things like Moon Safari, Phideaux, and Magic Pie, may also do well to track down this recording. Those into metal and harsh/dissonant prog can safely pass on this.

Finnforest | 4/5 |

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