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Survival - Crusader CD (album) cover




Crossover Prog

3.02 | 6 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
3 stars According to sources "Survival" was a "real" band from 1981 until 1997. After they split this moniker was taken over by their keyboardist - Jack Langevelt. Along with different musicians he recorded several private pressed albums but "Crusader" can be considered as his real debut because it was issued and promoted by well known for prog-rock fans label - "Musea".

So how does sound 1st proper album of keyboardist who started his professional career in 1981 and had to wait almost 30 years to pull off this release? Taking in consideration so big experience of Jack Langevelt, I have to admit that I had quite big hopes for "Crusader". Unfortunately after listening to it, I felt slightly disappointed because of several important factors. However this release isn't bad at all, some of its flaws made me enjoy Survival's music less than I expected.

Let's describe briefly all of these (instrumental) compositions to find out where Jack succeeded and where he failed:

1. "The Holy Land" - from the beginning Survival assure us that we'll be dealing with very 70s-like, retro-stylized symphonic prog-rock in the tradition of ELP, Trace, Triumvirat, Collegium Musicum or The Nice. Most of "The Holy Land" track is a highly energetic keyboards-driven symph-rocker dominated by Keith Emerson meets Jon Lord-style organ playing (according to Survival's website, digital Hammond XB2-V2 is a "weapon of choice" here, but it sounds truly analog, I can assure you about that!). Besides gritty organ sound we can also enjoy many flashing synthesizer runs and hard rockish electric guitar solos played by the only additional musician - David Dexter.

2. "Beauseant" - it's much different track compared to the previous one. We can still hear roaring Hammond in the background here but majestic sounding synthesizer takes over the main role in "Beauseant". Not bad track but a bit repetitive and soundtrackish for me.

3. "Lamentation" - mellotron-based (clearly digital substitution for mellotron in fact) 1+ minute interlude. Sounds rather melancholic and mellow (no drums here). Not very exciting but nothing's wrong with too.

4. "Crusader" - just like "The Holy Land", this track kicks off with heavy roar of Hammond organ which sounds like taken just from Deep Purple's album in early 70s. Unfortunately this composition is almost completely ruined by hideous drumming!! It's difficult to even describe how horribly percussion sounds here!! I can only describe it as constant, monotonous, ear-shattering rattle poorly programmed on amateur music software. It's a real pity that Jack decided to damage this track so much, because overall it's definitely the best one on the album! It's full of great guitar leads, string-synthesizer backings and - the most important - full blown Hammond solo where Langevelt pulls of phenomenal performance, which sounds like reminiscences of explosive style of Jean-Jaques Kravetz from 70's German heavy-prog band - "Frumpy". I can also add that in fact drum section isn't so bad in this one, the problem is this rattle percussion line which seems to be added later in production process. Anyway great composition but seriously flawed because of poor taste according to percussion section. What a pity that Jack didn't allow some real musician to play drums, but decided to program/play almost all instruments by himself. Poor choice Jack!

5. "Abide with Me" - when this one starts you can immediately find resemblance to "A Whiter Shade of Pale" melody! Anyway it's a rather good track driven by warm organ sound and backing string synthesizer.

6. "Baldwin" - rather boring (I suppose Jack wanted it to be "melancholic", but I'm afraid he failed here) and overlong track led by monotonous synthesizer and background organ. No drums, no energy, nothing to remember after 3+ minutes of this sheer boredom.

7. "I Cried for You" - very similar to previous track but this time main role is played by louder, more high-pitched sounding synthesizer and we also have drums beat here. Unfortunately this composition also doesn't grab my attention, synthesizer sometimes sounds too high and that's why annoying, while drums are uninspired and they're clearly computer (or drum machine) programmed.

8. "Exceptional Friend" - when this track starts, finally we can listen to a little piano-playing. Unfortunately after a while Jack comes back to his too digital sounding synthesizer known from 2 previous compositions. Thankfully after about 2 minutes David Dexter strikes back with some cool Blackmore-inspired electric guitar wailing. Keyboard player also decides to comes back to his trusty Hammond to show us few mean riffs and another spectacular soloing, so 70s mood is with us again! After all along with "The Holy Land" & "Crusader" this track is my favorite one on the album. But in fact I also love quite much the very next track.

9. "The Knights Templar" - this one is a real goodie! In the tradition of Rick Wakeman and Rick Van Der Linden (and Jacula of course!) this is a church-organ (to be more precise it's an electronic version of organ - Kontaktplayer 4) only instrumental which sound truly majestic and magic. Splendid classical music!

10. "Montgisard" - 10 minutes epic? My expectations where very high, unfortunately this track isn't nearly as good as I hoped it to be. In fact whole first 3 minutes is a quirky mess of ear-destructing synthesizer effects, disjointed percussion beats and "let's-play-whatever" guitar licks which didn't make much impression on me (not a good impression anyway...). After this horrible introduction "Montgisard" sounds more or less like standard symphonic prog composition but somehow I don't like it too much probably due to over active synthesizer leads which are too screamy for me (poor old Hammond is mostly used as background instruments here and Dexter's guitar isn't very audible too). I'm fan of Toshio Egawa's (from Gerard) busy style, but I still find "Montgisard" too noisy! After I listened to it several times, I found it a bit more enjoyable than the first time (especially I noticed that Jack plays some truly gritty organ riffs here, they are just not loud enough to overshadow this synthesizer onslaught) but I still don't consider it as a classic by any means.

11. "After All" - very mellow composition led by sparkling piano (what a pity that it sounds so digital...) and echoes-chants-like synthesizer. Quite much boring in fact. I have nothing against slow paced, romantic ballads, but the problem is that "After All" doesn't make any "melancholic" impression on me after all...

In general "Crusader" is an average effort which tries to mix 70s symphonic style and instrumentation with more modern approach and recording techniques. While some parts of this album sounds very inspiring and pleasant for art/prog rock fans, they are often ruined by ugly, programmed drum beats or too digital sounding equipment which supposed to imitate analog instruments. Overall it's not so bad album, but if you like such modern but retro-sounding, keyboard-led symphonic prog I suggest you to check such bands like Par Lindh Project, Gerard, Ars Nova, Little Tragedies, Nexus, Taproban or a bit older (but recently re-formed) Nuova Era. If you already know all of these band, than you can proceed to check Survival. So this is my advice.

And if you ask me which Survival's track is the best, I'd say that Jack Langevelt never sounded better than on Colossus Project compilation called "Dante's Purgatorio: The Divine Comedy - Part II "(from 2009). He recorded there "Canto XIII - Impressions" which is fantastic, almost 10 minutes long mini-epic full of Emerson-inspired, percussive-sounding organ runs. So if you want to see Survival at its best, check "Dante's Purgatorio" first. But if you still prefer listen to "Crusader", I think that the best tracks here are: "The Holy Land", "Crusader"(if you forget horrible rattle percussion), "Exceptional Friend" & pipe-organ-driven "After All".

3,5 stars for "Crusader" from ozzy_tom

BTW this album seems to be a concept about crusader's fights, but it's instrumental release after what the heck??!

ozzy_tom | 3/5 |


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