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Social Tension - MacBethia CD (album) cover

MACBETHIA

Social Tension

 

Symphonic Prog

4.10 | 14 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

ozzy_tom
Prog Reviewer
5 stars Social Tension is a fantastic Japanese symphonic prog power trio led be highly skilled keyboards virtuoso Nobuo Endoh. To be honest this band is one of my very favorite ones and Nobuo can be easily compared with such wizards like Keith Emerson, Rick Wakeman, Rick van der Linden or Jurgen Fritz. Unfortunately they were able to record only 2 albums in their short career and Social Tension disbanded just few years before arrival of new wave of Japanese prog-rock bands like Ars Nova and (re-formed) Gerard. It's a pity because these guys' music is very similar to aforementioned bands' style and I suppose that Nobuo had not so small influence on Keiko Kumagai's and Toshio Egawa's future development. Anyway "MacBethia" is definitely the best album of Social Tension, much longer and more focused than "It Reminds Me Of Those Days"(which is also very strong but seems to be recorded in too much of a hurry). As you probably already guessed after reading my introduction, Social Tension's music is a classical influenced, keyboards drenched progressive rock in the vain of ELP or Triumvirat. However you can be mislead by the year of releasing of this album (late 80s), 'cause you maybe expect plastic-sounding gear all over the place here. But don't worry, in fact Nobuo Endoh played some digital synths typical for that era, but I can assure you that his main "weapons of choice" are vintage, retro-keyboards so you can expect real domination of roaring Hammond organs, dazzling Moogs, majestic mellotrons and sparkling acoustic & electric pianos.

Let's proceed to description of the songs:

1. "Go on my way" - "MacBethia" starts off with my favorite track - "Go on my way". It's a truly amazing 13-minutes piece of art for me. Melodies are very catchy & symphonic-influenced, mix of digital, fanfare-like keyboards and Moog high-pitched patterns are splendid, but the most important are of course wild Hammond organ runs here! I can assure you that "Go on my way" is a real organ-fest for all ELP maniacs. Very often Endoh seems to emulate Emerson's style from "Tarkus" suite but it's OK for me, "Tarkus" is a real classic for me so I don't mind a little plagiarism here and there. Except extended organ & synths solos we can also witness few vocal parts. Masahiko Õta's voice is surprisingly beautiful and suits the music perfectly. It's a pity that I don't understand Japanese language at all, but anyway his singing style is much better than many other J-prog vocalists I've listened to so far. All in all: one of very best songs in my prog-rock collection. Similarities to ELP "Tarkus"-era are obvious, but I can also hear Triumvirat, Trace or Refugee influences. I also think that Cairo's keyboard-man Mark Robertson, was influences by Endoh's organ playin' in "Go on my way". P.S. Was it an attempt on The Nice's "Rondo" between 8:22 - 8:31 minute?

2. "Bolero" - impressive Ravel's "Bolero" version with marvelous synth-made orchestration. Dazzling organ & flying Moog crescendo near the end is also really great. It's so much better than extremely dull, repetitive ELP's "Abbaddon's Bolero"! This kind of style reminds me Par Lindh Project's "Night on Bare Mountain", equally well, digital orchestra substitute there.

3. "Inner vision" - splendid and very dark/sinister sounding composition driven by heavy organ loads & rhythmic harpsichord. I just love combination of those two instruments! Reminds me a little obscure British band "Dr. Z". Very good, thrilling staff. Always have goosebumps while listening to it. And enigmatic spacey synths driven middle part is also worth mentioning.

4. "Wish for the Time" - another awesome track but this time a bit more laid-back. Compared with other compositions we can listen to more great vocals by Masahiko Õta (very melancholic and passionate). "Wish for the Time" is a really catchy, jazzy song with memorable piano, harpsichord and non-obstructive synthesizers arrangements. Extended acoustic piano soloing in the middle is in my opinion the best piano fragment I've ever witnessed on prog-rock record. Extremely joyful and entertaining. Much better than Rick Wakeman's pompous staff in my opinion.

5. "MacBethia" - incredibly well-composed 20 minutes long suite loaded with analog keyboards. Nobuo Endoh's organ & synthesizers runs are sometimes furious and explosive, sometimes very soft & melodic, but always equally amazing and pleasant to listen. His majestic mellotron work evoking Genesis or Yes is also great, but my favorite part is the flashy, ultra-speedy Hammond organ solo section near the end of this epic. Very much in the vain of ELP "Karn Evil 9" suite. Mind-blowing! This composition can be described as keyboards-extravaganza bombastic symphonic prog at its best, clearly influenced by ELP, Trace, UK or Triumvirat's music, but it also includes more sophisticated fragments, like Eloy-ish "On the Lake Side" or melancholic vocal moments which I truly love (Masahiko Õta has really good voice, and he even sings some verses in English here!). In general "MacBethia" is equally fantastic epic like ELP "Tarkus", Yes "Close to The Edge" or Genesis "Supper's Ready" for me.

To sum up: Social Tension's album is a must have for keyboards-driven prog maniacs who like long & loud organ solos, endless Moog synthesizer rides, pompous mellotron/string machines outbursts and virtuosic Grand piano runs. They will find all of this and so much more in here. So obviously I recommend it to people who also like such old-school acts like ELP, Trace, Triumvirat, UK, Ekseption, Collegium Musicum, Quill or Le Orme, as well as their more recent successors like Gerard, Ars Nova, Nexus, Little Tragedies, Cairo, Taproban, Covenant, Nuova Era and especially the most melodic formation in this style - Par Lindh Project.

Best tracks: "Go on my way" & "MacBethia".

BTW if you're interested how Social Tension sounded live, I can recommend to you concert compilation of various Japanese prog-rock bands called "Progressive's Battle 1988". You can find 8 minutes long "extract" from "MacBethia" suite there.

5 shining stars from ozzy_tom for Japanese wizards from Social Tension!

ozzy_tom | 5/5 |

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