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Vienna - Unknown CD (album) cover

UNKNOWN

Vienna

 

Crossover Prog

3.64 | 6 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

ozzy_tom
Prog Reviewer
4 stars After 2 studio albums and one concert recording during 80s Vienna disbanded, but in late 90s they decided to give it one more try and group was resurrected from the grave. However this time we have a new drummer in the line-up: Kozo Suganuma, and I have to admit that I like his style more than Ryuichi Nishida's less-technical one. So this change is really warmly welcome by me. Anyway after rejoining they recorded only one album "Unknown" and finally called it a day. And it's a real pity, because this CD is definitely their best one. All this 80' cheesy/corny approach completely vanished here and musicians play tighter than ever. While their first 2 albums presented rather typical hard rock meets neo-prog staff with pop/AOR atmosphere, "Unknown" is more rooted in melodic prog-metal, symphonic rock and 70s style heavy prog. Yukihiro Fujimura's guitar is much sharper here and Shusei Tsukamoto prefers to use much more Hammond organ and analog (or analog-sounding) synthesizers. All in all very good combination.

Let's proceed to songs' descriptions:

1. "Entrance" - great start with this heavy rock song! Vienna has never sounded darker before. Vocals are surprisingly aggressive, electric guitar is ultra powerful and new drummer is bashing his gear accordingly. Toshimi Nagai's bass work is more audible too, so finally we can hear his amazing skills. Keyboardist uses modern synths for solos, but main riffing is made on fat-sounding Hammond. While in the middle we can witness very short but absolutely hilarious fragment with harmony vocals a la Uriah Heep or Queen!

2. "Shesp Ankh (Sphinx)" - another winner clearly inspired by famous J-prog band Novela. Lots of busy guitar playin' and expressive vocals (but not over-expressive like Novela's vocalist's :-). But the real highlight of the song is of course extended, brutal organ solo performed in the vain of Jon Lord's work in Deep Purple days. Yeah, it's that great!

3. "Legend" - mini-epic with more symphonic feeling this time. We have some melancholic vocals and lovely acoustic piano bits here. But in the second part of the track we have also more dynamic fragments with up-tempo drum beat, wild Hammond blasts & heavy guitar solos. Overall very solid mini-suite.

4. "Open Sesame" - definitely the least successful song on this album. Too much radio- friendly / poppy for me. While pipe organ & harpsichord sound gorgeous, pseudo-romantic- style singing is killing any enjoyment. Especially when keyboardists switches to modern gear, it sounds too much like throwback from their 80s material. Not recommended but not so offensive either (except ending with annoying "lalala" singing). BTW there is a great pipe organ passage in the middle which shouldn't be missed!

5. "Anubis" - Oh man! This is a great instrumental! Partly prog-metal, partly symphonic-prog and definitely entertaining as hell. I can say that it sounds like mix of Gerard with Ayreon & Dream Theater. Inferno of shredding guitar, high-pitched Moog-like synthesizers and growling organ solos.

6. "Melancholy of Matador" - masterpiece after masterpiece! "Melancholy of Matador" is one of my all time favorite compositions from Japan, it's so damn good! First part of this mini- suite is a melody and energy filled instrumental section with unbelievably bouncing main rhythm with significant middle-east flavor. It reminds me a bit of Ars Nova's material but it's still definitely original music. About 5th minute there is a complete change in pace. Instead of freakin' crazy electric guitar/keyboards playin', we have very melodic, charming music here with typical Spanish-folk elements. Fujimura's vocals are amazingly passionate (whatever he's singin' about, I don't speak Japanese...) and his acoustic guitar skills are perfect as well. But near the end guys come back to ass-whipping style in a frantic, headbanging finale. Splendid staff!

7. "Moonstone" - baroque-like AORish ballad with melancholic vocal delivery and always welcome harpsichord presence. Some nice, atmospheric orchestral keyboards & acoustic/electric guitar moments are here too. Good interlude between hard-edged material of "Unknown" disk. BTW we can also witness some gorgeous pipe organ section!

8. "The Destruction Day" - standard song in the vain of early Gerard or Novela, but I really dig such songs so I like it. However it's not very memorable, synth/organ/guitar interludes and aggressive vocals are excellent here as usual on "Unknown".

9. "For An Illusion" - more symphonic rock staff but with rather mainstream vocal lines, especially "lalala" fragments are horrible (only David Byron knew how to sing such bull**it in a really proggy way :-). Some fanfare-keyboards are also quite sloppy for me, but overall it's not a totally terrible song. Just average.

To sum up: if you want to begin your journey with Vienna, it's definitely the best place to start. Especially if you like keyboards department to be dominated by meaty organ sounds, you have soft spot for heavy metal riffing mixed with symphonic rock atmosphere and you have an allergy for 80s, plastic-sounding production (like on Vienna's first two records). This particular album I can especially recommend to fans of Ayreon, Gerard, Scheherazade, Ars Nova, Novela, Uriah Heep, Cairo and even Dream Theater, but I'm pretty sure that fans of Argentinian band Nexus might find "Unknown" the most enjoyable. It's shame that Vienna seemed to disbanded forever after this CD was released. A pity!

Best tracks: "Melancholy of Matador" & "Anubis"

4 solid stars from ozzy_tom

ozzy_tom | 4/5 |

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