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Fruupp - Seven Secrets CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

3.44 | 139 ratings

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5 stars As a seasoned reviewer of progressive music, one can become rather cynical, noticing the bad stuff rather than the good stuff, and longing for something fresh. So when listening to Fruupp's second album, 'Seven Secrets', gave this reviewer the feeling that he was listening to prog for the first time all over again, I knew this was something special. I had not been excited like this about an album in months, and there was something deeply satisfying about this album that kept me coming back for more.

It's amazing to think that buying this album in the first place was a complete fluke. I'd walked into a quirky independent record shop in Leeds, and was browsing the CDs when I saw this album. I had only heard of Fruupp through their entry on the recent 'Wondrous Stories: A Complete Introduction to Progressive Rock' compilation. The track this compilation chose to use is in fact The Seventh Secret, the final track from this album, which is no more than a whimsical poem sung over an acoustic guitar - hardly a good introduction to Fruupp. The name rang a bell, so I decided to pick it up, since I couldn't find anything more interesting in the store. What a surprise I was in for! (As a side note, the owner also pointed out the presence of the band's third album 'The Prince of Heaven's Eyes', which I picked up too.)

Knowing that the group were Irish, and given the album covers I had seen, I expected this album to be quite a low-key folky endeavour, with little lasting appeal. To my great fortune, I was utterly wrong. The songs on here are unashamedly progressive, with a sense of freshness and originality that brings a smile to my face. Discounting the final track, the songs on here are all of medium length, averaging 7½ minutes each, allowing each track to breathe, and run its course. Each track is unique, intimate, special, fascinating and, more often than not, adventurous, properties that fans of Gentle Giant could easily relate to. As a result, I shall give a brief review of each track.

For my money, the album opener Faced With Shekinah is the best track on the album. It's certainly the most symphonic and exciting, with frequently changing time signatures and themes. The song is peppered with excerpts from classic pieces including Purcell's Rondeau from the 'Abdelazer' suite, which provides a dramatic coda to the song. There are just two verses to this song, but the lyrics are sung at breakneck speed and with a sense of emotion and urgency. All in all, this is an adrenaline fuelled start to a wonderful album.

Naturally, the second track Wise as Wisdom starts in a very laid-back way. However, this is an ever-evolving song, in the style of Camel (indeed the guitar solo at 5:11 reminds me of Andy Latimer). There is a very brief verse, which prevents the song from being dismissed as an instrumental. There is a fair amount of repetition in this song, but for every duff moment there is an abundance of brilliance around the corner. We hear Fruupp play with their ideas on this beautifully crafted track.

White Eyes is yet another solid track. After a 1½ minute quiet introduction, there are a couple of verses that are very reminiscent of the classic Pink Floyd singing style. After a few more fantasy-tinged verses the song begins to wind down in a lovely mellow way. The riff heard between 4:34 and 6:06 is simply divine, and is great for relaxing to. This is the most light-hearted track on the album, and not too distant from the style the band would take on their next album.

At just over 9 minutes, Garden Lady is the longest track on the record. The structure of the song is a particular favourite of mine: a brief lyrical section followed by a mammoth instrumental (here lasting over 6½ minutes!) and topped off with another lyrical section mirroring the first, like By-Tor and the Snow Dog, and Firth of Fifth. The lyrical section here is quite fast paced, and contrasts with the spacy atmospheric instrumental. This instrumental is certainly not dull, and includes more Camel-esque guitar work from the incredibly talented Vincent McCusker. Towards the end of the instrumental, the music begins to pick up pace, in order to catch up with the lyrical section, and one can't help but feel that the band's use of dynamics and tempo changes are genius. A truly rewarding song.

Following the longest track is the shortest; at a mere 5 minutes, Three Spires is an acoustic folky affair. This track is relatively light in terms of prog, but full of emotion. The song will be best remembered for the beautiful outro, which lasts nearly half the track's length and consists of the chorus being repeated over and over. Despite the repitition, the beauty carries the listener through right to the end. I can't say that this is a brilliant track, but it's certainly worthy of this album.

The band once again show their classical influences on the final proper track, Elizabeth. With an introduction that mirrors Händel's Arrival of the Queen Of Sheba, the classical feel continues throughout the song via the sound of string instruments. To this one-time Dream Theater fan, there is a progression of descending notes that reminds me of Vacant. This song is certainly progressive, but out of the many great tracks on this album, this is the weakest. It's certainly not a bad track, but the middle section seems repetitive and drawn-out. The instrumental towards the end is more interesting and leads the song out with style.

The final track, titled The Seventh Secret, is nothing more than a fey poem recited in a peculiar accent over an acoustic guitar. Given the style and class of the rest of the album, this track seems right out of place, and the liner notes suggest that this song was tacked on during the recording to bring the total number of tracks up to seven (after all, 'Six Secrets' doesn't sound quite as good as 'Seven' does it?) With such a brilliant album already in the bag, I could have forgiven these guys if they'd let off a series of farts to conclude the album. I wouldn't have this ending any other way!

When I first picked up this album, I had no idea it could have given me so much joy. The music here is sublime and interesting, and everything a prog fan could want. Fruupp are certainly one (or maybe seven) of prog's best kept secrets!

baz91 | 5/5 |


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