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Cairo - Conflict And Dreams CD (album) cover

CONFLICT AND DREAMS

Cairo

 

Symphonic Prog

3.61 | 92 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

J-Man
Prog Reviewer
4 stars Although largely unknown by the progressive rock community, Conflict and Dreams is certainly one of the better prog albums from the second half of the nineties'. Cairo was an impressive American band who took the very best of classic progressive rock, neo-prog, and even generous helpings of progressive metal; the end result being, of course, the magnificent Conflict and Dreams. This is their second full-length album, despite being my introduction to their music. After many thorough listens, I can only claim that this is a magnificent album that every fan of the genre should take a listen to; this is a truly underrated gem.

Cairo has been criticized for sounding too much like ELP by some reviewers, but I only hear occasional ELP references here - a few Hammond organ sections and synth passages undoubtedly bring Keith Emerson to mind, yet I tend to the think that Conflict and Dreams sounds much more modern, AOR-influenced, and heavy than these seventies' pioneers. In addition to the occasional ELP tendencies, I also hear traces of UK, Marillion, and IQ, and even some leanings towards Dream Theater and Rush. Cairo, while not a completely revolutionary band, did have a pretty original sound and their convincing style of epic-based songwriting really made Conflict and Dreams an excellent album. Five of the songs here exceed the eight minute mark, two of which reach above fifteen minutes. The album tends to feel a bit too long in some spots, and a bit of trimming around the edges could've made it even stronger; still, Cairo manages to make their music pretty accessible by including fantastic choruses in each of the tracks as well as some unforgettable instrumental portions. My favorite track here is probably the opening cut, "Angels and Rage" - a pretty accurate title for this song, indeed. This ten-minute track is filled with blistering instrumental portions, an unforgettable chorus, and plenty of key changes and fluid transitions. All of the other tracks are also pretty excellent, and I especially must give a nod to the seventeen-minute "Western Desert"; the keyboard playing in this track is jaw dropping, to say the least.

One of the best aspects of Conflict and Dreams is simply listening to how well these guys are capable of playing. These are absolute top-of-the-line musicians, and it's hard to not be amazed by the sheer complexity of many solos and riff patterns throughout the album. Keyboard player Mark Robertson often steals the show here, with his lush palette of sounds usually playing a dominant role in the music. Alec Fuhrman delivers quite a few excellent solos here, and he often reminds me of guitarists like Steve Rothery - definitely not a bad thing when it's coming from me! The Greg Lake-styled vocals of Bret Douglas are also pretty great, and I think his powerful and commanding singing style suits the music perfectly. The production leaves a bit to be desired, and it sounds a little dated by today's standards, but it's far from a major hindrance.

All in all, Conflict and Dreams is a very successful effort from Cairo that comes strongly recommended to all fans of classic progressive rock with a heavy dosing of neo-prog and progressive metal. It's a shame that this album is so unrecognized by the prog community; this really is one of the genre's more impressive albums from the late nineties'. 4 stars and a strong recommendation are warranted without hesitation.

J-Man | 4/5 |

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