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Zaragon - No Return CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

3.32 | 34 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars What a surprise! I picked up this unknown gem a few years back basically because I had nothing in my collection that started with the letter "Z" or anything from Denmark. When I first played it, I wasn't really expecting much as the only description it was given was "symphonic prog" from the online store I bought it from. The fact that it was originally released in 1984 suggested neo prog as well. After giving it a listen, I thought... yep, this is symph prog... yep, it's also neo prog in places. But wow, it was really good! Much, much better than the neo prog releases during that same time period. Zaragon has strong influences from Camel and Genesis, and also has similarities to Druid, Eloy, Novalis, and maybe even Solaris. The guitarist, Finn Jansen, shows strong Latimer/Gilmour influences, but musically it is dominated by lush keyboards. The vocals of Martin Nielsen are clear, well done, in English with a slight trace of an accent, and sort of like a mix of Dane Stevens (Druid), Bret Douglas (Cairo) and maybe a hint of Steve Walsh (Kansas).

No Return doesn't necessarily start off on the right foot. Stretched Out Hands, a song about life's struggles, sounds disjointed because it moves quickly through what feel like unconnected sections. Musically, there is no overall theme and it has awkward transitions. It's an average symph prog song leaning towards neo prog. The recording is well done, but nothing to get excited about. The second track, Thoughts, is an epic about East and West and the atomic bomb, a typical piece for the time period. The song is a beautiful gem, full of melodic and symphonic keys in a very Camelesque style. The third track, Lightrace, is another good song, featuring sci fi/environmental lyrics and great guitar work. The title song is the fourth track and appears to be about the struggle of finding paradise or ending up in Hell (not religious, but more like utopian lyrics). It's a beautiful epic featuring great guitar work with some wonderful Gilmouresque guitar solos and some really stunning organ playing. The best song on the album. No Return ends with a short piece called Exit with practically meaningless lyrics, a nice guitar solo, and then ends abruptly. I think this song would've been better if it had some meaning to the lyrics and faded out with one of Jansen's wonderful guitar solos for another minute or two.

The sixth track on this album, Fear to Fight, is a bonus track recorded in 1993, nine years after the original album was released. The song is about various issues in life and is a message about not giving up hope. It has a very different sound than the material from 1984, which makes it feel out of place with the rest of the album. It sounds a lot like Saga (maybe with some Genesis or IQ thrown in), partly pop-prog and nothing you'd want to write home about.

With or without the bonus track, this little known gem deserves four stars. If the first song was more fluid and the last song had a much stronger ending, it would've been an easy five stars. Still, it is a shining star in the dark era of prog in the 1980's. One of the best releases of that decade and one of the best progressive rock albums to come out of Denmark. Highly recommended to fans of the aforementioned groups and symph prog fans.

progaeopteryx | 4/5 |


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