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X-Panda - Flight Of Fancy CD (album) cover




Progressive Metal

3.83 | 31 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
3 stars New blood

In these past five years or so the progressive metal comunity has come to experience the rise of a somewhat dead subgenre of progressive metal, the so-called fusion metal or jazz metal. Having its roots in the mid 1990's, jazz metal was supposedly dead by the end of the decade, when its biggest names either disbanded or were met with so many difficulties that it was nearly impossible to go on. The stark changes in the music business industry and the big opportunities the internet has come to offer to new strugginlg artists, however, came to come in handy with the redevelopment of the subgenre, causing not only the old acts to regroup, release new material and experience some degree of success, although limited to a strict niche, but also giving birth to a number of promissing and exciting new acts, being X Panda one of such.

When the band came to me, offering their work and asking for a sincere feedback I was already familiar to their music to some extent, since I took part in the process of their evaluation and adition to the ProgArchives database. In adition to that, being an enthusiant of progressiver metal only made it more natural and downright easy for me to write this review.

The band's music, despite borrowing heavily from whatever jazz influences they have, have their roots firmely set in the progressive metal side. Right in the first (propper) song, the mini epic Black, you can have a real good sense of that, with references and inclinations to Derek/Rudess-era Dream Theater and Shadow Gallery (this last one can be heard specially in the melodic piano and guitar lines and musical development) all around. Liquid Tension Experiment and Derek Sherinian (solo output), might I say, all related with Dream Theater, also can be recognised along as noticeable influences to the band's creative process, leaving to Dream Theater the undisputed place as the main source of inspiration for this Eesti four-piece.

Wile the wide influence they have from the american progressive metal band can be seen as a big advantage, as their music will be met and consumed more easily by the progressive metal fans, as Dream Theater is undisputably the biggest, most loved and most successful act in the genre (what can be seen in the reviews of my fellow collegues, many of them avid fans of the mentioned american band, as myself), I also see it as a big disadvantage, because: 1 - there is a miriad of bands that take Dream Theater as their main influence, what could make this promissing band be dismissed as a clone; 2 - Dream Theater has many haters inside the progressive comunity; 3 - even if there are interesting, orginal and intelligent musical ideas in the album they can get lost amongst the many that are inspired directly out of an idea from the makers of Images and Words.

Another downside for me was the solo section of the album, reserved for the keyboardist and the drummer; even if those are not pure solos, meaning that the main instruments are accompanied by the rest of the band, I personally do not like this concept and, unless it is delivered with perfection, it most certainly loses my attention, which is what happens in this case, in spite of the band's most honorable efforts to deliver.

As it could be expected by any progressive metal band that strives for greatness, the instrumental department is close to perfection and, and here it comes the biggest strength of this ensemble, the players are able to bring to the listener both the roughness and technicality of the traditional progressive metal group as well as the melodious songs with a feel that few progressive metal groups are able to have. The vocals are also presented with caution, meaning that the album is almost completely instrumental and that the vocal parts do not get in the way of the instrumental work.

Rating and final thoughts:

Fight of the Fancy is a decent enough debut if you ask me. It presents the band's music and premise very well and let you wanting more. It also show how promissing X Panda is as one of the new faces in the jazz metal ranks, they are definitely a diamond in the rough type and will most surely surprise everybody in the future, and I hope they do. For now, they have a solid debut album as their acheivement. Three stars.

CCVP | 3/5 |


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