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Rodrigo San Martin - 1 CD (album) cover


Rodrigo San Martin


Crossover Prog

3.42 | 12 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars It's a pretty bold move to release as your first album a single, 40 minute track. It's an even bolder move to write, sing, and play every single instrument on that album. But you know what? I think that Rodrigo San Martin has a right to be bold. '1' is a fantastic piece of progressive rock, one that anyone should be proud to have for a debut album. Fans of Phideaux should find a lot to like here, as should fans of any of the 'big' symphonic bands: there are traces here of Transatlantic and IQ as well. For the most part, though, this comes off as a very original, fresh piece of music, and one that comes highly recommended.

'1' begins with a spare guitar part which is quickly joined by some high, ethereal, incredibly melodic vocals. This is soon joined by percussion, bass, and a variety of synths that give the beginning section of the track a decidedly neo-prog feel, very much in line with the music of IQ. In fact, some of the guitar parts sound to me like they could have come straight off of their 2004 album 'Dark Matter.' At about 5 minutes in a new theme is added, and the track takes on a heavier tone that recalls sections of another prominent modern prog band, Transatlantic. If you're familiar with their albums and know of the heavier section in 'Stranger in Your Soul,' then you have a decent comparison point for this music: undoubtedly symphonic, but also heavy and even approaching metal. Some rather technically impressive acoustic guitar parts make an appearance during this section as well, made all the more impressive by the fact that San Martin is the only player on this album.

After this a bit of a more atmospheric section begins, with a variety of synths setting up a harmonic background for a spoken word section that sounds like it consists of excerpts from the bible. I will confess that I'm not a huge fan of spoken-word sections like this, but here it works out alright, serving as a sort of bridge into the next section, which features orchestral string sounds heavily. A more minimal, piano-led section follows this, in turn, and it's here that the vocals return as well, this time in a more grounded, mysterious style than the opening. A string and guitar section follows this, and to be honest, it's here that a bit of a structural problem emerges, as this section, with its swelling orchestral parts and guitar soloing, really feels like a finale though the track is less than half over.

I can't criticize this too much, however, as it transitions very nicely into a very pretty piano part. Eventually synths and bass are added in to help elaborate on this theme, and it quickly develops into a full blown instrumental extravaganza, with an excellent guitar solo going over chorus-like vocals. Almost exactly at the 20 minute mark the sound cuts out completely, and there's a little bit of a break while a recording of what sounds like a record being flipped over is played. It's a fun little conceit to demonstrate the nature of the piece, but I wonder if actually dividing the album into two halves wouldn't have been just as effective.

When this 'second side' begins it has a far more jazzy feel to it than anything from the first half, with a piano part and some excellent, laid back guitar soloing setting the mood quite nicely. Subdued but still incredibly melodic vocals come in over the motif that develops from this. I really have to hand it to Mr. San Martin, the vocal melodies here are excellent; I'd be tempted to say they're even on par with Phideaux and the like. Another heavier section follows this, with a fiery guitar solo standing out as the highlight of this section. We're treated to a reprise of that gorgeous vocal melody from the beginning of the 'side' following this, before the tempo picks up and a new melody begins. Percussion takes on a more prominent role, and a gorgeous combination of synth and guitar makes up most of the background music. There's a fairly long instrumental section that follows this, going through another heavy stage before briefly returning to a soft vocal section. This doesn't last long, however, as the heavy riffing quickly returns and with it come the most insistent vocals yet. I can hear a lot of IQ resemblance here as well. Unfortunately, with this section comes my second complaint about the album: the vocals just don't seem powerful enough to me. I don't know if it's in the way they are mixed or in how they were delivered, but the recurring cry of 'let me out' seems so faint compared to the music that I think this section lacks a bit of the power it could have had.

Again, that's a fairly minor complaint against how good the album is in general, and the finale shows that there's certainly nothing wrong with San Martin's vocals in a general sense. Delicate and emotional, the final line of the song, 'I refuse to let/the world torn apart' is delivered with a breathtaking sense of finality and it's a near-perfect ending for the song.

So though there are occasions (though very rare) where '1''s reach exceeds its grasp, for the most part this is a superb piece of music that's overall very consistent throughout its epic running time. I look forward to reviewing Mr. San Martin's other albums in the near future as well, especially after being reminded by this album what an impressive composer and musician he really is. A darn good album and an incredibly impressive debut.


VanVanVan | 4/5 |


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