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Xaal - En Chemin CD (album) cover





3.68 | 27 ratings

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Cesar Inca
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Xaal's first album was quite a revelation for the prog scene in the early 90s. The mixture of Crimson trend, jazz-rock and regular melodic symph prog that the band developed across this album's repertoire felt really amazing, regarding that it was really mature for a debut and for such young musicians. Also, you will find lots of energy in the trio's performances and a clever use of complexity in the arrangements: at times, that complexity is enhanced by the use of some RIO-inspired tricks, like dark ambiences and subtle dissonant textures. "En Chemin" is really great, from beginning to end. The opener 'L'enfant' is related to the KC-meets-Camel aura that Shylock recreated and mastered some time ago. 'Ballade' goes to the fresher vibes of funky-jazz, with the added intervention of a duet of sax and trumpet that helps the basic trio to fulfill properly the joyful demands of the basic jam. 'Hkunk's Garden' retakes the path of track 1, only including some exotic flavors in the main theme; just to keep the logic working, I guess, the title track, track no. 4, displays a predominant jazzy colorfulness just like track 2 did, but this time, including some disturbing adornments in the interlude that may remind the listener of some sort of accessible RIO. 'Talisman' is driven softly and tastefully through the trend of fusion, portraying a patently modern sound, like some sort of Tribal Tech without a background of digital synths. After a mysterious and subtly dense guitar-synth intro, 'Le Vieux Chasseur de Papillons' follows a similar path to that of the title track: the energetic climax that is built up before the closing reprise of the intro theme shows how powerful this trio was. 'Ascension' finds the band exploring seriously and deeply their taste for accessible RIO: the darkness of the motifs and counterpoints is elegantly achieved, although perhaps a little more strength could have been used here. But strength is what is not missing at all in the 11-minute 'Byblos', which installs a "Red"-era KC vibe on a solid jazz-rock basis during the first part. Then comes a languid interlude based on aleatory guitar and synth layers, from which the dissonant fire of the second part emerges in a majestic way. This time, the use of guests on brass instruments serves as a vehicle for RIO mannerisms, helping to build up a climax. This is the richest number in the album. The frenzy of the 1-minute 'Finale' sounds like a funny impersonation of the release of inner demons: a surprising, joyful way to end a great album.
Cesar Inca | 4/5 |


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