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Anima Mundi - The Lamplighter CD (album) cover

THE LAMPLIGHTER

Anima Mundi

 

Symphonic Prog

3.74 | 142 ratings

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PaulH
3 stars Two steps forward, five steps back.

After the brilliant 2010 release The Way, I had great anticipation and expectations for The Lamplighter.

The Lamplighter continues with the outstanding compositions and excellence in musicianship. To me, Anima Mundi (Roberto Diaz and Virginia Peraza are listed as the primary songwriters) have improved with their compositions. Where some of the songs on The Way seemed a little overly grandiose and maybe a little too sweet in places, the songs on The Lamplighter while not abandoning the established Anima Mundi style, manage to work in a bit more variety in arrangements and moods, and seem to reduce the layers of keyboards to let the music breathe a bit more. This is for me the two steps forward, and if this was the only change from The Way, it would lead to an outstanding rating.

The primary instrumental core remains the same as on The Way -- Peraza, Diaz, Corredera and Govin. Their work is excellent, highly skilled, great voicings and enough technical chops to keep it interesting.

There are some really great, inspired instrumental sections to this album. For example The Endless Star segment of the Tales from the Endless Star suite is fantastic. I even like the inclusion of excerpts from Toccata (Ginastera's 1st Piano Concerto), which could have been cheesy but they pull it off.

But there was a personnel change between The Way and The Lamplighter. Carlos Sosa is no longer the lead vocalist. His vocals were great, even if they were maybe a little sappy in places. On The Lamplighter, Emmanuel Pirko-Farrath assumes the vocal duties. I know this is probably a matter of personal taste, but the vocals on The Lamplighter are a major, major disappointment for me. Pirko-Farrath's range is very limited, there are serious pitch problems throughout, and his vocals lack the emotion of Sosa's. There is also a good deal of accent to the English lyrics, which normally doesn't bother me, but I guess combined with the other issues just seems to make it worse. To me, the vocals are a big negative on The Lamplighter, thus five steps back.

The production and engineering are great, nice and clear so we can hear everything that's happening. The mix is first rate, although I'd prefer that the vocals were mixed lower -- not just because of what I said above, but because I think they obscure the support instrumentals. The mastering is a problem, unfortunately. The levels are pumped way too high for this genre (the RMS is -11.4 for cripes sake, so there's like 7 dB of limiting and compression being applied). Fortunately a proper limiter was used, so I don't see a lot of clipped off peaks, but the excessive compression still hurts the clarity a lot (a mild pass through SeeDeClip Pro restored the lost dynamics and improved the sound, if you're into that kind of thing).

Overall, if you like symphonic prog in general, Anima Mundi is well worth checking out. They are one of the shining stars from the Caribbean/Central/South America region. I would personally recommend starting with The Way, or even Jagannath Orbit, not here though, although that pains me to say since the instrumentals on The Lamplighter deserve to be enjoyed. Anima Mundi produces a kinder, gentler prog with positive themes and more pleasant sounding compositions, which may not be everyone's cup of tea, but have always done so with a high level of composition and musicianship.

Maybe the vocals will not be an issue for you. I might eventually get used to them and be able to appreciate the rest of the album more, but right now after a half dozen listens, the vocals really detract from my enjoyment.

So, sadly, this is a flawed gem for me. Like I said, if they redid this album with Sosa, or any really good vocalist, this would probably be a five star rating for me (maybe something like 4.75 rounded up). As it stands with the vocals, I just can't give it more than a 3 star rating (I go between something like a 2.75 to maybe as high as a 3.5, but rounded to a 3). Perhaps there is a story behind the change in vocalist and why Pirko-Farrath joined, but I'm confused why, after establishing such a high standard on their two prior albums, they would release an album with substandard vocals?

PaulH | 3/5 |

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