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Roz Vitalis


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Honorary Collaborator
3 stars I heard of Roz Vitalis before but never had the chance to listen to their music. This latest release is the first I get to hear and I was looking forward to this, since what I read mostly got me intrigued about them. Roz Vitalis began in 2001 in Saint-Petersburg and have since self-released 4 studio albums, two EP's and one live release. This is their fifth studio album. I got a promotional copy of this album, and am glad to have this opprtunity to explore this band's music and to be able to promote it here in PA and in other places online.

The back of the album cover says: "The goal of this concept album is to unmask and reveal the spiritual evil of the modern humanity's materialist vainglory". Well, I for one would have composed something entirely different, but that's what great about music, is that you can hear the sound of other people's thoughts, views and way of life. The album in general has a quirky, otherworldly sound to it, which is why I don't necessarily link the music with the said concept behind it, but their idea is as good and valid as any other.

A point of reference could be (early) Art Zoyd and at times even Univers Zero (and the composers who influenced those bands as well) but only as a general guiding idea of the style of music. In some tracks I even hear traces (stripped down and bare) of Industrial (Wakatte Kudasai and Annihilator Of mortal Hazard for instance) and Electronic music (for example, Autumn Of Hypocrisy) which might be more pronounced in their earlier releases. The music is keyboards based and lead with electronic drumming, and while there's a guitar in this particular album, it does not pronounce its presence too much. At other times, the music (like in the very beginning of Tragic Fate) can be a spacey drive which then strays away into the experimental and dynamic side which is the dominant aspect of the music here. At other times, there's a heavy dosage of electronic music which gives this perhaps a colder sound that fits what the concept of the album, for instance in Autumn Of Hypocrisy, in which it this particular sound represents well what I perceive to represent cynicism and insincerity like in the title. But in fact this "colder" sound gives a contradiction to other parts in which there's "warmer" parts. Other parts (Compassionizer) are more sinister sounding, giving a better idea of what they want us to realize during our listening to the album. It's also one place where the dark sound of Univers Zero might come to mind, but just as an impression, not due to a similar tune being played. In general, the sound that they deliver is rather gloomy and conjures up images of loneliness to me, but not as dark as those two bands mentioned above. This is in part due to the choice of instruments and their sound and to how the music is performed - the music guided by the keyboards which change sound from time to time in accordance with the mood Roz Vitalis want to create. The resulting sound is not as full and jam- packed as those other band's music is (a good example for such a "full" sounding album would be Yugen's Labirinto Dacqua, which I love by the way); it leaves some "empty space" for resonance and for us to absorb it more easily perhaps (if that makes any sense). The music roams around freely, and yet it has defined structure and theme, and moves forward and isn't experimental for the sake of experimentalism, but for the sake of creating something different. While there is a chance that the recording may annoy people who don't like the use of samplers to create the vast instrumentation presented here (there's only 3 musicians but it sounds like there's more), I personally find them to be well done, and that part of the charm of this album, is this exact characteristic. I think that there's a good variation of sounds and "instruments" represented to keep the listener interested and focused. For me, the music itself manages to overcome any issue that may come up from the fact I just mentioned (plus, I think it's done well and is not displeasing to my ears). I think they managed to create their own original sound, with some nods to their influences.

What I can say is that this album has made me want to listen to their other albums as well. It is intriguing, explorative, with a weird and somewhat gloomy atmosphere (like I love it) and what matters most to me, enjoyable and makes me want to listen to it again. Not mind blowing, or a must have album, but definitely an album I feel is worth my music listening time and one that I will come back to listen to. A journey album.

3.5 stars.

Report this review (#124363)
Posted Saturday, June 2, 2007 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This fifth studio effort by Russian outfit Roz Vitalis is one that should please those looking for quirky music of a kind that can only be described as challenging. Not overly advanced, but crafted and assembled in a manner that will test your notions about musicality and melody.

In style we're treated to works of a classical nature, with circulating piano motifs and digital strings central, blended with folk inspired textures alongside spacey sounds and distinctly psychedelic guitar layers. Cacophonic, dissonant parts are served with the same ease as gentle harmonic themes. Rhythmic experiments is something of a red thread throughout, as the band investigate odd and quirky drums and percussion alongside rhythmic melodic sounds, creating motifs with subtle dissonance and disharmony. Even brief ventures into the atonal, helped along by the other instruments.

And while a well made melody is a constant presence, it is the experimentation with the non-melodic aspects of this disc that is the most interesting one. Those who are fascinated by such endeavours should find much to please them on this disc.

Report this review (#301475)
Posted Friday, October 1, 2010 | Review Permalink
3 stars In the journey to review all the studio albums of ROZ VITALIS I finally came to the last album to look like sole Ivan Rozmainsky project with guests, next ones will be group efforts.

Overall this is almost NOT an avant-garde album, with mostly keyboards, programmed percussion and other effects, guitar and some clarinet action. Almost always slightly slower than mid tempo. Both guitar and clarinet are scarce, psychedelic, often quite quieter than keyboards. After most previous albums going from very avant-garde to very boringly spacey this seems to be MUCH more balanced. Track by track thoughts with ratings follow.

3* Tragic fate 7:05

Has an atmospheric start with synthesizer effects, then some clarinet(?) and guitar come in, tension grows slowly and quite boringly up until 2:50. Then things change completely, somewhat complex drums, energetic keyboards - all what I've come to like about Roz Vitalis, but this time even with frisky or wailing guitar! This is one of the most avant-garde parts of the album. At 4:10 another change, to slow organ and guitar interplay, then at 4:50 again the main theme, building up to just a guitar and drums and percussion. From 6:15 goes some stomach-timbred organ with guitar. This could have been a 5* track with another intro and probably middle part.

3* Autumn of hypocrisy 3:59

This starts with a distinctively Rozmainsky'ish piano solo with some synth effects. Now it's bright, now it's tense! Seems like it shows just what a hypocrite looks like. From 1:40 sawing synths kick instead with some more normal keyboards. This probably should show what a hypocrite feels inside towards what he plays the hypocrite about. After 3:15 goes some psychedelic clarinet part. All happens with no drums. It's an illustrative track with wonderful intro, but the end is boring and sawing is quite uncomfortable.

4* Compassionizer 5:21

This one starts with a playful quirky dissonant piano solo, like from early films, from some scene with an intricate prank. Guitar helps with quiet howling. Complete change at 0:45: now two keyboard parts with scarce drums and murmuring synthesizer effects. Main keyboards parts keep changing while drums are quite the same but complex. Keyboards gradually play darker, drums help to pump more drama. From 4:30 goes sole spent synth part. Overall it's not a 5* just because my expectations were too high from music building up in the middle. Neither the way it was done nor the climax feel like excellent, just very good.

3* Elusive goodness 4:24

This is a mellow yet quirky keyboards (piano, synths, effects) composition, same theme delivered with different flavours and some spin off themes. The track title is really telling: melody really hints at goodness all the time, but there's also a slightest hint of tension. Beautiful but slightly repetitive and no other instruments. Easy 4* if sole keyboards are good for you.

3* Wakatte kudasai 7:27

It starts with some psyche clarinet and synth effects, from 1:30 some harpsichord-like synths and clarinet play in turn and together. An oriental (clarinet) and otherwordly (synths) tune follows, very interesting, with infrequent rhythm, tension builds up gradually up until 4:35. Then follows some 'standard' lovely avant-prog for a while, then rhythm changes, guitar starts playing, clarinet shuts down. 5:40 - keyboards are silent for a while, just guitar with drums and percussion, then keyboards and guitar play in turn several times, then blend, but guitar is still leading the way. All in all it's quite an extraordinary composition for Roz Vitalis (with quite a part of supporting, not leading keyboards), but for my taste it's overextended and slightly dull in the middle.

3* Annihilator of moral hazard 6:23

This is their all time concert hit, there are several versions on the live/bootleg CDs. The one prefixed with 'Wooden bear' is a psyched performance with lyrics, played until 2011. Then there's a better version with normal instrumentation, like at 'Live 14-11-14'. It still has quite psychedelic middle, but the main theme has quite some time. Also there were numerous concerts with other arguably rockier versions not available on CDs. The studio version though is very different. It starts with sprightly drums and murmuring keyboards, also there are some flute like sounds, then some tense quiet synth part with percussion. Then these two parts repeat with slight variations. Heavy parts are very good. Then some psych synths with rhythm- synth and guitar which changes at 3:50 to a continuous guitar fingering. Then follows the main theme and then again it's played but by guitar only. Main theme is easily 5* but the quiet/psych parts somewhat spoil the experience for me once again.

3* Dances of lost opportunities 5:38

This is a keyboards + percussion tune. Starts with an almost bright piano solo, track title again is quite telling. Then the heavy synths with percussion continues the melody with no brightness at all. Then a slowed down build-some-tension part which abruptly ends at 2:15 to allow some sole synth part. From 2:50 again a darker avantish part which I like. From 4:25 again just sole synth up to the end.

3* Disruption 3:41

This starts seemingly like a sequel to the previous track, below the average tempo. Then from 1:15 synth effects are supporting sole keyboard part, then sole guitar, then some clarinet with hints of guitar. From 2:32 the first theme again.

4* Train of parting (Compassion version) 7:55

It starts with a piano solo, again reminiscent of the previous track. Then synths and effects, then drums kick in, then guitar. Nice tension built suddenly changes at 3:15 to a quite bright but appropriate insert. Salivating listener from 3:50 hears an avant-prog part like from 'Tragic fate', up-tempo. Then some change to a leading guitar with synths and mid-tempo drums, building up to a 5:25 climax with flickering drums and howling guitar. Silence from 6:20 to 6:50 where just one drum beat happens followed by a closing keyboards-guitar interplay. Better coda would have easily made it a 5*.

Time-weighted score 3.25

Report this review (#1428602)
Posted Friday, June 19, 2015 | Review Permalink
siLLy puPPy
PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams
4 stars After having fallen for the ninth album of ROZ VITALIS "Lavoro D'Amore" and their unique style of progressive rock that combines classical music hooks with experimental sound structures and Slavic folk, i was very eager to delve into the band's discography to see if any of their other albums keep my interest like that one did. I'm happy to say that i have accumulated another three earlier albums of this band and am happy to report that they are indeed as entertaining. Diving in randomly i ended up with their 5th album COMPASSIONIZER first.

What i love about Russian prog bands such as ROZ VITALIS is they more often than not have a firm grasp of classical music as well as Eastern Europeon folk and find the cleverest ways to incorporate those styles together in their music. Such was the case with "Lavoro D'Amore" and so too it is with COMPASSIONIZER. What i love about main man Ivan Rozmainsky is how in his song structure developments uses catchy hooks in the Western classical music tradition to draw the listener in and then use a whole arsenal of sounds ranging from bells, wind instruments such as clarinets, flutes and recorders and other sound effects to create a smorgasbord of interesting layers of sound.

On the very first track "Tragic Fate" we get some nice keyboard runs that meld with bells and other percussive sounds and builds layers until we get to a progressive frenzy with time sig changes at the speed of light. After it reaches it's peak it drops back to the beautiful piano hooks, so in effect the journey is somewhat logical in its delivery but the scenery on the way is most unexpected and woven together in most unorthodox ways.

While this music is generally placed in the avant-prog category it is unlike most music you would expect in that musical world. While most RIO and avant-prog is dissonant and other worldly in its song structure, ROZ VITALIS seems to prefer that a strong melodic theme dominates their stomp through the musical pasture upon which they gallop freely. This is what makes their music quite accessible from the first listen but the fundamentals of the avant-prog world still remain here albeit scattered about in a different manner than most and what i would call a rather avant-symphonic veneer to their overall sound. In other words the melodic keyboards are the anchor into the melodic world that allow the electronic, percussion and wind instruments to go wild around, therefore i could equally qualify this music as being space rock as well as symphonic prog and in the long run would call melodic eclectic prog.

While the music can get wild at times it for the most part remains steady and calculative with sounds slowly creeping in and gaining strength before usurping control for a brief moment. The ratcheting up effect is subtle and effective and there is rarely anything that just jumps out of the woodwork and slaps you in the face. Probably the most avant-garde of the lot is the odd drumming styles that add counterpoints to the melodies. While some artists are simply happy to keep the beat, ROZ VITALIS excels at keeping the percussion a major part of the dynamics that change it up frequently to add an additional zesty layer of rhythm and syncopation.

I've definitely fallen for this band's sound. It is utterly unique in the musical universe, at least the parts i've yet explored. I'm very happy to have found a band that satisfies different musical aspects such as the avant tendencies i gravitate towards all the while dishing out some of the tastiest melodic developments that accompany all the tones and rhythms that seem to be placed perfectly together for the proper effect. Great stuff.

Report this review (#1505626)
Posted Friday, January 1, 2016 | Review Permalink
3 stars After very positive listening experiences with the recent recordings (I'm especially fond of Lavvoro d'Amore) and rather negative ones with the earlier stuff, I don't know what to expect from this in-between album by mr. Ivan Rozmainsky and his project Roz Vitalis. This time the keyboardist-composer is accompanied by guitarist Sydius and clarinetist Yuri Verba. Hmmm... sad to say, but the overall sound is still hollow and cold to my ears, the same way as in the earlier RV music I've reviewed, though not quite as badly.

But the gradual progress of musical maturity (I'm talking of production and the compositions) is to be witnessed. The pieces are getting some emotional depth instead of just sounding like introvert experimenting in the studio. 'Elusive Goodness' is a nice (and in the Roz Vitalis scale, pretty sensitive) track in which I hear some Pekka Pohjola -reminding modal structures. 'Wakatte Kudasai' is said to develop some ideas of the cool &sweet 80's King Crimson track 'Matte Kudasai'. Well, definitely not among my favourites here... actually I find it hard to hear any familiarities in this sharp and steely piece. The first seconds of 'Annihilator of Moral Hazard' make me feel already tired of the album's noisy and cold soundscape, and the interesting dynamic changes -- such as more delicate moments centred around recorders -- are not enough to save the track.

Here and there the compositions contain some warm breaths of melodicism, but all in all this album won't enter into my player very often. The sonic hollowness is too noticeable, it's difficult for me to be carried away by the intelligent musical ideas that certainly exist. The synth-centred, complex music has mock-orchestral versatility comparable to THE ENID, only with a terribly bad production. A pity!

Report this review (#1667298)
Posted Wednesday, December 14, 2016 | Review Permalink
kev rowland
Honorary Reviewer
4 stars I have long been a fan of the RIO/avant-garde music from Russian band Roz Vitalis, but I came across them quite a long way through their career, so have been looking back to some of their earlier albums to see what they were like back then. 'Compassionizer' is from 2007 and is their fifth full-length album. Originally self-released, it has now also been made available through Bandcamp. Back then the band were just a trio, with Ivan Rozmainsky (keyboards, recorders, percussion, samples, virtual synth), Sydius (guitars) and Yuri Verba (clarinets). Musically, this album is absolutely fascinating in the way that it combines classical motifs and Western approaches with other styles that contain more dissonance, yet somehow maintain the melodic adventure. That this album has a lot in common with the mighty Art Zoyd isn't even up for debate, and with less instruments being deployed there is a sense of fragile strength holding it all together.

As with their later works, it is the strong use of melody that keeps them separate from many others within this musical style, and to my ears it is incredibly accessible on first hearing (although I concur that not everyone will feel the same way). The use of woodwind within what can otherwise be quite a sterile sounding environment not only adds a small bit of warmth, but also lifts the overall emotion of their music. there are some sections where Rozmainsky's use of synths combining with his piano makes one thing that one is listening to a modern classical music concerto as opposed to a progressive rock album, while at others there is no doubt at all that here is a rock band pushing the boundaries of music. It may have taken me far too many years to start listening to Roz Vitalis, but that is something I am definitely going to make up for by discovering more of their music.

Report this review (#1998810)
Posted Tuesday, August 21, 2018 | Review Permalink
Prog Metal Team
4 stars [A retrospective originally published at The Progressive Aspect in 2020]

With Roz Vitalis main man Ivan Rozmainsky releasing the debut album from a new project called Compassionizer, I felt it an opportune time to revisit its namesake. I recently wrote another nostalgic look back at an older album, with my thoughts on Anathema's Eternity. Now Roz Vitalis is unlikely to be as well-known as Anathema (and that's a shame, and another discussion entirely), but I'm sure every fan of Roz Vitalis has their own special and favourite albums from the band as, like Anathema, their mood and style have changed several times over the years. There are, however, pivotal and transitional moments, and 2007's Compassionizer is surely one of the more important of those.

Roz Vitalis was created by composer and keyboardist Ivan Rozmainsky in 2001, initially as a one-man band, and (to my ears) marred by sounding too synthetic and programmed. By the second full-length album in 2003, Roz Vitalis had become a trio, with the addition of Nadezhda Regentova (keyboards, voices) and Vladimir Polyakov (keyboards). The dark electronic music of this period has far more dynamics, and is experimenting with lengthier tracks, and rapid changes within them. By their fourth album, the trio had expanded to a quintet, with Klara Metelkova (flutes, harmonica, vocals) and Yuri Verba (clarinet), the addition of acoustic instruments marking a change in the band's sound. From this point on, Roz Vitalis sound to me as if King Crimson, Gentle Giant and a splash of Depeche Mode have been thrown into a blender without a lid, and whatever slips out the top is collated into an electronic avant-chamber symphony, with maybe a pinch of Art Zoyd. I mean that in the most positive way, as there's not a Roz Vitalis release I don't enjoy. For 2008's Compassionizer, Roz Vitalis was reduced to a trio once more, still with Yuri Verba, and now also Sydius (guitar).

The album opens with the initially spacey and Kosmiche Tragic Fate. I made the point in my review of Compassionizer's album, that compassion almost literally means to suffer with. As such, it's hardly surprising that the prevailing sound of this album is rather cold, rather than the warm fuzziness many people might assume when they see the word compassion. Tragic Fate reminds me a lot of keyboard-led RPI bands from the '70s, such as Corte dei Miracoli ? but twisted and distorted until they are tortured shadows of themselves. The drumming is programmed, but sounds like it's played (on real electronic drums), and is actually a real highlight! (I'm not often a fan of programmed drums, but there are times they just work, and this is probably the best use of them I've ever encountered.) The keyboards are delectably sinister, and I revel in the menacing atmosphere this opening track creates.

Some gorgeous piano begins the following Autumn of Hypocrisy. This is a great example of how Roz Vitalis take music of a classical nature, and infuse it with spacey textures and psychedelic layers. Menacing and cacophonic Crimsonesque tones are introduced, and the whole provides a lovely mix of atonal and dissonant parts with gentle and harmonic themes. Melody and disharmony clash and caress in equal measure. There's some jollity in the introduction to the title track, though it sounds as if a little forced and contrived ? which is quite genius. True enough, all hints of happiness soon disappear. By this third track, it is obvious that this is the most balanced Roz Vitalis release yet, and this is why it's such an important moment in their discography for me. Where previous albums went from one extreme to another, from more truly avant moments, to passages almost veering on boring, this album has made sense of the mess. It's still all over the place, but now in a more structured way. There is still plenty of experimentation, but the methodology behind it has improved, and the results are better for it.

Compasionizer shows real musical maturity from Roz Vitalis, in terms of the composition, instrumentation and production. It's the first truly great album from the band, which is not to dismiss what came before, but simply to emphasise what a truly great step up this album represents. If anyone ever asks what Roz Vitalis album to listen to first (not that anyone ever has, so criminally overlooked this band is), I would always suggest Compassionizer. It's an accessible route into their quite unique sound. There are many bands I could mention (and I already have done in this review), but ultimately Roz Vitalis sound like none of them, and no-one else but themselves. What I especially like about Roz Vitalis is the way they create a more minimalist sound than a lot of bands they might be compared to. Their use of empty space gives a sense of fragility that really enhances the music. While not often delicate in sound, the music can sound delicate in nature, and it's quite beautiful. I'm fairly confident that some people who don't enjoy it, will find the music of Roz Vitalis cold, sterile and hollow, and I guess to a degree I could agree with those descriptions ? yet for me they work as positives, and not negatives.

Despite Ivan Rozmainsky having his fingers in many musical pies, Roz Vitalis continue to release great pieces of music. If you've not yet acquainted yourself with the band, then Compassionizer is a great place to start. This was the last album made by Roz Vitalis as "electroacoustic chamber ensemble", as from 2008 they exist as "a full-blown rock-band" (in speech marks, as this is how the band is described on the Roz Vitalis Bandcamp page), so if the sound of this album doesn't fully grab you, try one of the more recent releases. Objectively, it would probably be hard to argue it as the band's best release, but listening to music is all about subjectivity, and often what is best and what is a favourite can diverge substantially. For me, Compassionizer remains my favourite Roz Vitalis album, and I can't see that changing any time soon.

Report this review (#2489783)
Posted Saturday, January 2, 2021 | Review Permalink

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