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Little Tragedies - Cross CD (album) cover


Little Tragedies

Symphonic Prog

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Honorary Collaborator
4 stars A highly compelling creation from this fine Russian act.

Richly textured keyboards and synth patterns is the dominating aspect of this production; with soaring solos and floating sound layers as well as gentle explorations almost ambient in expression. The compositions are very well made, constantly changing and evolving but taking care to revisit themes and to evolve carefully and planned - where the sudden changes in pace, intensity and sound are utilized to good effect without ever feeling out of place in the select instances they are utilized.

Besides keyboards and synths, of which the Hammond is one, distinct and often jazz-tinged bass underscores, drawn out guitar riffs or acoustic patterns is a part of the sonic tapestry too, and some neat drumming of course. The overall style is symphonic progressive rock; looking back to the 70's for inspiration - with Genesis and ELP as the most distinct influences. It's very well made though, and the Russian vocals; performed in a talklike manner; is probably the only aspect of this album that will limit it's audience amongst those who love this style of music.

Highly recommended.

Report this review (#230678)
Posted Sunday, August 9, 2009 | Review Permalink
RIO/Avant/Zeuhl Team
3 stars My first approach to Little Tragedies was through their second album, "Return", which left me thoroughly underwhelmed. Indeed, their particular brand of bombastic, ambitious retro-prog is not for everyone, no matter how accomplished it may be. "The Cross", however, is definitely a much more mature effort, though it does take a lot of attention and repeated listens to be fully appreciated.

As Little Tragedies' mainman, Gennady Ilyin, is a classically-trained keyboardist and composer, it will not come as a surprise that the band's music scores very highly on a technical level. Luckily, unlike other bands (especially in the field of progressive metal), Little Tragedies avoid ultimately pointless displays of mere technical prowess, and concentrate on producing music that flows in a pleasant way, with some occasional moments of lyrical beauty. Besides the obvious influences from vintage Seventies prog, there is a lot in Little Tragedies' music that harks back to the great Russian composers of the 19th and early 20th century. The epic sweep of their sound largely manages to avoid cheesiness, as do their lyrics, based on authentic poetry (in this case written by early 20th century poet Nikolai Gumilev) rather than some dubious concept. Kudos are due to MALS for including English translations of the texts in the CD booklet.

With the sole exception of the lively "Tanets" (i.e. 'dance'), influenced by Russian folk music, all the tracks on "The Cross" have vocals. Unfortunately Gennady Ilyin delivers Gumilev's verses in a style closer to reading aloud than actual singing, while the band's peculiar style would call instead for a commanding, dramatic voice. The poetry itself has the vividly descriptive, almost visionary quality typical of the Symbolist movement, coupled with a strong mystical flavour, and Gumilev's fascination with the exotic.

Musically speaking, "The Cross" is a veritable orgy of keyboards - synthesisers, Hammond organ, piano, even harpsichord. Little Tragedies' sound on this album is purely symphonic, almost devoid of any contaminations with the harder-edged forms of prog - with the sole exception of the powerful double-bass drumming that often underpins the lengthy keyboard passages. The occasional presence of woodwind instruments adds a romantic, atmospheric note to tracks such as the stately "Portrait of a Man".

The album's longest and most complex composition is the 19-minute, mostly instrumental "The Voice of Silence", which alternates fast-paced passages with slower, majestic ones. Yuri Skripkin's precise, high-energy drumming lends further intensity to the more dramatic keyboard flights. The Gothic-tinged "Behind the Walls of the Old Abbey", bookended by harpsichord, develops into a no-holds-barred synth-fest much in the style of ELP's "Toccata"; while the opening of "Lakes" may bring to mind Genesis circa "Selling England by the Pound".

Fans of classic symphonic prog, especially of heavily keyboard-based bands like ELP, will not fail to be impressed by "The Cross". However, the foreign-language lyrics, coupled with Gennady Ilyin's idiosyncratic vocal delivery, might be a turn-off for some listeners. Needless to say, this is not an album meant for those who like their prog to be actually progressive in nature.

Report this review (#258862)
Posted Friday, January 1, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars The cross from 2008 is another worthy album from their catalogue. This time a simple album but clocking over an hour of music. Musicaly speaking Little Tragedies is inspired by bands like ELP and from symphonic prog bands from the '70 thats for sure but also they incorporated in their sound some prog metal elements, the combination resulted is excellent and without sounding like a prog metal band at all. The head of the band Gennady Ilyin and together with the guitarsist they done some fantstic work here again. I think this band is quite underrated and to less known to larger public and is a shame because their music is very complicated and yet melodic and full of intresting arrangements. Sometimes is keyboard dominated prog, sometimes is more towards prog metal ala Dream Theater, sometimes the band combines this two always with eficiency and with good intelligent passages. Some brilliant moments are on opening track The cross or The God Abandoned almost 18 min of pure beauty, both show how great Little Tragedies is. Here we have also some fokish moments like on Tanets and in rest the album is an avalanche of keyboards and impressive song writting. Again 4 stars , but I like little more New faust then this one, still excellent and overlooked.
Report this review (#934332)
Posted Saturday, March 23, 2013 | Review Permalink
kev rowland
Honorary Reviewer
4 stars I have heard a couple of other albums by Little Tragedies, but it is safe to say that they didn't impress me nearly as much as this did. Inspired heavily by the Seventies, and by ELP in particular, this has a complexity and togetherness that is rarely displayed by other prog bands. It is full of dynamics, with gentle guitar and synthesised flute combining with fretless bass and rim shots to create a certain mood, yet at the next they can all be off and flying with every musician pursuing note density and complexity yet always making perfect musical sense. Musically it is more Western than Eastern, with just the vocals (performed by Gennady in a spoken style, in his native Russian) creating something that is obviously different.

In some ways, it is the vocals that spoil this for me, as there is so much going on that they could easily have made this a fully instrumental album, and not bothered with the vocals at all. There are large sections where the band allow themselves to fully push themselves, with no words to heard, and it is here when they fully come alive. The longest track, "The God Abandoned", is nearly twenty minutes in length, and vocals are there only for a small part of it, yet the song just flies by as the listener is taken deep into an incredible world of soaring keyboards and guitars, with majestic interplay between all those involved. Their site is available in English, and I urge every proghead to discover the joys of Little Tragedies.

Report this review (#1677341)
Posted Monday, January 9, 2017 | Review Permalink
4 stars My review # 250.

'Awesome musicians, exciting prog, from Russia'

The Russian progrock formation Little Tragedies was founded in 1994 by composer Gennady Ilyin, a graduate of the St. Petersburg Conservatory. Between 1995 and 2014 the band has released 13 studio-album, the first 3 as a trio featuring Gennady Ilyin on keyboards, Yuri Skripkin on drums and Oleg Babynin on bass. Since their next effort entitled Return from 2005 Little Tragedies turned into a five piece formation, including a guitar ' and saxophone player. I follow this outstanding band for more than a decade and I am impressed how they have matured, and how they keep on delivering quality albums. After my reviews about their two excellent 2009 albums The Paris Symphony and The Magic Shop I would like to go back one more year in time, this review is about their CD # 9 entitled Cross. I am delighted about the great tension between the bombastic and mellow songs, the inventive arrangements and the excellent work on keyboards and guitar, these musicians succeed to keep my attention this entire album!

1. Cross (8.34): This CD (running time 62 minutes) starts with the long titletrack, what an exciting experience: ultra- bombastic atmospheres with sensational synthesizer flights, flowing guitarwork, powerful Hammond waves, a very propulsive and dynamic rhythm-section and awesome interplay.

2. Autumn (4:57): After a warm classical guitar intro, the climate turns into mellow featuring soaring Hammond organ, soft synthesizer runs and almost whispering Russian vocals, what a contrast with the first song!

3. Lakes (4:13): A dreamy atmosphere with wonderful interplay between keyboards and sensitive electric guitar, halfway a break with a bass solo (accompanied by tender piano) and in the end pleasant work on the clarinet.

4. Old Abbey (7:32): A very varied composition: an intro with delicate interplay between harpsichord and synthesizers, then a slow rhtyhm that turns into bombastic with exciting synthesizer flights and finally a dreamy climate with acoustic guitar, warm vocals and moving guitar runs.

5. Portrait of a Man (3:46): The flamenco guitar intro strongly evokes Spanish Caravan by The Doors to me, then a mellow atmosphere that is beautifully coloured by clarinet, vocals and howling electric guitar.

6. Tanets (4:28): A cheerful song that reminds me of Seventies Mike Oldfield with a wide range of instruments, including a swirling Hammond organ solo.

7. The Voice of Silence (19:10): This epic composition delivers lots of spectacular bombastic parts with dazzling synthesizer runs, ELP inspired Hammond work and exciting interplay between guitar and keyboards. Very subtle is the blend of flamenco rhythm guitar in some parts, it gives a special flavour to the music.

8. Eagle (6:42): After a spacey intro, we can enjoy wonderful interplay between piano and Hammond organ, topped by moving electric guitar. What a tension in the music and what a contrast with the bombastic part of this stunning Russian progrock formation!

9. Hippopotamus (2:48) : Again great interplay between guitar and keyboards, along a pleasant intro with clarinet and vocals. The final part features a spectacular synthesizer solo, what a virtuoso!

This is a top notch progrock formation that started as a kind of 'ELP meets Ayreon', but gradually Little Tragedies developped a more varied and elaborate sound, highly recommended!

Report this review (#2038048)
Posted Monday, September 24, 2018 | Review Permalink

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