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3 stars Although not provided as a concept album on this occasion, ABARAX are fundamentally linking to their debut here as for the compositional aspect. Which means 'Blue Room' is surely not designed to be very experimental, so much the more you will listen to solid rock songs made of symphonic and psychedelic elements in the majority. All in all less floydy this time and a little more commercially coloured. The rocking component has evolved. So this album holds eight calculated songs offered by experienced musicians where Howard Hanks has a large share when it comes to the lyrics.

Due to the fact that they are situated nearby my hometown I had the chance to see them playing live for several times in the meanwhile. And I was always impressed by As We Spoke because of this special mellow atmosphere and groove, a very emotional song somehow. I'm not that good in interpreting lyrics but releatively sure this is a kind of love song. Luckily the track got a place on the album, an extraordinary methinks. Andre Blaeute's expressive voice perfectly fits here decorated with some echoes - charming, a catchy melody ... oddly ponderous drums, synth and guitar are harmonizing ... and watch out for the bass excursion in between to make it big really.

'Now we've sent you to hell, to where you belong' - Sermons & Lies sounds lovely but is an accusation as well, cryptic though who is meant. Udo Grasekamp offers fine varying synthesizer accents including string arrangements on Life, probably a leftover from early days. ABARAX are getting tough here, are contrasting due to some heavy rocking moments. Red Roses And Bullets on the other hand ventures out into mainstream territories a lot, where Howard's End is provided with a dramatic opening - first of all the vocal arrangements are something special.

This is certainly not the end of Howard ... in any case ... with intent or not, they remind me of Deep Purple's 'Child In Time' during some moments. A melodic finale for this album. Dennis Grasekamp's front guitar work is strong as usual. 'Blue Room' appears not that spectacular as for my summary ... just an effort featuring well made rock songs in order to witness some relaxed moments basically.

Report this review (#278070)
Posted Thursday, April 15, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars I must begin with a caveat that I haven't heard ABARAX's previous (debut) album, so I didn't know what I was getting when I ordered this one. Undoubtedly, it was worth it! I am genuinely impressed with the BLUE ROOM, and I can't help but recommend it to all fans of progressive rock. Kicking off (after the brief intro "Cry Out For Me") with a magnificent opener that sports an easily memorable melody ("Autumn Storm), the album continues strong until the very last (and longest) song, "Howard's End."

ABARAX is classified on as a psychedelic/space rock band, and I tend to agree with this grouping. The emphasis should be placed on Psychedelic, not Space, though. Fuzzed roaring guitars, soaring keyboards (predominantly, organ), melodic solos, strong singing mixed at the front, sumptuous backing vocals, mid-tempo throughout ? all the attributes of psychedelic rock that really rocks but never crosses the hard-rock border are present here. While all of these components do originate in the 1970s, however, this is a very modern sounding record: the production is crisp yet warm, very much in your face yet elegant at the same time. The booklet indicates that the band has two guitarists, and it shows, but there is no excessive heaviness in the sound.

Perhaps the only critical thing I have to say about this record is that the seven full-length tracks on the CD sound somewhat similar. As a symphonic prog fan, I occasionally found myself, especially during the first couple of spins, wishing there was a bit more variety, melody- and tempo-wise. Most (or even all) of the songs are in mid-tempo, with clear-cut structures. This is not to say that the BLUE ROOM is repetitive, monotonous, or tedious. God forbid! It is, rather, a classical psychedelic album, and as a result, the genre imposes its limitations.

Although, as I said, the record is very even and it's difficult to single out any songs, the tracks that do stand out immediately are the opener "Autumn Storm" (a real hit ? must be an exceptional concert song!), "Red Roses and Bullets" (a somewhat up-tempo song with a great chorus), and the final "Howard's End," with its pulsating, ominous rhythm, circular, even hypnotic structure, and loads of emotional tension. (The song's title suggests that the track is inspired by E. M. Forster's eponymous novel, and although I didn't spot any textual parallels, the atmosphere of the song does reflect the spirit of this excellent book.) Other songs are just as good, but overall, this is music painted in broad strokes, so to speak: although there are plenty of nuances (a nice acoustic fragment here or an elaborate keyboard solo there), you need quite a lot of time to listen carefully to begin to appreciate them all.

Again, it's a fantastic record that will appeal to fans of heavy prog, symphonic prog, psychedelic and all those who like good melodies, slick arrangements, and a strong sense of what the musicians want to achieve. The record is focused and it strikes home. Keep up the good work!

Report this review (#286197)
Posted Saturday, June 12, 2010 | Review Permalink

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