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ARK

Ark

Progressive Metal


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lucas
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Ark is a supergroup consisting of Jorn Lande (The Snakes), Tore Ostby (Conception), John Macaluso (TNT and Yngwie Malmsteen). Although they come all from mainly hard- rock bands, they developed on this self-titled album a very intricate music with a certain virtuosity in their playing. All three members are very gifted artists and their music is metal-prog oriented. A special mention must be deserved to John Macaluso, who achieved one of the most original drumming ever in the realm of metal-prog. Jorn Lande sings in the way of Coverdale but with more passion. Tore Ostby provides some flamenco guitar work on "The hunchback of Notre-Dame" and "Singers at the world's dawn". "Mother love" is rather bizarre, as it features moments of pure emotion, and a crushing chorus. "The hunchback of Notre-Dame" begins with church organs and is followed by a flamenco-like music, the accordion was also added to give a "french touch" to this song (the title of the song is taken from Victor Hugo's most famous novel). The last track : "Can't let go" is a jewel of melody, a beautiful balad that deals with african-influenced percussives at times and saxophone. Jorn's vocals may seem depressive at times, but they nonetheless bear a real emotion. Once again, I have to insist on the fact that Macaluso's drumming is stunning and will content all lovers of fusion ā la Holdsworth or Brand X, or even Tony Williams New Lifetime. I remember when I saw Ark playing acoustic live, and they were truly fantastic. They were opening for Pain of Salvation, and to be honest I bought the ticket just to see them (PoS's performance was not as exciting as Ark's). On Ark's first record, the bass and keyboards are played by two relatively unknown musicians but they sound great and discreet. To conclude, melody, virtuosity, technicality and emotion meet to create a dynamic and intricate music. I gave this album five stars because I consider it as one of the best prog album recorded in the last 15 years and certainly an essential one for anyone who loves metal-prog.
Report this review (#25372)
Posted Saturday, May 15, 2004 | Review Permalink
maani
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Founding Moderator
4 stars Although it is sheer coincidence, I am truly pleased that this, my 100th review, is for a band that has become one of my favorite "neo-neo-prog" groups. Indeed, Ark is simply one of the best current prog groups in any subgenre, and second only to Dream Theater in the prog metal category. Remarkably, given that DT is their unabashedly strongest influence (others include Pink Floyd, Arena, IQ, and bits of Marillion, Pendragon and recent Crimson), there are times when the "student" equals, and even outdoes, the "teacher." In this regard, one of Ark's fortes (which they have in common with DT) is that they are masters of the instrumental break - and this eponymous debut has plenty of those. / The album opens with an unexpected (for prog metal) percussion figure, and moves into classic prog-metal mode. Ark's very first instrumental break (3:09-4:04) gives DT a serious run for its money: indeed, throughout the album, guitarist Ostby, and especially drummer Macaluso, keep pace with, and sometimes outshine, Petrucci and Portnoy. "Where the Winds Blow" opens with more Macaluso madness, and has a neat jazzy break at 2:41-2:55, and an excellent guitar break at 2:56-3:10. A superb segue brings us to "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" - not only the stand-out track (and my favorite), but one of the best prog tracks I've ever heard. Stunningly crafted, it opens with what may be the world's first prog-metal samba, with super spanish-style classical guitar from Ostby. It then moves into a heavier prog figure. The song ends with a 6/8 prog-metal samba which increases speed until Ostby and Macaluso are moving so fast you can just make out the notes and beats. Throughout the song, Lande's vocal moves from sweet to savage, almost Hammill-like. Another excellent segue brings us to "Singers at the World's Dawn," which has Lande growling some of the album's best lyrics. Just as you notice he sounds a little like Steve Perry, he sings the line "go for journey"; a neat touch. There is also a strange but excellent jam at 3:51-5:15. Yet another segue brings us to "Mother Love," another superbly structured, stand-out track. Opening with an eerie chorus, the verses have a recent Belew/Crimson approach, while the choruses are almost thrash-metal. There are two tremedous jams, at 6:12-7:12 and 8:15-8:30. "Center Avenue" is a truly odd composition, which sounds like a mixture of DT and current Crimson, and has a wonderful jam at 3:00-3:55. The album closes with "Can't Let Go," which opens with a quasi-Arabic rhythm, moves into a Floydian "sound," and ends with a "turn" of the opening riff of "The Wall" combined with a piano figure and overall eerie sound similar to the end of "Crime of the Century." / One of the things that adds to Ark's excellence is the strength of Lande's vocals. As noted, his voice moves comfortably from "sweet" and fairly sensitive to outright growl and scream, something which James Labrie (among others) cannot do (i.e., although I like Labrie's voice, and he can certainly scream, he does not have the capacity to "growl," which is important in some cases). The only misgiving I have about this album is that it is not as well recorded as it could be; there is something strange about the way the bass is recorded, and it detracts (but only a little) from the overall "atmosphere." However, that quibble aside - and although their second album, Burn the Sun, is a definite step forward for them - this album is not only a great prog-metal album, but a great "new" prog album in all senses.
Report this review (#25373)
Posted Friday, March 11, 2005 | Review Permalink
Bullock_evolu
4 stars Ark is simply the best. I've never listened to such variated music before. I also have to admit that Jorn Lande has become my favorite singer/artist since the first time I heard him sing. Together Ark is a masterpiece that really should be more known around then what they really are. They can't be compared to anything. With Jorn Lande in lead i really think that this is the best music I've ever heard, and I never get tired of it either. And I know there are several sharing my opinion.
Report this review (#25374)
Posted Wednesday, March 30, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars Great debut by these talentet Norwegian trio (then they will be 5, just the opposite of Genesis :p ). This is prog metal with a lot of flamenco influences and bits of hard rock. All the songs rock hard, when Lande screams sometimes it feels like a lion roaring (Singers At the World's Dawn is a fine example), Jorn's voice is powerful for sure but he is capable of being delicate and touching when the songs demands it.This was probably the first time he got some recognition, Tore was already known for his work with Conception so he had nothing to prove at that time. John Macaluso is just as good at the others in his department. The only thing dragging this album down for me its the production, the drums doesn't sound good enough for me and the overall sounds thick in comparision with the power of the songs.

Masterpiece: The Hunchback Of Notre Damme

Highlight(s): Where The Winds Blow, Can't let Go

Lowlight(s): The production, and maybe Burning Down was not a great choice as an opener

Report this review (#36831)
Posted Saturday, June 18, 2005 | Review Permalink
Tony R
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars Imagine,if you can,a curious hybrid of Dio-era Rainbow,Colosseum II and Dream Theater and you might just be able to imagine what this Ark debut album sounds like.

Band members Lande(vox),Ostby (guitars) and Macaluso (drums and percussion) are all extremely proficient,with Lande,in particular,a joyous rock vocalist in the Dio/Coverdale mode.

Stand out songs are the epic "Hunchback Of Notre Dame" and the pulsating,anthemic "Where The Wind Blows".The two songs segue neatly into each other and advertise the bands musical strengths.Pounding beats and crashing guitar swerve and crash land into delicate percussion and very exciting flamenco-style guitar,which definitely echoes Gary Moore on CII's Wardances.Lande too excels with his catchy hooks and his occasionally soulful style.

Those two tracks alone would make this at least 4 star album,but the other five songs,whilst generally good,do not quite match this standard.Each track hints at greatness without actually achieving it,particularly "Singers At the World's Dawn",which reminds me of Rainbow's "Gates of Babylon".

To sum up, a very fine debut effort,which should appeal to fans of Rainbow (and their ilk),DT,and Queensryche.

Report this review (#40923)
Posted Saturday, July 30, 2005 | Review Permalink
greenback
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This very good album is a progressive metal work made at the end of the 20th century. The lead singer is a VERY strong point on this album: despite his visceral, wild and hard rock tone, he is OUTSTANDINGLY melodic and addictive: sounding a bit like David Coverdale (Whitesnake), his voice fits VERY well with the background floating keyboards. The razor rhythmic electric guitar is not too monolithic and it is very melodic and structured. The keyboards are subtly played rather in the background during the more mellow parts of the tracks. The disciplined drums are OUTSTANDING: be prepared to hear an overdose of restless, complex and completely asynchronous toms & bass drums parts!

On "Burning down", you can hear the addictive lead vocals: around 3:30, there is an impossible part made of TONS of fast bass drums and crazy electric guitar solos: IMPRESSIVE! The track ends beautifully by putting in evidence the background floating organ through the EXCELLENT lead vocals. "Were the wind blows" is so catchy that you could easily sing the main refrain: around 2:40, the musicians show us their jazzy influence with an interesting combination of pleasant drums and electric guitar solo. On "Hunchback of Notre-Dame", the musicians really show their versatile talent: a refined flamenco Spanish guitar and some funny jazzy piano parts through metal passages confirm the HUGE talent of the band: notice the excellent "normal" voice of the lead singer! On "Singers at the World's dawn", there is often an unbelievable synchronized interlock between the drums, the bass and the electric rhythmic guitar. "Mother Love" is the most ethereal and accessible track, as reveals its epic floating keyboards and its emotive electric guitar solos: it is an excellent song full of "fast as light" bass drums: past 6:00, the EXTREMELY fast Latin part made of impossible drums and flamenco guitar is absolutely jaw-dropping. "Central avenue" is very syncopated and scattered, but the discipline and the structure involved is absolutely impressive! The very visceral vocals on "Can't let go" make this track very catchy and addictive: the song contains very good sax parts, electric guitar solos and floating keyboards that may remind you bands like Clepsydra or Riverside. The track charmingly ends with a delicate kid's voice.

Report this review (#62091)
Posted Thursday, December 29, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars Incredible. Absolutely fantastic. This was the first reaction that I had when listening to this masterpiece. And everytime I listen to it the sensations are just the same as the first time. A rather bizarre but almost perfect mixture of progressive metal (the drumming work by John Macaluso and the stunning odd-timed riffs from Tore Otsby don't need any further explanation), hard bluesy rock (the suberb and passionate voice from the singer Jorne Lande), with spanish and soul flavours to give the band's sound a little more twist and originality. Every song is just brilliant, from the AOR rock of Where The Wind Blows to the more aggressive mood of Burning Down (check out the monstruosly fast and exciting double bass drums part at 3:30) and Mother Love (probably the best song from Ark), from the flamenco and soul atmospheres of The Hunchback Of Notredame (marvellous riffs, almost makes you wanna dance at some points) to the classic 12/8 heavy metal flowing rhythm of Singers At The World's Dawn, from the complexity of Center Avenue to the heart-breaking ending Can't Let Go.

Just buy it, do yourself a favour, it's a truly masterpiece!

Report this review (#99455)
Posted Saturday, November 18, 2006 | Review Permalink
3 stars Picked this one up based on the reviews here and was a little disappointed. It has some very good musical sections and the vocals are very good - though at times I had to check I wasn't listening to either Coverdale era Deep Purple or Whitesnake.

I agree that the stand out songs are "Hunchback..." and "Where the wind blows" but they're not enough to carry the album psat the 3 star mark in my opinion. There is still a lot of value and enough to encourage me to pick up "Burn The Sun" which is an altogether different proposition.

Report this review (#102747)
Posted Tuesday, December 12, 2006 | Review Permalink
apps79
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars ARK are the second band effort of Tore Obsty,the brain of the legendary progsters CONCEPTION.An important point of the band is the voice of Jorn Lande,maybe the most ''theatrical'' voice in the progressive metal scene.Their music includes elements of the whole rock history!There are hints of CONCEPTION,jazz/fusion rock elements,you can hear hints even of WHITESNAKE(!!!) music as well.A really different disc!Check this guys out...3.5 to 4 stars...
Report this review (#145967)
Posted Friday, October 19, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars TALENT, GOOD TUNES, REAL MUSICIANS, ZERO MEDIOCRITY...

Maybe words like innovation and creativity are the best to describe this band. In fact, I already had heard many good comments about them (even, I had listened Burn the Sun, before this album) and how they were doing an outstanding musical proposal inside the thick and select walls of the Progressive scene (possibly, this act is more oriented to a Prog-Metal audience); this happened around 2000 and 2001.

I really listened for the first time Ark on 2003, thanks to the fact that Jörn Lande (I always have enjoyed his way to sing) was starting his adventure with Masterplan in that time, and my interest for his career was growing with every listen of his previous projects (like Mundanus Imperium and Millenium among others), which I consider of great quality. But then, I knew that I had heard one of the greatest progressive bands ever (at least on the prog-metal fields), a band full of creativity that mixed without fear any style and owners of a great talent (very inspired, in humble my opinion).

If you have listened names like Tore Østby and John Macaluso, you already know what I'm talking about. Perhaps, my best advice is just to listen the complete record and enjoy all this stream of good musical vibrations and indescribable sensations for the senses, because when you listen something like this is very difficult to try to explain only using words.

Highlights on the record:

All the compositions in general, Jörn's vocal performance (he's unique) and Macaluso's drums technique (absolutely kick ass!).

By: Epsilon.

Report this review (#173628)
Posted Wednesday, June 11, 2008 | Review Permalink
Negoba
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Power prog metal supergroup.

That label is a huge burden to shoulder but this band lives up to it beautifully. If I were to imagine what Prog Metal was without the preconception of Dream Theater or any of the other standards, this is what I would imagine. Firmly rooted in the core of heavy metal, with many allusions to the 80's classics, this band progresses into realms that their obvious influences would never have imagined.

The most obvious characteristic of this group is the powerful voice of Jorn Lande, who sounds most obviously like David Coverdale but pulls from both more powerful (the oft mentioned RJ Dio) and more gentle elements than the Whitesnake frontman ever displayed. I am a former Whitesnake fanatic, and Jorn sounds as good as Coverdale at his best when he chooses that part of his voice. But he has so much more to pull from. Amazing vocalist. Admittedly, however, my previous affection for Whitesnake certainly affected my opinion of this band.

The second leading character in this project is Tore Ostby, a prog metal guitarist with all the shred chops you could want plus his characteristic clean tone / flamenco influenced playing that can also be heard on his previous project Conception. While both offer guitarists like me all the burn that we could desire, Tore's ability to seamlessly blend clean and distorted tones, jazzy chords, and textures is what puts the prog into this band.

I am less familiar with the drummer, but the work here is very good, with dark tom parts, the now standard double bass, and syncopation all adding dark flavor to the mix. He's more than able to keep up with the all-star chops of the other members.

Composition is a final important piece here. These are multi-segment pieces that go far beyond the metal formula and are sure to please the prog heart. Dark harmonies, slow builds, climactic energy, it's all here. The songs are strong, all enjoyable. Though there are certainly chances for the artist to show their chops, this disc is about the songs. Flurries of notes are used as colors to enhance the music, rather than showing off, which certainly is a weakness of some metal bands both prog and standard. Ark's member have the savvy and taste to concentrate first on songs.

There are some significant weaknesses in this disc. First is the track order. The best tracks are in the middle of the disc and certainly the early tracks are among the weakest. I'm tempted to start at track 3. And with all power metal / 80's influenced metal, there is a cheese factor. Frankly, it's less than listening to Labrie sing, but it's almost unavoidable in this kind of metal. The melodies are good but not amazing, and the lyrics are again fine but nothing to really amaze.

In the end this is very good prog metal. Best classic metal voice I've heard in the prog arena and one of the more interesting guitarists. Definitely recommend.

Report this review (#203907)
Posted Saturday, February 21, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars What an amazing debut!

''Ark'' is the self-titled debut of the Norwegian band, Ark. Ark release an excellent debut and promises a lot! Anyone notices immediately, that this band has a wide sense of music in general! Its compositions is something never heard before. There are many musical genres appearing, being combined with wisdom. Genres like progressive metal, blues, jazz, flamenco and salsa rule the whole concept. Jorn's out-spaced voice is, perhaps, the driving force of this monster band. His vocal abilities, similar to Geoff's Tate (Queensryche) and Midnight's (Crimson Glory), colour the whole album's atmosphere, taking it in extremely high levels. Tore Ostby is the main band's composer and his guitar playing gives away his great musical education in various genres. An extended ability of combinig different music styles. The wonderful rhythm section, made up only by the drum set of John Macaluso, complete this amazing trio.

''Ark'' is one of the albums that changed the Progressive character of 00's. The band composes and perform extremely difficult music, boding its next masterpiece, ''Burn the Sun''. Of course, the recognition came later, but the point is that Ark consist a prog-master band only just from its debut. A highly recomended band for everyone prog lover!

The only thing that bothers a bit, is the poor and sometimes dirty production, as well as the absence of bass. But, this is only a personal opinion.

4 stars!

Report this review (#236448)
Posted Wednesday, September 2, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars In terms that have to be decent and not too impressive, this album could easily be called as HYSTORICAL!Why this pretentious appreciation?Simply,because it bringed something new and fresh in music in 1999!At his time this album had the effect of a bomb!It was so unexpected to errupt such an album,in the middle of nothing special in music,where brilliant ideas were less and less present!An offensive of black metal,or power metal with the same clichees,even in the prog metal world nothig special was present to the most of the bands! Ordinary albums and nothing memorable!And...this ARK album came to prove that it is possibly to have an eternal new musical beginning!TORE OSTBY was a very spectacular guitar player with a good pedigree in the band CONCEPTION and the vocalist JORN LANDE was more known as a DAVID COVERDALE clone in diverse projects ,but with a more rough edge of the voice and JOHN MACALUSO made several albums with TNT,ALEX MASI and YNGWIE MALMETEEN, proving scarry technical skills ,definitelly a very impressive drummer! So,this was the core of a great band that came at the time in 1999 with a stunning album that took the prog metal community by storm!Unbelieveble complex and varied guitar parts,nervous drum tempos and a total unconventional manner to sing prog songs with latino influences sometimes,twisted measures and complicated songs and totally unusual and above all- 100% uncommercial attitude!The timing of the songs varies from a little more than 5 minutes to almost 10,and plenty of space to prove the fantastic technical disponibilities of some heavenly gifted musicians!What is the more difficult is to include in a category,a stylistical category this album or to say...well it could be compared to...?!??!Because ,undoubtedly ARK music cannot be compared to anything!The componistic influences for the guys in ARK came froim their experiences and a permanent wish and desire to make experiments,without any boundaries!!!Something unbelieveble fresh and original under all aspects! A second opus BURN THE SUN pushed even further the technical and compositional capacities of the ARG guys,but after that munfortunatelly the band split and let the dream to flow that one day they will come back!!!Even now,after 10 years-in 2009,we realise thet this kind of album was something of exceptional at it's time...and it's still today! 2010 will bring the 3-rd ARK album,officially the band was reunited by MACALUSO in 2009 August and this year a new album will be released!I have already te feeling that the prog world will suffer another shock!
Report this review (#258116)
Posted Sunday, December 27, 2009 | Review Permalink

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