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Heliopolis - City Of The Sun CD (album) cover



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Honorary Collaborator
4 stars A well made album of intricately composed and performed prog in a kind of BIG BIG TRAIN and RUSH vein. Often I find that the lead vocals irritate me as the vocalist (Scott Jones)'s singing voice varies from sounding like Geddy Lee (RUSH), Chris Flynn (ART IN AMERICA), STEVE PERRY (JOURNEY) and the singer from THE PSYCHEDELIC ENSEMBLE. But the song constructs, sounds, musicianship and soli are all top notch--the guitarist is especially interesting for his very unusual freaky-frenzied solos. Keyboards are very very good and the rhythm section is totally solid.

1. "New Frontier" (10:11) opens with a powerful KING CRIMSON sound built upon the repetition of an ascending chord scale and some frenetic lead guitar work. Then at 1:44 things smooth out into a melodic section in order to support the entry of a surprisingly Geddy Lee/Chris Flynn like vocal section. Then a YES "Tempus Fugit"-like section takes over to support the vocals and Steve Howe-like guitar riffing. The guitar soli, however, are nothing like Mssr. Fripp, Howe, Liefson, or Flynn. They are very unpredictable and ejaculatory--brief, spastic or spurting. The addition of piano accompaniment is quite interesting--and warming. At 7:12 the song takes a turn back toward its opening--but, it's only a tease, as we quickly return to the Tempus Fugit rhythm structure in order to support a rather exiting synth solo (not unlike a THE PSYCHEDELIC ENSEMBLE synth solo) before. The song ends in this mode while the vocalist sings about the new frontier in which the end is just the beginning. Once I got past the vocalist I was able to enjoy this song. (8/10) 2. "Take a Moment" (8:55) opens with a sound, structure and feel quite strikingly similar to the song stylings of BIG BIG TRAIN's last two English Electric albums--except with lead vocalist taking on a more STEVE PERRY style. At 2:29 there is a brief shift into a quick bridge before a brief JOURNEY-like vocal sets up a brief quiet solo section. After a return to the vocal A Section, the sixth minute is given up to some great keyboard and guitar soloing. The eighth minute segues into another YES Drama-like pace and rhythm for some more fine instrumental soloing. The song finishes with the same A vocal section but nothing really exciting or interesting about the finish. (8/10)

3. "Mr. Wishbone" (3:30) is a quirky KING CRIMSONian RPI-like instrumental that I really like. It reminds me of an étude in that it feels like a group musical or warmup exercise. (9/10)

4. "Elegy" (6:07) has some great keyboard-based melodies. As a matter of fact, the piano is the rhythm-keeper here as the drums, bass, and guitars are all in a pretty constant state of going off on their own jazz-like ejaculations--at least while the vocal sections are transpiring. There is a very familiar THE FLOWER KINGS feel and sound to this one. The first instrumental section has a steadier bass and drum rhythm while keys and guitars take turns soloing. There is something so smooth, so familiar and comforting about this song's chord progressions and its melodies. Like early Yes (Time and a Word) or Wishbone Ash, though again, more like THE FLOWER KINGS. Very pleasant song--though again with excellent performances by all musicians. (9/10)

5. "Love and Inspiration" (14:05) again begins with some very wonderfully familiar YES- nesses (Tales of Topographical Oceans) before switching at 2:45 to a kind of bouncy jazz rhythm. Then at 3:28 things settle into a fairly straightforward almost CARAVAN/KHAN-like groove in order to back a decent if "normal" electric guitar solo. At 4:15 things slow down to set up a very THE PSYCHEDELIC ENSEMBLE-like vocal section. Instrumental interludes are set up with a YES Drama-like moving bass line before shifting into gorgeous TFK-like transition movements. Awesome ELP/TPE ending. This song is very well performed. All band members show exciting, enthusiastic virtuosity on their respective instruments. Plus, the Canterbury inputs are much welcomed and appreciated. (9/10)

This album is a collection of songs that are all quite polished and mature--the composers/contributors are quite masterful as is the musicianship of each and every band member--who are all seasoned veterans from other accomplished bands. I highly recommend this album--it is, to my ears and mind, a step above the highly acclaimed IQ release. As a matter of fact, listening to City of the Sun side by side with The Road of Bones would be an exercise I would strongly recommend to all prog lovers; then maybe The Road of Bones would be put into its true place as a good, not great, album. I also like the fact that HELIOPOLIS band members state their shared desire to produce progressive rock music with a positive feel and message. It is my opinion that, like JOHANNES LULEY and THE PSYCHEDELIC ENSEMBLE, newcomers HELIOPOLIS have achieved this and a lot more.

4.5 stars rated down for the feeling that the band still has a lot of room to grow. I look forward with great excitement to their future collaborative productions.

Report this review (#1288030)
Posted Sunday, October 5, 2014 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars US band HELIOPOLIS was formed back in 2012, with a line-up of musicians that merits a description as fairly experienced, and with backgrounds from band constellations such as Mars Hollow, Ten Jinn and (cover band) Gabble Ratchet. "City of the Sun" is their debut album, and was released in the early fall of 2014 through the US label 10t Records.

As far as debut albums goes, "City of the Sun" is an impressive one. Symphonic progressive rock with a core foundation placed in the '70s, nicely blended with a late '90s-oriented US version of the same. Fans of bands like Yes and Starcastle would appear to be a key audience for this album, which sold out its first pressing in record time, and especially those amongst them who also find bands like Spock's Beard to be enjoyable.

Report this review (#1394743)
Posted Monday, April 6, 2015 | Review Permalink
3 stars Heliopolis must be the most retro-est proggy band of them all, bringing back the "happy Yes" sound with its tinkling keyboards, high-register vocals and guitars and uplifting lyrics. Despite the King Crimsonian angry-sounding opening to the first song and some lyrics about deceased friends, this album mostly translates the "I was sad, but then I listened to some prog and now I'm happy" vibe. Songs are generally long and jam-like, slowing down only to happily pick up the pace again. Curiously, because of the brisk pace and the way the vocals and instruments sound I caught myself thinking, while listening to this in my car when I drove for baby supplies, as if someone pushed the fast- forward button on a cassette player while still on play. And then I laughed. This is completely, 100% percent retro, but see how happy this made me?
Report this review (#1531644)
Posted Tuesday, February 23, 2016 | Review Permalink

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