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3 stars Solaris - Martian Chronicles II (2014)

Thirty years ago Hungarian eclectic progressive rock band Solaris recorded one of the finest progressive records of the eighties behind the Iron Curtain, Martians Chronicles (1984). The release of the fourth record of the band sees the band combining the 'Nostradamus' and original 'Martian Chronicles' styles in yet another mostly instrumental album - all vocals are without lyrics. The band has a broad pallet of sounds; the standard symphonic progressive rock instrumentation alongside with flute, violins, modern electronic sounds and vocal styles of different origins. One vocal solo even reminds us of Pink Floyd's 'Great Gig in the Sky'. Apparent is also the use of the Hungarian musical influences, which adds to the authenticity of the band its sound. The recording quality is very good, I haven't heard a better production with the major 2014 releases.

The opening tracks of the 'Martian Chronicles' suite are all very well composed and eclectic in nature. The sound is great, the musicianship varied and the integration of the different stylistic elements works fine. After this we get a continuation of style with the two 'Voices of the Past' tracks. Then something strange, yet familiars happens (for frequent listeners of the band that is). The excitement and originality of the opening peaces wears off and a string of increasingly less interesting compositions follows. This has also been the case with the 'Nostradamus' (1999) album and in a lesser way with the debut. The final song 'Alien' is really strange with collections of strange sounds and boring composition. This is a pity, because otherwise this could have been one of the major albums of the year 2014.

Conclusion. Well recorded and well played album by Solaris that will please fans of the symphonic and eclectic genres, but the second half is (yet again) quite weak. Four stars for the first halve, two for the second halve ? which makes up for three.

Report this review (#1318562)
Posted Monday, December 1, 2014 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Prog Specialist
5 stars After 30 years from their debut this album is an Impossibility in an impossible Universe

It's hard enough for a band to maintain the level after an outstanding first release, but it's almost a suicide to attempt doing a sequel from that album after three decades, despite the difficulties implied SOLARIS dared to release Marsbéli Krónikák II and managed to keep the same level.

Of course is an advantage to maintain almost the same lineup and specially two extraordinaire musicians as Robert Erdesz and Attila Kollar, but to recapture the magic of a masterpiece is a test that SOLARIS passed with the highest grade. So after the praises, let's go to the music.

The album starts with Marsbéli Krónikák - 1. Tetel, a pompous and brilliant opener with Robert Erdesz creating a magical atmosphere, enhanced by Attila's aggressive flute and the beautiful choirs. The Eastern Europe folksy sound is perfect to capture the mystery involved in the concept, and the guitar solos by Csaba Bogdan (Who was also present in the original record as a guest) are strong enough to capture the interest of the listener with heavy rock riffs.

Marsbéli Krónikák II - 2-6. Tetel, is a 12 minutes epic where the band returns to their roots with that marvelous Eastern European atmosphere, but this time with the voice of Zsuzsa Ullmann and a magnificent violin passage, which blended with an amazing rhythm section traps the listener in the wizardry of this band. In part two Erdesz adds his keyboards to make it more mystifying if this is possible, but a heavy guitar solo by Csaba Bogdan makes us remember this is Progressive ROCK.

Marsbéli Krónikák - 7. Tetel caught me by surprise, because after a beautiful acoustic guitar and bass intro they leave their typical Hungarian sound for some sort of Space Rock with clear influence of "A Great Gig in the Sky". Not a copy but obviously inspired by the Floyd.

Hangok A Multbol Tetel - 1-2. (Voices from the Past), is the only track where the two parts are clearly different, the first one is basically a collection of sounds created by Erdesz upon an hypnotic melody, but in part 2, the band moves towards electronic music with an acoustic guitar that creates a delicious clash of styles, and to make it more complex, Attilla Kollar plays a killer flute. The finale is so pompous and excessive that made me remember with nostalgia the early years of Symphonic Prog.

A Vilag Nelkulunk (The World Without Us) represents one of the best team efforts by SOLARIS, even though the musicians have the chance to show their dexterity in several passages, it's a beautiful melody that flows gently from start to end with a couple of strong sections, specially provided by Bogdan's aggressive guitar and Kollar's flute in a style that resembles Thijs Van Leer.

In Az Emberbogarak Buszkesege (Pride of Human insect) the band returns to the mood of the original 1984 album with that mystical Hungarian sound with a nice chorus to enhance the effect, but again Bogdan is in charge of some really heavy moments.

Lehetetlen ("Impossible" but translated as "We are Impossibility in an impossible Universe Ray Bradbury") is one of the strongest tracks of the album because of the radical changes from melodic to frenetic, SOLARIS pushes the pedal to the metal and offers us one of the tracks that we progheads love so dearly.

The album is closed by Alien Song, a catchy melody where Erdesz and Kollar feel free to add all the effects that they want crafting a track that works as a tension reliever after a strong album. Some people find it silly, I believe that humor has a place in Prog Rock (Ask Keith Emerson about "The Sheriff" or "Benny the Bouncer") and this track reveals brilliantly and with class this underrated side of music.

To finish this review will only add that I like Marsbéli Krónikák II even more than the band's debut, so I will rate it with 5 solid stars and propose it as the best 2014 album.

Report this review (#1356937)
Posted Thursday, January 29, 2015 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Team
4 stars Solaris have created a beautiful album in "Martian Chronicles II" that warrants attention for those who enjoy symphonic music with a majestic atmosphere along the lines of Pink Floyd, Focus, Camel or early Eloy. The music is uplifting and cinematic with layers of keyboards and scintillating instrumentation with sax, flute and glorious strings. The female vocals at times may remind one of the style on 'The Great Gig in the Sky'.

The atmosphere is dark and brooding on the '2nd movement'. 'The Martian Chronicles II Suite' is an epic in itself that moves from light shades of flute to the darkness of dramatic tension. The flute is absolutely captivating, the violins stir the soul and the guitars have that Mike Oldfield sound. At times the instruments are played with aggression but ever present are the lush keyboards and an overall conceptual treatment as one section segues to the next seamlessly.

Acoustics open the '7th Movement' reminding me of Roger Waters style and then the female vocals enhance the Pink Floyd style as they are kind of wailed over soulfully so it's impossible to not sense an influence from "Dark Side of the Moon". It is very moving and emotionally charged augmented by a blazing guitar solo.

'Voices from the Past/ movement 1st' is melancholy synth and guitar quietly building to 'movement 2nd'. This section has a joyous rhythm and powerful lead guitar soloing.

'The World without us' is gorgeous flute lines over 12 string acoustics. The beauty in the music is incredible. It builds with heavier lead guitar and launches into Ian Anderson style flute chirps then back into a sound reminiscent of Snow Goose by Camel. A mesmerising piece of music.

'Pride of Human insects' is a quirky track with guitar and flute over a layer of synths. The violin is played with enchanting flair and later some female vocal intonations sprinkled over enhance the beauty. A scorching lead break lifts the track joined by strings and a heavy rhythm section. This is music of the highest quality.

'Impossible, 'We are Impossibility in an impossible Universe' Ray Bradbury' has tinkling piano at first until an onslaught of organ and blazing guitar dominates. The wall of sound is saturated by layers of keyboards over a frantic cadence.

'Alien Song' closes the album as whimsical as Focus gets with weird whistles and spacey synth sweeps. A Tardis sound is heard and trade offs between flute and guitar until A Klaxon goes off and it's over. A nice way to end the album that had been so serious up to this point. The tension is broken admirably with this last track.

Overall this is a dynamic album with par excellence musicianship and some memorable melodies. Solaris are a band that demand attention. This is one of the great instrumental albums of 2014. I recommend it to those who enjoy adventurous music with a sci fi edge.

Report this review (#1358638)
Posted Sunday, February 1, 2015 | Review Permalink
5 stars I did quite many reviews last year trying to find out what modern prog was and see if the music could compete with the seventies' prog. I am not finish with last year yet and one album I have longed to hear for a long time is the Hungarian band "Solaris" fourth studio album "Martian Chronicles II" and this week I have finally heard it sometimes and I can't wait to say: listen to it, it gives us a fantastic musical experience that is very unusual nowadays. "Martian Chronicles II" can absolutely compete with the old prog and does it successfully.

The cover shows us a martian landscape in red. I love the cover and its colour and the musicians on the record are Csaba Bogdan(guitars), Robert Erdesz(keyboard), Attila Kollar(flute), Laszlo Gomor(drums), Attila Seres(bass) and Ferenc Raus(drums). Together they have created such a wonderful musical web that I would like to hear it many times more. Every minute it happens something new and lovely and the album also is a great whole which starts, keep you interested and ends with splendor. I don't exaggerate when I tell you how unusual this record is. The instrumental unity could be compared with Harmonium's flowered record, Camel's The Snow Goose or other gems of melodic and symphonic prog rock. I had'nt heard Solaris before I played this record, but of course I will hear all of their music now. Together with Clearlight and Ian Anderson this is 2014's best record.

It is hard to pick favourite songs but the suite "Martian Chronicles II Suite" is of course one of the hightlights(10/10). The music there is so marvelous. You van hear things that reminds you of Oldfield, perhaps Japan and such many other things. "The world without us" too is a totally beautiful song(10/10) and the closer "Alien" where they try to whistle couldn't become better than it is(10/10). Well every song is much more than mediocre and the album is best if the songs are heard in a row, a 45 minute music experience. This is an obvious five star record in my book(4.7). A must hear record!

Report this review (#1378019)
Posted Thursday, March 5, 2015 | Review Permalink

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