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Social Tension - MacBethia CD (album) cover


Social Tension

Symphonic Prog

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3 stars When I first listened to this cd, became to my mind a militar march mixed with a strange sound of video games and the synth playing around in few parts. I thought "Why i don't putt away this cd? Is truly [&*!#]!!...But I decided to concentrate in the music, closing all doors and windows, and the magic get into my head...I began to love Social Tension.... This cd, except for the long spaces with a kind of wind behind, is really amazing. And if you really are passing to japanese floor, i recommend you Ars Nova and Isao Tomita too. Goodbye
Report this review (#38130)
Posted Thursday, June 30, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars Social tension it's a nice group, you start hearing the keyboards and inmediately you start to think..."japanese music itś not bad, not like thet j-pop, I like it", then you going to be transpored to a incredible mix of keyboards and voices (Itś like the japanese loves keyboards). Really its a group that you need time to starting to love, itś not inmediate , but hearing you going to think like me.
Report this review (#50433)
Posted Friday, October 7, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars Social Tension is a Japanese keyboard-dominated trio led by Nobuo "Kodomo" Endoh. If you're into ELP, this is a must have little-known masterpiece. Social Tension's music shows a strong ELP influence with a nice blend of old and new keyboards, including the Hammond organ, Moog, Mellotron, piano, harpsichord, and digital synths. Although the ELP influence is quite obvious, I noticed other styles such as Trespass-era Genesis, East European symph prog, and Italian symph prog.

Macbethia starts off with the almost 13-minute long "Go On My Way." Of all the songs off this album, this one shows the strongest ELP influences. The keyboard playing is fantastic (as good as anything Emerson ever did), the bass is far superior to Lake's playing, and the drummer, though not a Palmer clone, does a great job. The vocals are in Japanese, but the song is primarily an instrumental. This song is amazing with some strong Hammond playing. I note some influences from Trespass-era Genesis and the overall feel is more symphonic than ELP's material. I attribute that to the wonderful, lush soundscapes.

The next three songs are shorter pieces. "Bolero" sounds a lot like East European symph prog. "Inner Vision" has some ELP influences, but has some odd sections with eerie key solos and a sort of spacey feel. Great song. "Wish for the Time" is piano-based, slightly similar to a mix of ELP and Italian symph prog. The piano solo section reminds me of Supertramp.

The final piece is the three-part title track. I can only guess that this was inspired by Shakespeare's Macbeth, but beyond that and my lack of knowledge of Macbeth, plus my inability to read Japanese, I can't suggest anything else. The first part, "Overture," has some amazing keyboard work, and is a good mixing of ELP and East European symph prog influences. The second part, "On the Lake Side," consists of nothing but strange, but beautiful keyboard soundscapes. It kind of has a slight Eloy feel to it. Finally, the third part, also called Macbethia, again is a beautiful work with strong ELP influences and a touch of East European symph prog.

I really enjoyed this. I thought it was better than anything ELP had ever done. It contains no filler, each song a wonderful experience. It is one the best symph prog keyboard performances I have ever heard. I would not call Social Tension a clone, but the influences are quite obvious. Easily five stars and highly recommended, especially to ELP fans and symph prog lovers.

Report this review (#110843)
Posted Tuesday, February 6, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars Social Tension is a fantastic Japanese symphonic prog power trio led be highly skilled keyboards virtuoso Nobuo Endoh. To be honest this band is one of my very favorite ones and Nobuo can be easily compared with such wizards like Keith Emerson, Rick Wakeman, Rick van der Linden or Jurgen Fritz. Unfortunately they were able to record only 2 albums in their short career and Social Tension disbanded just few years before arrival of new wave of Japanese prog-rock bands like Ars Nova and (re-formed) Gerard. It's a pity because these guys' music is very similar to aforementioned bands' style and I suppose that Nobuo had not so small influence on Keiko Kumagai's and Toshio Egawa's future development. Anyway "MacBethia" is definitely the best album of Social Tension, much longer and more focused than "It Reminds Me Of Those Days"(which is also very strong but seems to be recorded in too much of a hurry). As you probably already guessed after reading my introduction, Social Tension's music is a classical influenced, keyboards drenched progressive rock in the vain of ELP or Triumvirat. However you can be mislead by the year of releasing of this album (late 80s), 'cause you maybe expect plastic-sounding gear all over the place here. But don't worry, in fact Nobuo Endoh played some digital synths typical for that era, but I can assure you that his main "weapons of choice" are vintage, retro-keyboards so you can expect real domination of roaring Hammond organs, dazzling Moogs, majestic mellotrons and sparkling acoustic & electric pianos.

Let's proceed to description of the songs:

1. "Go on my way" - "MacBethia" starts off with my favorite track - "Go on my way". It's a truly amazing 13-minutes piece of art for me. Melodies are very catchy & symphonic-influenced, mix of digital, fanfare-like keyboards and Moog high-pitched patterns are splendid, but the most important are of course wild Hammond organ runs here! I can assure you that "Go on my way" is a real organ-fest for all ELP maniacs. Very often Endoh seems to emulate Emerson's style from "Tarkus" suite but it's OK for me, "Tarkus" is a real classic for me so I don't mind a little plagiarism here and there. Except extended organ & synths solos we can also witness few vocal parts. Masahiko Őta's voice is surprisingly beautiful and suits the music perfectly. It's a pity that I don't understand Japanese language at all, but anyway his singing style is much better than many other J-prog vocalists I've listened to so far. All in all: one of very best songs in my prog-rock collection. Similarities to ELP "Tarkus"-era are obvious, but I can also hear Triumvirat, Trace or Refugee influences. I also think that Cairo's keyboard-man Mark Robertson, was influences by Endoh's organ playin' in "Go on my way". P.S. Was it an attempt on The Nice's "Rondo" between 8:22 - 8:31 minute?

2. "Bolero" - impressive Ravel's "Bolero" version with marvelous synth-made orchestration. Dazzling organ & flying Moog crescendo near the end is also really great. It's so much better than extremely dull, repetitive ELP's "Abbaddon's Bolero"! This kind of style reminds me Par Lindh Project's "Night on Bare Mountain", equally well, digital orchestra substitute there.

3. "Inner vision" - splendid and very dark/sinister sounding composition driven by heavy organ loads & rhythmic harpsichord. I just love combination of those two instruments! Reminds me a little obscure British band "Dr. Z". Very good, thrilling staff. Always have goosebumps while listening to it. And enigmatic spacey synths driven middle part is also worth mentioning.

4. "Wish for the Time" - another awesome track but this time a bit more laid-back. Compared with other compositions we can listen to more great vocals by Masahiko Őta (very melancholic and passionate). "Wish for the Time" is a really catchy, jazzy song with memorable piano, harpsichord and non-obstructive synthesizers arrangements. Extended acoustic piano soloing in the middle is in my opinion the best piano fragment I've ever witnessed on prog-rock record. Extremely joyful and entertaining. Much better than Rick Wakeman's pompous staff in my opinion.

5. "MacBethia" - incredibly well-composed 20 minutes long suite loaded with analog keyboards. Nobuo Endoh's organ & synthesizers runs are sometimes furious and explosive, sometimes very soft & melodic, but always equally amazing and pleasant to listen. His majestic mellotron work evoking Genesis or Yes is also great, but my favorite part is the flashy, ultra-speedy Hammond organ solo section near the end of this epic. Very much in the vain of ELP "Karn Evil 9" suite. Mind-blowing! This composition can be described as keyboards-extravaganza bombastic symphonic prog at its best, clearly influenced by ELP, Trace, UK or Triumvirat's music, but it also includes more sophisticated fragments, like Eloy-ish "On the Lake Side" or melancholic vocal moments which I truly love (Masahiko Őta has really good voice, and he even sings some verses in English here!). In general "MacBethia" is equally fantastic epic like ELP "Tarkus", Yes "Close to The Edge" or Genesis "Supper's Ready" for me.

To sum up: Social Tension's album is a must have for keyboards-driven prog maniacs who like long & loud organ solos, endless Moog synthesizer rides, pompous mellotron/string machines outbursts and virtuosic Grand piano runs. They will find all of this and so much more in here. So obviously I recommend it to people who also like such old-school acts like ELP, Trace, Triumvirat, UK, Ekseption, Collegium Musicum, Quill or Le Orme, as well as their more recent successors like Gerard, Ars Nova, Nexus, Little Tragedies, Cairo, Taproban, Covenant, Nuova Era and especially the most melodic formation in this style - Par Lindh Project.

Best tracks: "Go on my way" & "MacBethia".

BTW if you're interested how Social Tension sounded live, I can recommend to you concert compilation of various Japanese prog-rock bands called "Progressive's Battle 1988". You can find 8 minutes long "extract" from "MacBethia" suite there.

5 shining stars from ozzy_tom for Japanese wizards from Social Tension!

Report this review (#430711)
Posted Monday, April 11, 2011 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Undoubtfully the 80's was the most prolific period of Japanese Prog and one of the band's participating in the movement were Social Tension.Formed in the second half of the decade this power trio was led by keyboardist Nobuo Endoh and featured also bassist Masahiko Ota and drummer Suguru Iwasaki.Their debut LP ''Macbethia'' was released in 1989 on Made in Japan Records.

Drawing obvious influences from the ELP and RICK WAKEMAN style of playing, Social Tension delivered grandiose Symphonic Rock based on Classical interludes, keyboard solos and romantic themes.Being the strongest opponent against Italians NUOVA ERA, a band more or less playing in the same style around the time, Social Tension were at least equal talented.''Macbethia'' is an album full of driving organ sounds, dreamy minimoog passages but also plenty of technical sensibilities, all performed by the magic fingers of Endoh, who is strongly supported by the powerful performance of the rhythm section.The vocals are delivered both in Japanese and English and, at least to my ears, the lyrical arrangements sound rather decent compared to the hillarious voices met around the Japanese Prog scene.Next to the complicated themes and virtuosic parts Social Tension were clever enough to throw a few good melodies to soften things a bit.But the hottest point of the album is definitely the symphonic, bombastic and majestic passages full of Endoh's multiple keyboard work.

A very good album of Japanese Symphonic Rock in the vein of ARS NOVA and GERARD with tons of breaks and solos.Strongly recommended to fans of keyboard-based Progressive Rock...3.5 stars.

Report this review (#786623)
Posted Wednesday, July 11, 2012 | Review Permalink

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