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5 stars This very beautiful record will be part of my Top 10 of the best albums released this year. I keep listening to him. Prog rock from France with singing in English and French. 7 compositions for a total duration of 40'29. My favorite song is SHAGREEN. A song inspired by the novel by the famous French author Honor' de Balzac "La peau de chagrin" published in 1831 with a magnificent instrumental intro, a strange and fantastic atmosphere carried by an English song and a very beautiful mini moog solo at the end. All the musicians are very good. A great singer with a very beautiful voice and songs that remain in your memory with his contagious melodies. In my opinion, this album deserves these 5 stars. You shouldn't be disappointed.

Report this review (#2247384)
Posted Saturday, August 31, 2019 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars Here we have another band formed many years ago, 1975 to be exact, who had disbanded, and now have reformed. Over the years, ORION has produced 5 full-length albums, the fifth album released in September of 2019 which is named "Virtual Human" goes under the band's new moniker "ORION 2.0". Maybe this new moniker is to reflect the reforming of the band, or maybe it is to distinguish the band from other bands with the same name. Whatever the case, this symphonic prog band as founded by vocalist and flautist Laurnet Delenne who gives the band a folkish flavor, by keyboardist Janusz Tokarz and Franck Mormosa on guitar.

The band released one album in 1979, and then we didn't hear from them until 2013 and they have loyally released an album every two years since then. None of the original founders are on this album, except for Tokarz, who only shows up as an additional keyboardist on track 5 and who serves as a co-producer. The core band for the 2.0 version of the band are Jerome Nigou on vocals, Pierre-Jean Horville on guitars, Paul Cribaillet on keyboards and piano, Eric Halter on basses, and Cedric Affre on drums. The album consists of 7 tracks and has a total run time of just over 40 minutes.

"Virtual Human" starts off with a good amount of energy and has a nice neo-prog flavor, but when the airy vocals come in, the music takes on a jazz flair, and a fusion sound progresses from this point, with nice, almost funky guitars nnd bass, and lovely piano. An occasional power chord or two remind us that this is still rock, and the music churns into an exciting and rousing guitar led ending. "T.OW.U." continues with the slight jazz/rock sensibility, which again becomes more apparent when the vocals start. The instruments always follow suit when the airy vocals start, but when there are instrumental breaks, things typically get heavier. All in all, it makes for a nice contrast. This time, there is a more obvious leaning towards progressiveness when the music transitions from the vocal to the guitar solo. Again, the sound is clean and quite appealing.

"Run for Life" begins with a long instrumental introduction, and the sound continues in the same vein of a neo-prog sound, but the vocals come in well into the 2nd minute and the music becomes very mellow and pensive. After the vocals, a nice jazz piano-led interlude takes over. At this point, the lyrics have been in English, but "Le Nuage" is written in the band's native French. The music in this case is more straightforward and has a commercial feel to it. The pop/jazz sound reminds me of my days in Italy listening to Pino Daniele. Once again, there is a nice guitar-led instrumental at the end. "Silicon Cirkus" is obviously heavier with an almost southern rock feel to it, until the robotic voice comes in that reads the lyrics in a monotone, and then the last stanza is sung. The robot voice comes back in French after this. Meanwhile, the music plays along with a repeating background until the regular vocals come back again, then the music again takes a darker and more southern-rock feel that mostly comes from the guitar style. By the ending, the music ventures off into other avenues from a heavy interlude, to a jazz-groove infused guitar solo to end it off.

"Silicium" is the longest track at almost 8 minutes, and starts off slow, pensive and a bit ominous. The slow tempo continues, another jazz guitar solo, and then soft and airy vocals again as the tempo stays soft and slow, this time the lyrics are all in French again. The slow jazz fusion is a nice change to the more upbeat tracks as the band takes on their inner George Benson. The track just takes its own slow and sweet time. Very relaxing. The last track is another 7+ minute track called "Shagreen". The rhythm begins immediately more upbeat and a bit more complex. After a while the music takes a more solid and power chord led turn before finally going into jazz fusion mode again as the vocals come in. The melody is more of an untraditional sound, losing the verse, chorus structure and also becoming more complex, though still quite accessible. The track is more of a concept style and is based on a classic French fantasy novel "La peau de chagrin" written by Balzac in 1831.

Overall, this album takes on a surprisingly jazz feel with occasional outbursts of heaviness and progressiveness, but staying on a more accessible feel. The jazzy attitude of the music is a nice path for the band to take, but as a result, doesn't really say much for the Symphonic tag that the band has. Yes there are progressive traits to the music, but they are not strong as the band chooses to stay on a smoother path with the nice jazz style and occasional spurts of progressive meters and riffs to keep it all interesting. After all is said and sung, the album is enjoyable and one that I can say I would come back to from time to time. The sound is mostly bright and slick with great production and sound, and some high quality passages where the musicianship shines through well.

Report this review (#2249356)
Posted Saturday, September 7, 2019 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Mentorship is a beautiful concept that has been around in the artistic world since Eden, seasoned veterans passing on their expertise to a younger generation of artists , often creating an altogether new style albeit with a new found vigour. The French symphonic group Orion was founded back in 1975, disbanding in 1980 and gloriously reforming in 2011, having recently released a few delicious albums , 2017's 'Le Survivant' and most especially the amazing epic 'La Face Visible ' from 2015, which were most appealing. Led by musicians of Polish origin (Janusz Tokarz and Patrick Wyrembski ), they have now positioned themselves as an overseeing influence in terms of production and methodology, giving their young musicians the platform to shine on their own. Virtual Human is a departure from their more symphonic previous catalogue, daringly edging towards a jazzier, more subtle form of prog, certainly more upbeat and crystalline than ever before . While still loaded with crafty chords and complex arrangements, the onus was now more squarely focused on attractive melodies . Lead singer and composer Jerome Nigou certainly stamps his positive style on the tracks , with a mellifluous voice that glides, swoons and caresses with flair. All the other musicians played on the previous opus 'Le Survivant', namely keyboardist Paul Cribaillet , electric guitarist PJ Horville as well as the tight rhythm section of Eric Halter on bass and Cedric Affre on drums. 5 songs are sung in English and 2 in French.

The title track introduces this new climate of shimmer and gleam, expertly infectious groove that grows into a harder edge, propelled by a tight beat, chugging guitar that explodes into frenzied licks and Jerome's suave voice. Modern life with all its gadgets, social media platforms and cellphone /computer interfaces ruling our daily activity. Contrasting the robotic feel with the more organic style they now swear by, Horville adds a more aggressive guitar to the mix that ends the deal.

'T.O.W.U' aims at a proggier covenant, distorted sound snippets churning into a more complex soundstage, contrasting with the lighter vocal-led arrangement, the swooning synth break and some wicked lead guitar soloing that twists and veers like a fly by wire jet fighter.

Keyboardist Cribaillet favours his piano for the next piece 'Run For life' , draping a classical structure onto a more folk tune, aided by a sizzling guitar line , recalling the exploits of a lady athlete who died at too young of an age. The panting arrangement is asymmetrical and choppy on purpose, with only the soft voice remaining to convey the dedication of continuing regardless. The ensuing piano solo is magnificent, steeply rooted in jazz , with a slight Celtic tinge.

'Le Nuage' (the Cloud) is a more direct song that has that swirling guitar feel so unique to PJ Horville, quite a unique style to say the least, as the singer sweetly sings about the effect of an Internet crash and how mankind would cope with such a 'catastrophe' . The lead guitar solo is noteworthy in its simple/complex rhetoric , as its screeches wildly.

'Silicon Cirkus' is inspired by California's fascination for diversity, where sunshine and silicon chips vie for attention and the human/robot conundrum lives supreme , there is a lot going on in terms of musical options: a slide guitar country a la Hotel California, mixed in with some San Francisco Zappaisms, a touch of LA Van Halen feel, and topped off by a blistering 6 string bass solo! Now that is ballsy! Nigou even does some vocalizations that emanates from funk central! Creative to say the least.

The 7 minute ballad 'Silicium' is a slick experiment in progressive creativity, combining breezy George Benson-like guitar phrasings with a high-pitched vocal that hints at quality pop music. Its quality lies in its simplicity and easy listening sheen, sandwiched between the previous wild ride and the upcoming finale which is pure prog.

Another 7 minute epic , ''Shagreen'' (a play on the french word chagrin, which means sorrow) is inspired by an 1831 Balzac novel that offers another take on the classic Faustian choice of granting your wildest wishes at the cost of the Devil owning your soul. An elaborate composition that has moments of intense hypnosis and intensity, a sublime moog solo vying for attention and a satisfying ending to an entertaining , fresh, airy and interesting album.

Orion mark II is quite the discovery, with a bright future ahead. I am still enthralled by ''La Face Visible'' as it delved into subject matter that I hold dear to my heart as it relates directly to who I am and what I have become. It would be therefore unfair to compare it to this new release or any other prog album out there! If you enjoyed Siiilk, another super French band that has some similarities with Orion 2.0 than you will love Virtual Human.

4.5 Imaginary earthlings

Report this review (#2264292)
Posted Saturday, September 28, 2019 | Review Permalink
5 stars I'm a big fan of the Orion band so obviously I bought this last opus as soon as it was released. I must admit that it is completely different from the previous albums but it is magnificent. The only criticism I have to make is that it is not longer. It is composed of 7 tracks (5 songs in English and 2 songs in French) for a total of 40'29 of music. The new singer has a very beautiful voice and all the musicians are excellent. My favorite track on the album is Silicon Cirkus and I find the bass solo amazing. Finally the arrangements are nice and the production exceptional. The global sound made me think of Steely Dan from time to time. In conclusion I recommend this record to all prog-rock / new-prog and prog/jazz fans. Congratulations to Orion 2.0
Report this review (#2264945)
Posted Sunday, September 29, 2019 | Review Permalink
Heavy Prog & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
4 stars A surprisingly refreshing release from a pair of French artists, Patrick Wyrembski and Janusz Tokarz, founders of the prog band, Orion, back in 1975, who'd left the prog scene for over 30 years. The new incarnation of the band has compositional and production input from Patrick and Janusz but a whole cadre of new musicians performing the songs. Whereas I lambasted their previous release, Le survivant, for its poor production and simplistic compositions, this album has definitely seen the band step up into the big leagues. The album is replete with strong melodies, tight and interestingly constructed songs, all indicative of artists who have a mature understanding on what's important in a song. Though stylistically they're still a little scattered, the sound production is very good.

1. "Virtual Human" (5:24) awesome opener sounding like a cross between an old Big Big Train song (The Difference Machine era) or one from 3RDEGREE, The Long Division album. Great singing voice (in English!) and lyrical delivery. (9.5/10)

2. "T.O.W.U." (3:48) mature, poppy, tightly constructed with great melodies, harmonies, instrumentals and vocals. Quite similar to the sound, feel, and style of New Jersey band, 3RDEGREE. Great song! (10/10)

3. "Run For Life" (5:54) piano-based, a little jazz-bluesy, amps up after a few. Nice melodies. Interesting and innovative that the music sparsens for the delicate "jazz" vocal section. (8.75/10)

4. "Le Nuage" (4:31) I hear a lot of NEMO and its guitarist, Jean-Pierre Louveton, in this music. (8/10)

5. "Silicon Cirkus" (6:00) Is this what Jeff "Skunk" Baxter-era STEELY DAN would sound like in the 21st Century? (8/10)

6. "Silicium" (7:45) a late 1970s pop smooth jazz/jazz fusion song in the vein of Hubert Laws, Larry Carlton, Lee Ritenour, Narada Michael Walden, and . Beautiful music with great melodies and harmonies, if a little simplistic. (12.5/15)

7. "Shagreen" (7:01) initially interesting and always pleasant, the song is diminished by its monotony and simplicity over the course of its entire seven minutes. Too bad! (12.5/15)

Total Time 40:29

Despite some great songwriting and delicious melodies, the collection of songs here fail to maintain either the strength of the openers as well as a stylistic consistency to which we can attach an identity.

Four stars; an excellent album of eclectically-inspired poppy progressive rock music.

Report this review (#2266423)
Posted Saturday, October 5, 2019 | Review Permalink
5 stars Virtual Human is a very good album. I didn't know this group and I am pleasantly surprised by this discovery thanks to the Bandcamp site. It is possible on this site ( to listen to the entire album, to see the lyrics and all the pictures of the CD and booklet. It made me want to buy it immediately. The sound is modern and the production is meticulous. The writing and compositions are of a high quality with very addictive melodies from the first listening. My favorite title is Shagreen. I really like Jérôme Nigou's way of singing and the dark atmosphere that emanates from this composition, the style is quite difficult to determine, I would say a kind of Prog jazz-rock. My overall score is 4.5 but to encourage the group to continue along this path I give them 5 stars. A highly recommended record. A very nice surprise, at least for me.

Report this review (#2267060)
Posted Tuesday, October 8, 2019 | Review Permalink
5 stars I discovered this album on the website and it was a very good surprise. It's a little masterpiece on its own, it will be in my Top 10 of 2019. I really like this mix of prog, jazz and soul. The main themes addressed are digital life, the robotization of society, dehumanitaion and the gradual arrival of artificial intelligence with positive and negative sides. All the songs are inspired and the production is very careful. The first 3 tracks: Virtual Human, T.O.W.U. Run for Life and the latest Shagreen are particularly successful and deserve a score of 10/10. I find the Silicium piece interesting and of high quality but in my opinion it is a little too long. I highly recommend this album to all prog rock/jazz-rock fans and more! My overall score is 4.7/5

Report this review (#2277477)
Posted Friday, November 1, 2019 | Review Permalink
2 stars A controversial and controversial album by the group ORION who composed film music more than a progressive album! An album where the titles are linked in a soporific way, where the creation is absent; not a bad disc, but a highly avoidable disc, because it brings nothing new. If you think about it a little more, there are connotations of Mr Eric SERRA's songs inside, like in "Subway". We can like the jazzy side a bit, the soul music side but there it doesn't really stick, it lacks inventiveness. So yes put a 5 star when you are a fan, it's not honest, at least my rating will be objective. I will not criticize the different songs, yes we are more in the variety song, the only positive are the bi-lingual songs! Come on, let's go listen elsewhere.
Report this review (#2310073)
Posted Tuesday, January 28, 2020 | Review Permalink
5 stars I find this album interesting although surprising coming from this band, an original record recorded by great musicians who avoid the eternal codes of progressive rock by bringing freshness with jazz, funk and soul atmospheres. The compositions are very beautiful with luminous refrains. I also like the atmosphere of this album and the sophisticated instrumental passages. My favourite tracks are Virtual Human, Shagreen and Run for Life with a fantastic jazz piano solo. The sound of the record is modern and the production is impeccable. In terms of influences some of the compositions remind me of bands like Steely Dan and Camel. In conclusion Virtual Human is, for me, a very good surprise. If you like progressive rock with jazz atmospheres, this album is for you.
Report this review (#2340372)
Posted Friday, March 6, 2020 | Review Permalink
2 stars I wish I could give this album a higher rating. I seriously do. If I could just ignore all the lyrics to this album and listen to the music alone, it would be at least a solid 4 stars. Even having heard it and read the lyrics, I want to give it a 3 for the excellent instrumental performance. But I cannot in good conscience give this absolute horse sh*t a rating higher than 2 stars, because this album has, without question, the worst lyrics I've ever heard in my entire life. It's worse than "Goodbye 2 Heartbreak" by 93 Punx, which is seriously saying something (if you don't know that song, consider yourself lucky)?but at least Vic Mensa has a message that is, in the end, positive, even if it's worded horrifically.

However, listening to the first song on this album was enough, on its own, to prevent me from giving this album more than 2 stars. I co-DJ a prog rock radio show with a friend of mine on our college's radio station; I, foolishly, didn't pay attention to the lyrics when I put this song on a playlist for one of our shows. Thank GOODNESS we have to pre-record our shows due to COVID, because not only did I immediately stop the song and pick something else to play in its place, but we actually would not have been able to play the song for its use of the word c*nt?and not even a very emphatic or effective use of the word at that.

I wish with my entire heart that Orion 2.0 had just written all of these songs in French, because while I can still understand the French lyrics, they're under-enunciated just enough that I can ignore them relatively easily and pretend like I'm listening to good music. This album has literally two songs that aren't lyrically detestable, and it's the two songs that don't follow the album's theme. The first one is "Run for Life", which is a tribute to the Run for Life Project?the lyrics are still boring but at least they aren't blatantly terrible, and it supports a good cause. The other one is "Shagreen", the closing song on the album, which is inspired by Honoré de Balzac's 1831 novel "La peau de chagrin". Once again, the lyrics aren't necessarily good, persay, but they aren't terrible, and they aren't droning on about the horrors of social media and digital technology. I couldn't decide on just one or two lyrics to quote in this review, because they're all so awful. So, in conclusion, I'd like to share some of the most awful lyrical moments throughout this album, so that I can thoroughly convey why Virtual Human is the worst album from 2019 that I have listened to thus far.

All from the title track "Virtual Human", which as aforementioned, is the worst one: -"Our minds and eyes focused on our phones / ... / Cos we're stream puppets chained by a news feed -"...driven by hypnotic screens / If we don't know what virtual friends have said and done" -"What will we become ? / If we don't twit or snap our face on insta / Is this poetry or real life ? / Such a slump of self-love is not so rife"

From the song "T.O.W.U.": -"Individualism still rules / But now the time has come / For us to stop actin' like fools"

From the song "La Nuage", translated by me: -"The cloud has now exploded, releasing forever / All our data / Our secrets we thought buried are now revealed" -"The network has shut down / Like once was human reason / We will no longer cheat behind our smokescreens / The mirror of illusions has broken / When the cloud no longer wanted our childishness"

From the song "Silicon Cirkus": -"From time to time you'll be given a piece of drug / Cause someone's liked or commented a picture" -"We hack your minds / We log you in to make you pay / Thanks for keepin' your brains wide shut" -"You're gonna waste your time on your screens / You need your digital dose by any means"

From the song "Silicium", translated by me: -"This morning it's decided / I take the train of modernity / Towards a mindless exile / I run from reality" -"I speak through a voiceless screen / Of my sluggish ego / I wanted so much to change my game / In silicon valley"

And lastly, I leave you with the single worst lyric I've ever heard, once again from the title track: -"Serendipity is just a tale / Are we c*nt users on our computers ?"

Report this review (#2475800)
Posted Saturday, November 14, 2020 | Review Permalink

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