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St. Elmo's Fire - Artifacts of Passion CD (album) cover


St. Elmo's Fire

Heavy Prog

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5 stars This album shows the divercity and technical abilities of the same great musicians that came together 20 yr's before. This CD really shows the experiences and growing musicianship of the core group of ST. Elmo. I definitely recommend this cd to those who remember the late 70's and to those who weren't even born yet.
Report this review (#33024)
Posted Thursday, October 7, 2004 | Review Permalink
4 stars I find it hard to believe that this album has been given such short shrift here at Progarchives. Only one short review as of this writing. With all the major fans of King Crimson and early Genesis in attendence at these pages this wonderfull work seems to have slipped under the radar. Granted, I only discovered this band in the last year, but this album has been out for 4 years now and the band has been around since the late '70's. "Artifacts Of Passion" builds on the foundation laid by" Splitting Ions In The Ether" by taking all the strong points of that album up several levels, the Mellotron is bigger, the dynamic range is much wider, the diversity of compositions has been expanded, the instrumentation has become much more eclectic. Probably the biggest difference between this album and Splitting Ions is in the sound quality. This is a well crafted studio project and it shows. Two of the tracks are studio versions of tracks that appeared on Splitting Ions (Balrog & Abduction) and are far superior to the live versions. These two numbers along with the CD opener "The Dead Sea Scrolls" have the band flexing their Krimson muscles very nicely (the Tron in "Dead Sea" is to die for!). "The Nemo Syndrome" is the only track with vocals on the disc and it has a mini epic type of feel to it. The female background vocal gives the tune a really good feeling of space against all the guitars and male vocal. "Esmerelda" and "Erin & The Green Man" find the band in an acoustic mode that is a very refreshing change from the electric-symphonic mode that they usually operate in. "Esmerelda" has a 12th century eastern feel with lots of violin, reed drones, strings & hand drums. Bring on the belly dancers! "Erin" takes on the guise of a celtic pub tune with the violin leading the way.Pass me another pint please. "Lake Effect" is a very big symphonic number with the unusual choice of bagpipes to lead the Tron, bass pedals, guitars and drums. It washes over you like a major snowfall, duh. "North-West Territory" would probably be the track that radio stations would play,if radio stations played this stuff, its kinda short, very bouncy with violin and guitar trading the melody and very likely to get stuck in your head once you hear it a few times. That leaves "Dog Eared Page", the last track. This is really hard to describe. Acoustic guitars, Mellotron, banjo, bass & drums. If you like Led Zeppelin when they get acoustic and creepy you'll like this one. In short, if you like "Larks Toungues In Aspic", "A Trick Of The Tail", "Houses Of The Holy", "Azigza", & "Below The Salt" you'll probably like this album a lot.
Report this review (#35832)
Posted Thursday, June 9, 2005 | Review Permalink
erik neuteboom
4 stars I received this CD as a reviewer for the Dutch progrock paper Background Magazine. A letter from the USA record company was included, it told that they had seen my reviews on Prog Archives and now they were hoping for my support. So from the USA to Holland and back to Canada, what an amazing progrock journey! But it's worth, what an interesting progrock album this is.

St. Elmo's Fire is an USA six-piece band including a wide range of instruments, from guitars (12-string, electric), violins and Mellotron to tabla, djembe and gongs. The first composition starts with a mellow synthesizer sound and Arabian prayers, then a slow rhythm featuring Moog Taurus bass pedals and wonderful Chamberlain (pre-Mellotron) waves with a Morish undertone, GOOSE BUMPS! The second tracks has an up-tempo beat, fiery electric guitar and violin-Mellotron, it all sounds cheerful. Then a piece with twanging acoustic guitars, repetetive guitarwork (echoes from "Discipline"-era Fripp) and weird sounds. The ominous atmosphere gradually becomes more bombastic with a biting electric guitar solo and a dynamic rhythm-section. Most of the other tracks are new recordings (1999) and deliver a folky climate featuring cittern, violin, bagpipe and banjo. At some moments the folky climates are blended with King Crimson inspired prog (biting electric guitar and vilon-Mellotron), very compelling. This is a captivating album with a lot of good musical ideas.


Report this review (#56122)
Posted Sunday, November 13, 2005 | Review Permalink
2 stars This record starts interestingly. The distant islamic singing and echoing sounds let you assume that you are in front of an great musical experiment. A journey to mystical atmospheres and creative progressive music. BUT. The music doesn't progress to anywhere. The longer you get the pices turn out more and more mediocre. Even dull. I find it hard to listen to the record to the end. It is boring. There are moments of great music but they are rare. No wonder all music guide doesn't recognise this band at all.
Report this review (#60553)
Posted Saturday, December 17, 2005 | Review Permalink
3 stars St. Elmo's Fire, a Cleveland-based band existed for about three years from 1979 to 1981, disbanded for 17 years, and then came back into the limelight with their 1998 release "Splitting Ions in the Ether," a live album of a concert recorded in 1980. In 2001, they released their first "studio" album, Artifacts of Passion, which came about through long-distance collaboration of the members of the group.

It has been said in numerous reviews that "Splitting Ions in the Ether" was chiefly inspired by King Crimson (Lizard through Red era). However, Artifacts in Passion shows only slight King Crimson influences and showcases a diverse arrangement of instruments. In addition to the usual electric guitars, bass, drums, and keys, one finds things like a shofar (an ancient horn instrument), violins, djembe, tabla, etc. Artifacts of Passion is made up of both songs the group first developed in the late 1970's to brand new ideas conceived of in the late 1990's.

The album starts off with "The Dead Sea Scrolls," a nice instrumental that has a strong Middle Eastern feel and some really nice Mellotron. This is followed by "North-West Territory," which is average fare, but has some nice electric guitars and violin (although I think the violin should be higher in the mix). "Contortions of the Balrog," inspired by the Tolkien character, is a really nice piece of music with some interesting guitar work reminding me of a mix of Rush and Anekdoten.

The fourth track, "Esmerelda," is nice and has a Middle Eastern/Gypsy kind of feeling to it, mostly from the acoustic guitar and violin. This song loses its attraction after a little bit for me because it goes on for too long and is too repetitive. "The Nemo Syndrome" is the only song on this album with vocals. It's okay and the male vocals are quite good, but I find the female vocals to be very poor. The song is good in places. Otherwise, it seems to lack cohesion and drags on for too long.

"Erin & the Green Man" has a Celtic feel focused on acoustic guitar and violin. Again, this is okay, but I don't find it interesting at all (again, probably too long). "The Abduction of the Adolescents" is basically a long-winded improvisation and would have been better if it was half as long. "Lake Effect" is nice, features bagpipes, but seems too repetitive. Finally, the last track, "Dog-Eared Page," is a nice folk dance instrumental, but twisted with Mellotron backdrops in places. An interesting piece.

Overall, some nice stuff, but tracks four through eight seem to drag on too much and I find I often lose interest during this part of the album. Musically, it is performed quite well. It would have been more interesting if many of the pieces could keep my attention. Good, but not in the least essential, thus three stars.

Report this review (#110861)
Posted Tuesday, February 6, 2007 | Review Permalink

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