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Gazpacho - Fireworker CD (album) cover

FIREWORKER

Gazpacho

Crossover Prog


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4 stars Jan Henrik Ohme's vocals sound like a less neurotic, more emotional version of Thom Yorke's own approach to singing, and that's not bad at all. I must say, however, that the most likable (for prog ears in any case) part of the recipe here is the instrumental and choral touches recurring with impecable symphonic effect along both main suites opening and closing the album. There you will undoubtedly spend a great while of progressive grandeur

There's also the already common resource to a Sci-Fi based story articulating the concept behind this, which is not my cup of tea (in that respect, a book is always better), but, being very personal and elaborated, it may appeal to many fans. Otherwise:

02 Hourglass is a rather bland emo-ballad. 03 Fireworker, the eponymous track, is a nice powerful, well crafted and played, progressive song. 04 Antique stands half-way between the previous two.

Finally, lend an ear to the exquisitely towering electric guitar chordal progressions & riffs, reminiscent of Fripp's own sound circa Lark's Tongues and Starless & Bible Black era, you won't regret.

Report this review (#2448397)
Posted Thursday, September 17, 2020 | Review Permalink
4 stars Another fantastic release by Gazpacho. Fireworker gets back to the longer songs with two beauties sandwiching a few shorter tracks. First off, Fireworker sounds like Gazpacho, and features their unique brand of progressive rock with excellent musicianship. unique vocal phrasing, and textured compositions. Space Cowboy starts things off by bringing the atmosphere for almost 20 minutes. A mellow and tranquil track that sets the tempo that this album will be sublime and atmospheric with lush pianos. The next track Hourglass features some unique choir arrangements which act as a nice departure from Jan Henrik Ohme on vocals. Although the album is divided into 5 tracks, it flows like one long themed album. The title track Fireworker and Antique are solid before the album concludes with the 15 minute Sapien. Fireworker is a worthy addition to any Gazpacho collection, and continues a string of excellent albums that begins with Night. They are a special band with a sound that is like no other, and Fireworker is just more of a good thing from a band that can do no wrong.

One final note. A big kudos to Kscope for heading over to Bandcamp and making their catalog available in FLAC. This is highly appreciated as digital stores close down trying to push people into streaming services.

Report this review (#2448714)
Posted Friday, September 18, 2020 | Review Permalink
2 stars It's been a long time coming --I'm giving up on Gazpacho.

I became a huge fan of this band when I heard Night, just before their just as excellent Tick Tock came out. Unfortunately, their last few releases haven't been on par with either Night, Tick Tock or March of Ghosts. This is a shame because this band was so promising back in the noughties.

If you've heard anything they've done since March of Ghosts, there's nothing new for you here. Maybe one song'll stick with you for a day, maybe you'll be impressed by the choir section. Other than that, give this one a pass.

If you haven't heard Gazpacho before, give this one a pass anyway. This won't make you into a fan: it's plodding, lacks highlights and melodies, the structures are muddy and, as syrupy as the man's vocals are, you might even find yourself wishing he would shut up and let the music do the talking. Try Night or Tick Tock instead.

Demon, Molok and Soyuz were all mediocre releases lacking in musical inspiration. I couldn't help but keep a candle lit for these guys given the promise of their previous albums; however, that candle has been extinguished by Fireworker.

Report this review (#2449598)
Posted Monday, September 21, 2020 | Review Permalink
5 stars This album is a return to form by Gazpacho after two somewhat mediocre albums like Molok and Soyuz. It's their best album since Demon, and a step in the right direction for a band with great albums in their discography (Night, Tick Tock, March of Ghosts, Demon). It's almost 20 years for Gazpacho of making splendid music. This album grows on you and is a pleasant twist to their traditional atmospheric sounds, which are in full force in this one. The highlight of the album is "Space Cowboy," which is a masterwork, to put it plainly, while the smaller songs ("Hourglass", "Fireworker", and "Antique") fit greatly with the two longer songs. The final epic is called "Sapien", which a great tranquil song to end what is overall a great album. A solid 4.5 for me.
Report this review (#2451059)
Posted Friday, September 25, 2020 | Review Permalink
5 stars GAZPACHO is one of the groups that has carved out a place for itself in the melodic and atmospheric and symphonic and melancholic spleen, rock art universe! A feat of resisting all the drifts and the young wolves who try to do as well. GAZPACHO is releasing here its 11th album in nearly 20 years, at a gap between baroque art and intense hypnotic variation; this is where they are strongest, not hesitating to embark on beautiful eidolic dreams interspersed with metaphysical questions. GAZPACHO only looks like himself and let's take a closer look.

"Space Cowboy" begins the album with one of the 2 masterpieces and a dreamlike movement juggling between chaotic breaks and phases of a heartbreaking hypnotic sweetness, symphonic breaks with choirs ' la Carl ORFF, the dark and dantesque finale, a title which makes me put it directly in loop, it will be difficult to review the other titles, short, lively, explosive, a progressive continuation as we imagine more of it nowadays and which almost makes you forget the heavy words on the sexual tendencies which inhabit us. "Hourglass" and the 1st of the three triptychs revealing a majestic ballad with piano and violin, touches of notes evoking purity and sweetness, a title allowing to recover from the first title without a doubt. "Firewalker" or the album hit for a playful, pop, bass tune that does its job to highlight Jan's voice; little musical break then return to this celestial voice, fiery, catchy title, at times the voice of Lana DEL REY comes back to me for the charming and mischievous side of slipping between the notes! Good, a title which denotes a little but which is good. "Antique" sets off again on GAZPACHO stamped GAZPACHO, slow and heavy rhythmic, a crescendo on the piano and voice which is only waiting to fly away, a cello comes to move even more, we get closer in fact to the angelic sound with questions about our very existence, the depth goes with the crystalline notes, the base of the depressive oxymoron with a little abyssal clarity in this world of darkness. "Sapien" or extra-sapien for the cosmic flight of this track, minimal and muffled intro, pending tempo, hypnotic rhythmic which concludes with the second great title of this album; a dreamlike title made up of climbs, explosions, climates, atmospheres rather than solos and deluges of notes; sometimes I find there the most beautiful notes of a MUSE in its progressive tendency, sometimes the rhyme of a MARILLION which haunts through this mirror like a soulless ghost.

GAZPACHO struck a big blow by mixing up some of his old albums, some dancing, others melancholy, others still oozing musical and identity questions about our future; a huge album I'm writing. A concept album in 5 parts that you listen to in one go, either with the two long tracks in the end, or as on the CD; be careful not to be controlled remotely by members of the group; also be careful to keep a landmark in your room so as not to leave indefinitely in their musical space where you will no longer be a ghost himself haunted by his personality disorders. GAZPACHO also owes its aura through the voice of Jan, this melancholy 6th instrument which is meant to be soothing and which allows you to plunge into this musical gap between progressive rock, alternative, depressive, melancholic and bewitching: immense, spectacular, poignant.

Report this review (#2451690)
Posted Monday, September 28, 2020 | Review Permalink
5 stars Despite a name that conjures up sunny Andalusian afternoons at the beach, Gazpacho are a creature of cold, dark Scandinavian nights. Hailing from Oslo, the Norwegian sextet has been around for about two decades, their debut album dating back to 2003. Their career truly picked up in 2007 though, with the release of Night, which in prog circles is still regarded as one of the greatest albums of the noughties. After Night, the band released one after another a string of incredibly beautiful albums that received many accolades not only in the prog-rock camp, but also among metalheads ? their gloomy, melancholic and subtly metallic sound appealing to fans of bands like Anathema, Katatonia, Porcupine Tree, and Riverside. Be warned, though: if you're looking for massive headbanging riffs, fast tempos, distorted guitars and screaming vocals, this band isn't for you. Gazpacho will instead appeal to those who lean towards the darker, more atmospheric side of metal, like the bands named above.

Fireworker is Gazpacho's 11th album and is a strong return to form for the band, after a couple of full-lengths (2015's Molok and 2018's Soyuz) that did not quite match up to the fantastic music the band released between 2007 (Night) and 2014 (Demon). For those of you who already know Gazpacho, sonically Fireworker finds the band halfway between the difficult experimentalism of Demon and the melodic accessibility of Tick Tock. If you are new to the band, the album can be described as dark, cinematic art rock that veers into sinister bursts of metallic distortion in the most intense passages. It's music where piano, keyboards and moody bass grooves take center stage and form the backbone of the songs, while the guitars are used only sparsely, but all more effectively, to punctuate the most dramatic moments. There is a great use of dynamics, with the songs shifting between quietest moments with only voice and piano, and loud peaks of crushing guitar distortion. The arrangements are spacious and colorful, thanks to the wide range of sounds and effects employed by Thomas Andersen, Gazpacho's keyboardist and main songwriter, and Mikael Krmer's tasty use of violin and mandolin.

There isn't much traditional song structure in Gazpacho's compositions: there are no verses, bridges or choruses. Instead we are treated with ever-evolving music that never rests for too long in any single place, but keeps changing and moving between calmer section and dramatic crescendos, in a constant flow of melodies and sounds that are propelled forward by singer Jan-Henrik Ohme's extraordinary ability to morph his voice to fit any mood and intensity of the music. Ohme is indeed one of the best assets of the band: his singing is warm, but intensely melancholic. His voice can be compared to a cross between Marillion's Steve Hogarth and Radiohead's Thom Yorke. The vocal lines are poignant and melodic, but never straightforward or predictable, to the point that they may fail to properly sink in the first time you hear them. This is in fact a general characteristic of Gazpacho's music: it is undeniably difficult and requires multiple listens to be appreciated, or even liked. I confess that I did not actually like this album the first half-dozen times that I listened to it. However, as I started growing familiar with the shifting sequence of sections in each song, I became more and more immersed in the album's sound to the point where I found myself completely addicted to it: it's now been in my CD player for about a week straight, and I suspect it will stay there for a while longer!

There's really a lot to like in Fireworker. Call me a nerd, but I find the symmetric, onion-like structure of the album absolutely beautiful. It is comprised of five songs: two long and multi-part songs at the beginning and end, two shorter, piano-based atmospheric tracks in second and penultimate position, and the folksy, uptempo title-track in the middle. I love the sonic similarities between each of the two pairs of songs in the outer layers, and how they bookend the title-track, which is altogether quite different from any of the other four tracks. It gives the album a sense of circularity and closure that perfectly matches its story, where the protagonist embarks in an inner journey to discover the most instinctual, primitive and dangerous part of the self (the "Fireworker").

The two longer tracks are the obvious "prog epics" and also the highlights of the album. "Space Cowboy" clocks in at nearly 20 minutes and is divided in four sections that shift between several moods and styles. We have calmer piano-driven parts, foreboding choral passages (amazingly, the choirs are actually synth effects), an hypnotic middle segment which explodes in one of the heaviest bits of the album, and a dramatic, symphonic finale. The other longer track, "Sapien" is my favorite song on the album. This song is built around a palm-muted, rhythmic guitar pattern that repeats for nearly its entire 15 minutes, giving the song a dream-like, hypnotic quality that brings me back to albums like Night or Tick Tock. Jan-Henrik Ohme delivers some of his most beautiful vocal melodies on this one, including a sinister, Nick Cave-like segment at around the 2.30 mark. Thomas Andersen's emphatic use of the Hammond also shines here, and I absolutely love the eerie vocal samples and sound effects that are scattered through the song and add beautifully to the dark mood of the track.

Overall, Fireworker is an incredibly rewarding album: one of those rare full-lengths that are more than a mere collection of songs, but a true musical journey that takes you to new, adventurous places and that will stay with you long after the needles has left the grooves. However, it is also a difficult album, with no easy points of access and that requires a substantial time investment to be fully appreciated. It is also not an album that follows the conventional metal aesthetics, and so not everyone reading this may enjoy it. But the most prog-leaning metalheads out there, especially those who are looking for a new fix of dark melancholy outside of the traditional musical territories, should definitely check it out!

(Originally written for The Metal Observer)

Report this review (#2455225)
Posted Saturday, October 10, 2020 | Review Permalink
5 stars For nearly 20 years, Norwegian sextet Gazpacho have excelled at creating atmospheric reflections on somewhat thought- provoking or troubling themes. With Fireworker they have outdone themselves, creating a concept which in some ways encompasses all that has come before and pushes the envelope even further.

The band currently consists of Thomas Andersen on keyboards and programming, Jan-Henrik Ohme on vocals, Jon-Arne Vilbo on guitars, Mikael Kr'mer on violin and guitars, Kristian 'Fido' Torp on bass, and Robert R. Johansen on drums.

For Fireworker, the album feels ritualistic, it has these feelings of purity but also threating in nature. There are moments here that are heavier than I've heard from the band since Tick Tock. While the band's typical atmospheric and spacious artiness is in full effect, the band takes a few risks. Their albums often explore intellectual and philosophical topics, coming across as poetic and emotional, typically. The characters in their stories often experience tragedy, inner turmoil, and powerful transitions. This 'Fireworker' character is the deeper side of all us, an instinctual decision-maker that often overrules our senses and logic. And we often try to philosophize why the 'Fireworker's' decisions are okay, why they make sense. Looking at the world today, this is a fascinating way to describe why some people act the way they do. Much of this comes out in a loud-quiet dynamic that feels as if the protagonist is confronting this side of himself. In fact, it feels like something of a purposeful expedition to battle the side of himself that reacts in fear and violence.

Spacecowboy, to put it bluntly, is a work of genius. This song introduces us to the inner battle of the album. The song teases us with a climax a couple of times and ends up giving it to us in grand fashion. Spacecowboy may arguably be one of the best and certainly one of the most ambitious pieces of music Gazpacho have ever created. The next three songs, Hourglass, Fireworker, and Antique are more atmospheric in approach. Hourglass is a slower track with lots of beautiful ambiance and gorgeous violin. The title track has a folk-rock side to it that I really like, and parts of it almost feel like a soundtrack. It gets heavy, especially for Gazpacho. Antique is melodious and nostalgic, like an old familiar friend. The final epic is called Sapien, a title that seems to indicate an acknowledgement of our human nature. This song is quite reserved, except for a few moments where the tide rises with power and force. It is a beautiful track, though: one that eases us into the ending with class and grace. It does such a superb job of building an atmosphere.

Gazpacho has a thoroughly rewarding album here, and I think fans will love it.

Rating-96%

Recommended Tracks: Spacecowboy, Fireworker and Sapien.

Report this review (#2456393)
Posted Thursday, October 15, 2020 | Review Permalink

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