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Outer Limits

Symphonic Prog

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Outer Limits Stromatolite album cover
4.08 | 66 ratings | 13 reviews | 23% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 2007

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Cosmic Velocity (4:33)
2. Consensus (6:33)
3. Lullaby (4:34)
4. Algo_Rhythm.C (5:22)
5. Caprice (violin solo) (1:32)
6. Spiral Motion (6:04)
7. Dahlia (6:47)
8. Pangea (5:05)
9. Organ Small Works No. 4 (pipe organ solo) (3:28)
10. Constellation (9:54)

Total Time 53:52

Line-up / Musicians

- Shusei Tsukamoto / keyboards, Mellotron, pipe organ, vocals
- Nobuyuki Sakurai / drums
- Takashi Kawaguchi / violin, viola
- Tadashi Sugimoto / vocals, bass, contrabass, cello, Grand Stick
- Takashi Aramaki / guitar, vocals

Releases information

Saitama Music Broadcasting K.K. SOH-0002
Also released in Musea Records in May 2007

Musea Release bonus track: Lunatic Game (4:54)
Musea Release hasn't: Dahlia (6:47)

Thanks to Tsubasa F for the addition
and to projeKct for the last updates
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Buy OUTER LIMITS Stromatolite Music

OUTER LIMITS Stromatolite ratings distribution

(66 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(23%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(48%)
Good, but non-essential (26%)
Collectors/fans only (3%)
Poor. Only for completionists (0%)

OUTER LIMITS Stromatolite reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by erik neuteboom
4 stars Last week a friend told me that Japanese progrock legend had made a new album, I couldn't believe my ears and I was really delighted, what a pleasant progrock surprise. I am a huge fan of their last studio album The Scene Of Pale Blue (1987), the title track contains one of the most compelling Mellotron drenched parts in progrock history, check it out fellow progheads!

So nearly twenty years later the new album Stromatolite has been released in the almost original line-up, only a new singer. From the very first moment on this CD I am very impressed and enjoyed their distinctive 'Holy Trinity' of sumptuous keyboards, fiery guitar and sparkling violin in an often compelling blend of classical and symphonic prog with hints from King Crimson and UK. Especially the six instrumental compositions sound very alternating and dynamic and carry me away to Prog Heaven like the opener Cosmic Velocity delivering a surprising break with fiery and blistering Fripperian guitar work and flashy synthesizer flights, Algo_Rhythm C with beautiful violin play, bombastic Hammond organ blended with propulsive guitar riffs and a wonderful grand finale with Outer Limits in full splendor, the exciting highlight Spiral Motion featuring a pipe organ that duels with guitar, violin and Stick, wonderful Mellotron waves and several majestic bombastic eruptions with pipe organ and finally the alternating songs Pangea with orchestral keyboards, fiery guitar, sensational synthesizer runs, some wailing violin and a compelling final part, quite classical oriented. This CD also contains two solo works: in Caprice we can listen to a powerful and vivid violin solo and Organ Small Works No. 4 features a strong build up and lots of variation with the pipe organ. Four pieces contain vocals, I prefer the captivating track Constellation with excellent work on violin, keyboards and guitar, the vocal harmonies remind me of Yes. I am only not very pleased with the final song Lunatic Game, despite the great vintage keyboard sound, because to me it sounds a bit too polished, like USA progrock band Glass Hammer. My conclusion: a great comeback album, as if Outer Limits had recently made The Scene Of Pale Blue!


Review by Cesar Inca
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Stromatolite is the name of a primary type of rock, and it's also the name of a definitive 2007's prog masterpice, more specifically, the comeback album of Outer Limits, an exciting work full of diverse nuances and varied elements merged into a unique, cohesive symphonic style. Despite the major line-up change implied by the absence of the band's traditional lead singer Tomoki Ueno (extravagant vocalist, charismatic frontman, proficient supporting keyboardist), the remaining quintet manages to display such an array of musical inventive ideas that, in the end, "Stromatolite" signifies their absolute peak. Hopefully, this will mean that this resurrection phase won't be ephimeral. Bassist Tadashi Sugimoto assumes the lead singer's role and even adds extra duties on stick, cello and contrabass to the fold, in this way increasing the band's sonic sources. The guitarist's robust riffs and Frippian solos are great assets, and so are Tsukamoto's pyrotechnical deliveries of orchestrations, solos and textures on his multiple keyboards, but it is clear that violinist-violist Takashi Kawaguchi stands out as the main protagonist instrumentalist. In terms of style and compositional tendencies, the album's overall vibe may remind us of "The Scene of Pale Blue", regarding the elegant use of disturbing moods, the somber magic in the melodies' arrangements and the fluid bridge built between the versatile keyboards and the solid rhythm section. 'Cosmic Velocity' kicks off the album with an infinite fire that seems to whirl around forever: the spiralling violin lines, the Fripp-meets-RIO guitar phrases, the dissonant neurosis displayed in the keyboard adornments, all of them are brought together in a sonic machinery within a dynamic rhythm basis. The abrupt ending feels totally ordained as the closure of a perpetual climax. What a beginning! And things go on with 'Consensus' - the first sung number -, which brings an aura of mystery and disturbance in a sort of "industrial progressive rock" with a playful hook (as paradoxical as it may sound). The reflective 'Lullaby' sounds like a bittersweet daydream that emerges from the distant past evoked by ghosts in a Rococo palace's garden; Sugimoto's vocal delivery feels like telling us a long kept secret under blankets of sadness. There's nothing more to say about the string section except that it is tremendously wonderful in its magnificence. Things get punchy again (in fact, punchier) with the instrumental 'algo_rhythm.c', which finds the band creating a mixture of Bozzio-era UK and ELP with added Gothic and almost-metallic nuances. 'Caprice', an amazing violin solo piece Baroque-style serves mainly as a prelude to yet another powerful instrumental, 'Spiral Motion'. That's why the last lines of teh violin solo turn into a dissonant mood, in this way opening the door to the oppressively myterious ambiences of 'Spiral Motion'. Once again, the Fripp-like guitar leads are featured here among the fiery violin interventions and between the meanders set by the keyboards' architecture. 'Dahlia' is less frantic in tempo but remaing incissive regarding the elaboration of disturbing ambiences. Even the lead guitar is more featured here than on any other track of the album, despite the fact that the violinist remains the most recurrent soloist. Anyway, the instrument that gets most of my attention is the keyboard, with its cosmic ornaments set in a sinister frame, in this way consistently paving the way for the impending explosive coda that closes down the track in an explosive fashion. As if the band intended to give us some relief from the general oppressive mood that has been developed so far, 'Pangea' displays motifs that trend toward more epic realms, something like a crossroad between action-movie's soundtrack and "Masquerade Overture"-era Pendragon. Anyway, Outer Limits, true to themselves even in their most candorous moments, insert some mysterious nuances in the brief violin-bass dual interlude (more like Abraxas). Track 9 is what its title implies, a chamber-inspired pipe organ piece that bears some relative resemblance to the solemn side of Devil Doll. The last track occupies the album's last 10 minutes - it is 'Constellation', an optimistic progressive chant that bears a candid spirit, not unlike contemporary Pallas. Although there's a definite twist in the musical mood, the closing track's density inherent to its melodic bombast (somewhat dominated by keyboards) oddly enough makes a connection with the previous repertoire. With this plethoric display of colorful musicality "Stromatolite" comes to its climatic end - Outer Limits has made a hell of a comeback.
Review by Prog-jester
3 stars Japanese Prog has always being some kind of mystery for me. Known for its virtuosity and unconventional nature, it's also a hard thing to find. "My ways are strange" (c) GG, but I've found some OUTER LIMITS albums, and the first one I've fully appreciated is "Stromatolite".

First of all, the rating is 3.5 stars. It could have been even higher, but the main problem are song-based tracks. Vocals are not enough enjoyable, and the whole idea of "playing a song" is not suitable for a band like OUTER LIMITS I think. Their best abilities can be shown in instrumental tracks that feature fiery virtuoso violin, thoughtful guitarwork, powerful keyboards and wonderful rhythm-section. When they play instrumentals, the only word that fits is "astounding", and the only bands I can compare them with are KING CRIMSON (73-74), UK, KOSTAREV GROUP and their fellow countrymen INTERPOSE+. But when it comes down to songs...please don't!!! The same problem I have with Russian LITTLE TRAGEDIES band - it's awesome until it's instrumental :) As a person who simply can't enjoy album as "a collection of songs", only like "a solid piece of Art", I had to lower my rating to 3.5 stars. Highly recommended nevertheless!!!

Review by Gatot
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars I knew nothing about this Japanese band unless my prog colleague, Koni, introduced me to this new album by the band (that the name was I thought inspired by IQ song) named as OUTER LIMITS. By instinct, I thought the music must be something like IQ or Pallas, judging from the band name. But I was shocked knowing that the opening track demonstrates a grandiose rock orchestra with tight and excellent composition. I have sensed a flavour of King Crimson and After Crying at first spin of the album. Honestly, it blew me away at first spin and I was willing to re-spin over and over. It's basically pretty simple: I love the combination of classical music or orchestra with rock or progressive music. I remember vividly when I saw a cassette labeled as "Rock Meets Classic" to label the Jon Lord's "Windows" when I was childhood. It was quite hard for me to digest but the more I listened to it, it grew on me steadily.

Having been exposed with the kind of marriage between rock and orchestra, I have found no difficulty at all digesting this album at first experience. The idea is basically quite simple: marrying prog rock with orchestra or string ensemble. This album spells out this clearly through significant use of violin combined with great keyboard work. After the mellow song "Lullaby" the music moves wonderfully to another grandiose composition "Algo Rhythm C" which demonstrates how violin contributes aggressively to the music accompanied by music in the vein of King Crimson and sometimes PFM (Italy). I have to admit that this instrumental track is a masterpiece as it combines a well balanced ups and downs with great maneuvers of violin as well al mellotron which make the song is quite inspiring. I bet those of you who have been liking the early sound of King Crimson and PFM would love to enjoy this song.

"Caprice (Violin solo)"(1:32) reminds me back again to After Crying and it moves wonderfully to "Spiral Motion" (6:04) in medium tempo with full demonstration of violin combined with organ work in vintage style. The soaring organ sounds that appear during breaks accentuate the song really well especially when it is then followed with violin solo which moves steadily from simple solo to complex one augmented by pulsating organ sound. It's so symphonic!

The concluding track "Constellation" (9:54) is probably the best place and time to get musical orgasm due to its tight composition blending colossal orchestration, great violin solo and keyboard solo. The song structure is quite varied in forms as well as textures while each segment of the music delivers excellent textures resulted from musical instruments as well as its sound effects. Well, the melody is actually not that catchy. But that's not the point, because I believe that the band intended to create this song as composition-orientated piece of music instead of melody line.

Overall, I highly recommend this prog rock album with great orchestration to those who can appreciate this kind of music. In fact, I don't see any problem at all for newbie in prog rock to taste this album first, because it's excellent. It deserves a 4.5 star rating. Keep on proggin' ..!

Peace on earth and mercy mild - GW

Review by apps79
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars This album came as a shock to me!Simply beautiful!...Being not too familiar with japanese bands,as the only bands I've heard so far from the japanese progressive rock scene were ARS NOVA and KENSO, I was really curious to listen to a band from this scene...And I was very lucky to have such an experience...

First of all, OUTER LIMITS is one of the most classical influenced bands I've heard...That comes not only because of the arrangements and the symphonic keyboards but mainly due to the heavy and unstoppable use of the violin and viola of Takashi Kawakuchi,he is already one of my progressive rock heroes...All the tracks are just great,balanced between melody and complexity without losing insipiration and prog rock purposes...Stunning!As for the sound the only way I can describe it is the best combination between ARS NOVA,ANGLAGARD and SAGRADO CORACAO DA TERRA with heavy doses of the italian progressive rock romanticism...Hope you can imagine it...or even better hope and wish you can taste someday this beautiful album...4.5 stars heading to 5 and simply highly recommended!...

Review by memowakeman
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars The best 2007 album in my book!!!

It is not easy to find an album that causes an overexciting experience, when you know enough bands and music, it is not easy to be surprised by some old band, there are thousands of awesome albums that you love and listen frequently to, but actually it's hard to find one of those that you really can get obsesed due to it's beauty.

That happened to me in the mid-2007, when i listened to a Japanese band called Outer Limits whose only previous album i knew at the moment was The Scene of Pale Blue, which is a very good album, but that enters just in the album average, it didn't cause me anything extraordinary, then i saw that Outer Limits cameback after almost 20 years!, so that caugh my attention and i decided to get the album just in order to hear what sound would the band offer after so many years.

And god....i was blown away since the first time i listened to it, so i reapeated it again and again and so far i cannot get enough of it, it was a superb comeback from one of the most representative symphonic Japanese Bands, you know that Japanese music is exciting in each form and sound, here they won't let you down. I fell in love with it fastly, that after a few listens i said this would be my no.1 album of 2007, and yes despite there were several great choices, even from bands or artists that i like more and use to listen much more, i kept my love for Stromatolite and gave it my top 2007 album vote.

So enough about personal experience, now the review. Outer Limits released their comeback album in 2007 and named it Stromatolite, it contains 10 songs and more than 50 minutes of fantastic, outstanding symphonic prog.

The album opens with Cosmic Velocity and i think they couldn't have composed a better song for opening their comeback album, since the very first moment where the violin appears, i this is something great let's see the rest, the song actually starts with some nature sounds, like the sea waving and then it turns into a fantastic piece of music, true symphonic prog at it's best, the keyboards are indispensable for the track, but the addition of the violin makes it even better, then there are moments where it just flows perfectly, some kind of give and take between guitars and violin, and the last part is pure bliss, there are some time changes and disctinct structures but at the end all finishes perfect, you will have no option after this, stay here and listen to the whole album

Next track is Consensus and it's the first one with vocals, it brings you a different feeling, after that powerful and beautiful opening, here the direction is different, it has some sense of intrigue and mystery in the song, the first part is in some way repetitive but the second part is again awesome, i am sure that the role of the violin here is the main, because nowadays not all the symph bands use the violin as a primordial ipart of their music, the games and interaction between the violin itself and the other instruments is excellent. by the way the lyrics are in english.

Lullaby follows and well you can imagine by the title what is this song about, the power and exciting moments of the first songs are left back, and here we will listen to a pure and beautiful song, the vocals are not something particularly awesome, but anyway it gives a nice colour to the song, keyboards and guitars in a very soft way are played here, a moment of peace here just before....

....comeback to the furious and exciting sound, with Algo Rhytm C the album returns to it's best style in my opinion, you will listen to great musical structures, and little different passages within the same song, while the powerful led by violin sound is running, suddenly it fades into some melodic passages, but just in order to return to that exciting violin-keyboard oriented song, this track has no vocals, so its a great mix of songs with and without lyrics.

Caprice (violin solo), well if i am talking about the violin a lot, it's because it's role is really important in this album, at the point that the band decided to make a short track which is like the intermission, just for the violin alone, notice the clean way of playing violin and you will understand why is it that important.

Spiral Motion continues immediately after the violin fade out of caprice, this is another instrumental song that will put an smile in your face, despite this is not that powerful as some others, it's mysterious mood creates some questions on yourself, i dont really know if you undestand what i mean, but i create a lot of images and even stories while listening to music, this is perfect for doing that, there are some moments where the guitar let us know that a band like King Crimson was an inspiration, some other moments where the keyboards appear just in the right place and of course the magnificent violin that also may give to the song an avant-gardish style.

Dahlia is another excellent track, the potential beginning compiled with some sudden stops after a minute changes with some softer variations, giving in a certaing way a ballad mood, but then at the half of the song we will hear an splendid guitar solo followed by some lush keyboard sound, all accompanied by an excellent drumming and bass background, then the song returns to the same phase as in the first minute, with the same components. Pretty good for the listener, and to finish the song we will hear some dissonant passage created by all the instruments.

Pangea this song shows a particular style, the symphonic music predominates of course and you will always listen a constan keyboard sound, but this time the mood is a bit happier and with a sensation of being in a challenge, where you are aiming for something and the music develops your faith into it. Is a great instrumental song that in a brief moment has some kind of violin improved sound but it is just minimum.

Organ Small Works No. 4(Pipe organ solo), is the other track dedicated to an instrument, first we had Caprice which was the violin solo moment, now as the title say we have the organ and the keyboard player in particular, it begins with a kind of horror movie theme, then it becomes softer but the obscure mood prevails, at the end we know that for the release of this album, the band itself considers both the violin and the keyboards as the primary components of it.

Sadly, everything has a final, now with Constellation we have reach the end of this great album, being this the longer song and after the previous works, what we can only expect is a very good song, and said and done. The song does have a feeling like the end, i dont know how to describe it, i just feel it, the musical composition is absolutely brilliant, and the vocals have an extra enthusiasm, though they are not outstanding, they give a particular touch to the album, despite the first half which is in some way slow, in the second one we will listen to some solos, violin / guitar / keyboards, which are the instruments that predominates throughout the album, though i should say that there is always a constant and solid playing by the bass man and drummer. The last half of a minute is a bombastic ending.

Now i have finished, i am sure this is one (if not the longest) of the longest reviews i have written for PA, things like this are possible just when you are inspired by the music itself or any other thing. A brilliant album, absolutely recommendable for any prog fan, specially for those symphomaniacs!

My grade, 5 stars! Enjoy it!

Review by Menswear
4 stars When progressive goes really symphonic.

I really dig new bands giving the old school a chance, and Stromatolite is a good example of a modern sound with a 70's symphonical Pink Floyd taste. Outer Limits is aiming at true symphonic grandeur (Conscensus) although mixed with sharper guitars than Wobbler for instance.

The intense (digital) orchestration is versatile, giving some softer moments, although a bit to Disneyesque in the case of Lullaby. But this is merely one song, the rest being pretty upright and hard-edge guitars. One thing I really like is the constant venue of the violin putting a wholethrough classy texture, reminding Kansas or mainly Gentle Giant. But I guess why it's attracting me so much is the fact that it reminds me so much of Curved Air Phantasmagoria. You know, symphonic but a little twisted.

A real winner, mostly instrumental and will satisfy the ELP/ Gentle Giant/ Curved Air fan in you. Somewhat unknow, this album has to be one of your priorities if you're looking for something professional, with variety and orchestration oriented.

Classy, clean and crisp but done with lots of professionalism. A real keeper.

Review by Mellotron Storm
3 stars OUTER LIMITS are a Japanese band who have been around since the eighties.Their previous record before this one was released in 1989, so yes they have reformed and this is a comeback album of sorts. Organ,violin and guitar lead the way and there are vocals (English) on four tracks. And that is my biggest complaint with the music, I just don't like the vocals at all. So I have a bit of a love / hate relationship with this recording. According to the "Planet Mellotron" site the mellotron used here is sampled, unlike their eighties albums where they used the real thing.

"Cosmic Velocity" is a top three track for me. It opens with the sound of waves before it kicks into gear. Great sound ! Violin 1 1/2 minutes in and organ follows. Angular guitar 3 minutes in. "Consensus" has vocals and I just can't get past them to enjoy this one. "Lullaby" has some orchestral sounds with vocals.Yikes ! "Algo-Rythm.C" is another top three tune for me. A good heavy sound with violin and organ. It settles 3 1/2 minutes in. Intense a minute later. "Caprice" features a 1 1/2 minute violin solo. "Spiral Motion" is the other top three song for me. It opens with violin and a beat. Organ replaces violin before a minute as they continue to trade off. Love the angular guitar after 3 minutes with mellotron and drums. Violin is back before 4 minutes, organ follows.

"Pangea" is haunting to start out before it kicks in. An orchestral flavour here. It then settles with violin as contrasts continue. "Organ Small Works No.4" is a pipe organ solo that is fairly gothic. "Constellation" features pulsating organ and some good guitar that comes and goes early. Vocals 2 1/2 minutes in, synths a minute later. "Lunatic Game" opens with synths while the organ to follow sounds incredible. We get both English and Japanese vocals on this one.

Good record that would be even better if it were an all instrumental affair.

Review by DamoXt7942
FORUM & SITE ADMIN GROUP Avant/Cross/Neo/Post Teams
4 stars can I define OUTER LIMITS a technical-symphonic band?!

Okay I think OUTER LIMITS or the album Stromatolite be the golden standards of symphonic progressive rock scene. Indeed I can understand they remind us the sounds by King Crimson or UK because their sounds should be heavier, stricter than of another Japanese band. Their symphony is very steady and well-balanced, without one projecting instrument. Each instrument solo is so terrific, intensive and massive that all may be harmonized with others. And Takeshi Kawaguchi's violin sounds are very graceful and beautiful, without the violence or aggression by David Cross...there's an evident difference from King Crimson, I consider. In Cosmic Velocity he can lead the play by the whole outfit, of course, with all playing steadily. Consensus's greatness, Lullaby's easiness to listen and keep on our mind, or the violin solo in Caprice, the fantastic sounds of organ in Organ Small Works No.4 - they should be like lots of brilliant gems in a treasure box. Till the last surprisingly impressive hugesong Constellation we must hear and dunk their works into our mind with bated breath!

Review by BrufordFreak
COLLABORATOR Heavy Prog & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
4 stars Excellent Neo Prog bordering on symphonic jazz fusion from these Japanese virtuosi. The violin is such a glorious instrument!

1. "Cosmic Velocity" (4:33) I violin lover's dream! A top three song for me--right out of the blocks!(9/10)

2. "Consensus" (6:33) great music, horrible vocal and lyrics! Luckily, it gets better as it gets deeper into the song. (8.25/10)

3. "Lullaby" (4:34) reminds me of "Book of Saturdays" from KC. Not a great vocal but wonderful neo-baroque music throughout. Another top three song. (8.75/10)

4. "Algo_Rhythm.C" (5:22) not as full or finished as the previous songs; more Neo Prog-like. (8/10)

5. "Caprice" (violin solo) (1:32) Wow! (5/5)

6. "Spiral Motion" (6:04) great rondo-like start--makes you hunger for the rest--but then it goes awry with cheesy distorted guitar strums and pipe organ. Once the violin has rejoined, it gets better, but still very flawed--a lot of too-simple play from the support instruments--organ and violin are doing all the work. Bombastic full organ sequence helps; a new motif is established within which a veritable Robert Fripp guitar solo plays. Then violin. Wow! What a difference that second half makes. Still, flawed by the embarrassingly simplistic foundation. (8.25/10)

7. "Dahlia" (6:47) another more aggressive, angular guitar-driven King Crimson-like intro which shifts rather suddenly (and unexpectedly) into a more melodic vocal section. The vocal here works in a David Sylvian kind of way. The instrumental section in the middle is amazing--with Fripp-like guitar and amazing synth and violin soli. Even the a cappella vocal bridge works. Combination Yes and KC. Probably my favorite song on the album. (13.75/15)

8. "Pangea" (5:05) MIKE OLDFIELD-like with its medieval-sounding banked horns--it sounds like some kind of a processional at a castle. Even the incidentals enhance the Oldfield flavor. I love the presence/contributions of the Stick. (8.5/10)

9. "Organ Small Works No. 4" (pipe organ solo) (3:28) good but I've heard better. (TPE & Anna von Hausswolff). (7.5/10)

10. "Constellation" (9:54) opens as if it came from YES' 90125--organ, searing guitar soling, Moog and synth strings banks, and even Steve Howe mimicry. Here, however, the keyboard sounds do feel too aged/outdated. Once again the arrival of the vocals notes a diminishment of the quality of the music. Still, a very competent and ambitious imitation of the prog masters' 1980s mantle--even down to the famous Yes harmony vocals. (16/20)

Total Time 53:52

#7. "Dahlia" is not on all releases of Stromatolite. On some releases the album ends with: "Lunatic Game" (4:48) a very ELP-like song--even down to the Greg Lake-like vocal. (7.75/10)

The music and musicianship throughout this album just feels so effortless, so second nature to these performers.

B/four stars; a mixed bag of products, some stellar and virtuosic, some amazingly simple, unfinished, and contrived. Highly recommended for your own assessments.

Review by FragileKings
4 stars I've been living in Japan for most of the last 16 years and even though I checked out many indie groups when I first arrived here, I never got to know any real prog bands. Japanese pop being what it is, I wasn't sure if there were any prog bands that would truly appeal to me. As it happened, a few months ago I stumbled across a post in the PA forum about Japanese prog bands and Outer Limits were one of the dozens of bands mentioned. I picked them to find on YouTube and gave a listen to some of their music from this album, "Stromatolite". I liked what I heard, but CDs in Japan are typically around $30 and I hesitated to pay that much when there were so many other albums I wanted that were cheaper through the Marketplace. At last I brought this baby home a couple of weeks ago.

This 2007 release was Outer Limits' first album in twenty years. Prior to this, they released a few albums in the 1980's. I don't know anything about their earlier efforts, but this album is quite a piece of work.

First, there are ten tracks of which six are instrumentals. If you are worried about the lyrics you should know that they are all in English. The singing good enough and the accent not nearly as strong as some indie bands I have heard, though the incorrect pronunciation of some words is still typical of many Japanese speakers and the lyrics sometimes sound peculiar. Overall, though, over the passing grade.

The music is a cross between a seventies symphonic prog band with lots of rock guitar and organ or synthesizer and more symphonic groups as the violinist, Takashi Kawaguchi plays some mean strings and there are also horns that emphasis the symphonic approach.

"Cosmic Velocity" is a great opening track immediately showing us the charging energetic rock band side of Outer Limits but with some fiery violin work. There's a mellower section with more violin just past the middle. I can picture this as a movie soundtrack.

"Consensus" is musically a very interesting track with a bold horn section and some orchestral instruments making it sound like a movie soundtrack again. The vocals come in, two vocalists, singing low and almost hypnotically. The effect is good but the lyrics have me with a question mark over my head. For example: "Excuse me, you're too noisy. Excuse me, I hear you everything in mixture. Excuse me, don't understand you. It's all I have to do to comply." Getting past that, however, the music is quite an achievement of music for rock band and orchestra. It had me thinking of The Enid in a way because the rock band seems to be part of the orchestra rather than accompanied by an orchestra.

"Lullaby" is the first disappointment for me. A sappy ballad with lots of violin, I can't get interested in this song until near the end. The lyrics about "my princess" turned me off from the start. The mispronounced "blocken smile" stands out, too. But what is this song about? One line says that she "can't hold things down". Does this princess have the stomach flu?

"Algo_Rhythm. C" rocks out like a piece of Kansas. There's heavy guitar and organ and more blazing violin. There's also a pleasant acoustic passage for guitar and violin that adds a nice surprise. This is followed by "Caprice" which is a classical violin solo. It's good I guess but it's not my taste so I can't say whether this performance is brilliant or not.

"Spiral Motion" is another favourite instrumental track of mine. It's a decent length and sticks to its musical motifs without wandering around. There's more rock guitar and a pipe organ, too. At one point I found myself thinking of Alan Parsons Project. In fact, there seems to be a strong late seventies prog influence on much of the album.

"Dahlia" begins with what sounds like a prog guitar instrumental and then turns into a late seventies prog rock song. There's some nice piano and later synthesizer. The vocals are pretty good and suit the lead vocalist's range. At times I feel it sounds foreign like RPI, though I have only heard three RPI albums so far. There are some surprising intense moments in the music that swiftly turn back to smooth and more emotive music, and then once more jump back to heavy.

"Pangea" has a mysterious beginning but soon the horns are back and once more I'm thinking Alan Parsons Project. Then there's a strange synthesizer solo and the violin is back. Now it sounds like Yezda Urfa meets Premiata Forneria Marconi. Clearly, though, music composition is Outer Limits' forte.

We get a short pipe organ solo which for me is once again nothing outstanding. Then we reach the final track, "Constellation" which gives us everything we've heard so far and more. Heavy guitars, horns, synthesizer, acoustic guitar. This is a 9-minute plus epic song that delivers various musical motifs before the lyrics even come in. It sounds a bit typical of late seventies pop prog but cliches aside, this song is executed remarkably well. The harmony vocals are good and at one point a female guest sings with a soft operatic voice. This has to be the best "song" on the album.

Though you are not likely to find this album at a low price anywhere, I do recommend fans of late seventies symphonic prog to check it out. This is a very solid effort here!

Review by kenethlevine
5 stars After 20 years of silence the energetic leader of Japanese symphonic prog OUTER LIMITS returns with an album that equals or eclipses "Misty Moon" and "Scene of Pale Blue" from the 1980s. For a band that carried the banner in those dark days, it is only fitting that their comeback be just as surprising as every one of its predecessors. The only personnel change is in bassist/vocalist Tadashi Sugimoto who also adds cello.

In their Crimson meets UK and FM mould, OUTER LIMITS manages to be both technical and comforting, something that could rarely be said of those references, or many other bands in general. The few criticisms that tend to be leveled against "Stromatolite" focus on the vocals, but I actually find them quite charming, sung on tune mostly in English, with affirming melodies and exalting breaks on an arsenal of keys, strings and guitars. They only appear on 4 tracks and I think the album is better for it, perhaps otherwise lost in the in the amorphous jumble of rudderless instrumental prog albums.

As is often the case with such unified works, it's unjust to single out a few prodigies from this advanced class but I'm going to go with two instrumentals and one vocal number: the Bolero like "Spiral Motion", the cinematic "Pangea" and the uplifting "Constellation". A listening experience with "Stromatolite" is like a first time rock climbing, sky diving, or perhaps most applicable, caving adventure - you get all the exhilaration but the guides never abandon you. OK one more analogy - "Stromatolite" is a generous deposit that magically appears in your musical bank account when you need it most.

Latest members reviews

3 stars An interesting slab of heavy techical symphonic prog from Japan. Outer Limits is said to be one of the more original symphonic prog bands from Japan. I don't know about that. But I would agree with a claim that they are a very good band. Unfortunate; great musicians and technical abilities d ... (read more)

Report this review (#367524) | Posted by toroddfuglesteg | Wednesday, December 29, 2010 | Review Permanlink

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