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The Gourishankar

Eclectic Prog

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The Gourishankar Close Grip album cover
3.75 | 80 ratings | 5 reviews | 18% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 2003

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Gripped By Fear (2:04)
2. Insomnia (7:28)
3. Sweet Earth (8:02)
4. In The Hope (2:17)
5. Wind Of Night (8:59)
6. Autumn Frost (10:57)
7. Close To Death (3:13)

Total time 43:00

Bonus Track on CD releases:
8. For Nobody [Gentle Giant's cover] (4:39)

Line-up / Musicians

- Vlad MJ Whiner / lead vocals
- Alexandr "Nomy" Agranson / guitars, backing vocals
- Doran Usher / keyboards, programming
- Cat Heady / electronics, loops

- Alexander Vethkov / drums (2,3,5,6)
- Nail Maksonov / drums (8)

Releases information

Artwork: Dashiki with Doran Usher

LP Self-released (2003, Russia)

CD MALS ‎- MALS 265 (2007, Russia) Remastered/remixed by "Nomy" w/ a bonus track, new cover
CD Unicorn Digital ‎- UNCR-5050 (2008, Canada) As above

Thanks to prog-jester for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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THE GOURISHANKAR Close Grip ratings distribution

(80 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(18%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(45%)
Good, but non-essential (26%)
Collectors/fans only (10%)
Poor. Only for completionists (1%)

THE GOURISHANKAR Close Grip reviews

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

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Prog-jester
4 stars Close enough!

I remember I added THE GOURISHANKAR almost a year ago, and they were almost completely unknown for most Proggers around. It makes me proud seeing that ‘2nd Hands’ was one of the best- selling CDs from Unicorn in 2007, and I'd like to believe that I somehow related to this all ;). It makes me even more proud to note that I heard final mix of ‘Close Grip’ in December 2007, three months before its official release. Originally band's debut, it was re-mastered/recorded and released both on Unicorn and russian prog MALS label. One can feel that this is really a debut record - a glimpse of immaturity sometimes flashes through the walls of sounds and layers of arrangements, as if the band themselves still unsure where they are moving. Fortunately, it doesn't spoils the whole feeling of the album, it's still strong and promising work, so my 4 stars only because this is NOT the NEW material, hence it's very much related to ‘2nd Hands’. High-quality demos to ‘2nd Hands’ if I dare to regard it this way. I believe guys are working with some new stuff and I wonder what direction they take further. I wish them luck and patience, because popularity is what already expecting on them! Recommended!

Review by UMUR
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This is a re-release of The Gourishankarīs debut album from 2003. Close Grip has been remastered and an extra song has been added. Iīve listened very little to 2nd Hands which is their second and very praised album, but Close Grip sounds really good.

The music is very eclectic even though I was wondering at first why The Gourishankar was in that catagory. I thought this sounded like progressive metal the first time I listened to the album, but after a couple of spins I have a different view on Close Grip. There is definitely a progressive metal edge to their music and in that respect The Gourishankar reminds me of another eclectic prog rock band and thatīs the swedish band A.C.T. I would like to mention two albums that I think The Gourishankar are very influenced by here. Dream Theaterīs Images and Words and Hold Your Fire by Rush. The influence from Rush is mostly due to Vlad MJ Whinerīs voice and the vocal melodies while there are many hints to the early melodic Dream Theater.

Itīs not easy to describe the style played on Close Grip though because even though I feel The Gourishankar are heavily influenced by both Dream Theater and Rush there are also other styles involved. What about a wailing almost avant garde Sax Solo in Insomnia or a the little jazz section in Wind of night. This is truly and eclectic prog rock album. I think there is coherence though and the experiments never get out of hand.

The quality in songwriting are generally very high and songs like Insomnia, Sweet Earth and Wind of Night proves this fully. I do feel The Gourishankar was still a bit imature on this album and I find a song like Autumn Frost a bit incoherent. Gripped By Fear and In the Hope are short instrumental pieces which are not that exciting really. Close to Death is a mood setter and a nice little song but again nothing special. The bonus track is a cover of Gentle Giantīs For Nobody from The Missing Piece. One of the few truly progressive songs from that album. As a big Gentle Giant fan I was excited to see that The Gourishankar had made a cover of For Nobody. Itīs a song I like very much. I think The Gourishankar does the right thing with For Nobody as it is recognizable but ultimately very different from the original. A good choice.

The musicians are outstanding. The drummer, The keyboardist, The Guitarist and the Geddy Lee sounding singer are all very competent musicians. Iīm especially very impressed with the keyboardist Doran Usher who seems like he is very busy with the programming and his melodic synth playing. When music is as keyboard heavy as it is on Close Grip it is important to have a keyboard player like Doran Usher who knows how to make catchy, memorable and melodic music.

The production is good, but the sound on the vocals are a bit weak at times.

This is a very good album from a band I have only recently been introduced to. I think it is highly recommendable and especially fans of late eighties Rush and the early Dream Theater should be able to find listening pleasure here. I know I did. 4 stars for this excellent album is a matter of course.

Review by progrules
4 stars I'm a bit surprised not more reviewers checked out this second (actually first) issue of The Gourishankar. 2nd Hands has 59 ratings right now and this second release only 14. I would say: if the "debut" is so well received by the public go for the other one as well. It was at least what I thought after I had digested 2nd Hands completely.

Because it turned out to be another doubt case for 3 or 4 stars I will do the song by song review once again.

Gripped by Fear is a short opening instrumental with some weird key sounds hardly producing anything melodic but at least it's original. 2,5*.

Insomnia is the first real song and first impression compared to 2nd Hands is that this sounds rockier than previous album. Second thing I notice is the similarity between Vlad's voice and the one of the latter-day Geddy Lee. A thing I didn't notice with the earlier album. What has remained the same is the original sound of the band. Even though they display several music styles within their songs they still have their recognizable sound. Most obvious influence in this track is Rush (besides the already mentioned vocals). 4* for this.

Sweet Earth starts much more quiet in the opening minutes but gets varied along the way. A song of moodswings you might say, another original and unpredictable composition even though this was even more the case on 2nd Hands where you ran from one strange experience into the other. It proves why the band is in the eclectic category. 3,75*.

In the Hope is the second short song on this album and again it's just instrumental with same out of the ordinary keyboardplay. 2,75*.

Wind of Night is a track with piano-like sounding keys, later on accompanied by nice guitar turning jazzy all over sudden then back to mainstream prog. Yes, indeed The Gourishankar is about shifts and swings and I really like this feature of the band. Very complex song this. 4,25*.

Autumn Frost is the longest track of the album. Starts with choir sounds for the first 50 secs, then immediately turning in the same rock style as Insomnia with great guitar after two minutes going on for a while then going back to the choir for half a minute until we are halfway down the song. Here a strange voice takes over. This is The Gourishankar people ! Weird sounds and piano play take over sounding extremely beautiful for over a minute. In the last section of this interesting track keyboards are prominent, followed by the vocals again. A grand finale closes this marvellous mini epic. Along with previous track the highlight of the album. 4,5*.

Close to Death is the third short track, this time with vocals though they are just scat singing. Again a pretty special one without obvious melody. 3*.

For Nobody is another rock song with vocals reminding me of Gentle Giant (cover obviously). And musically there's some resemblance as well. To me a blend of GG and ... The Gourishankar. 3,5*.

That's right, The Gourishankar is maybe the band with the most influences of the various music styles you will ever meet. And yet, to me they are recognizable as they are. After some time you start to get familiar with the shifts and you can clearly detect it as The Gourishankar. For me they have already established themselves as one of the more significant modern progbands. And they have a fan added to their already long list, being yours truly. I don't know what I was thinking when I said it was a doubt between 3 and 4 stars. Ok, maybe it's rounded up but it's four stars 100% deserved. Though slightly less than the "debut"'. Oh, a word about that (though several others already metioned it): chronologically this album Close Grip is actually the debut for these songs were written earlier than those of 2nd Hands. So to keep things badly arranged they switched the releases so to speak.

Review by progaeopteryx
3 stars This is a new group that I hadn't heard of before. I don't have much experience with Russian prog bands and can't really make any comments on how this group compares with other Russian prog bands. One thing I can say is that I see much potential for this band. Reviews of their second album seem to confirm that they have improved, but here on their debut you can tell there is some room for growth and development in their compositions.

This band is in the eclectic prog genre and that seems like a genuine fit after listening to this album, though their sound is decidedly leaning towards neo prog to my ears, with occasional heavier moments and some electronica aspects in places. They remind me of a combination of bands, including Enchant, A.C.T., Marillion, Dream Theater, Rush, and even hints of Gentle Giant.

The compositions seem to jump around quite a bit, as if they are trying to fit every idea into every song. At times it becomes a bit confusing and disjointed, sometimes becoming a serious distraction. The vocals for me are the low point. They are often buried in the mix and what can be heard isn't done very well and is sometimes clouded by the singer's accent. This area needs some work in my opinion. Disjointed songs work for some groups, but not this one and I would recommend developing an idea instead of throwing many together in a patchwork. The group definitely has talent and all members are skilled on their instruments, particularly the guitar and keyboard work.

Three stars for a fairly decent first effort. I will keep their second album on my list as reviews of that one seem to suggest its better than this one and shows much improvement.

Review by siLLy puPPy
COLLABORATOR PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams
4 stars THE GOURISHANKAR is one of those prog bands that doesn't quite fit neatly into categories. This band from the city of Syktyvkar on the European side of Russia straddles the line between classic retro prog and creative experimental touches that place it firmly into the newer camps of progressive rock ingenuity. The band formed in 2002 and has gone through lineup changes over the years but in the beginning the band released an EP titled "Integral Symphony" that featured Igor Rachel on vocals and Paul Gen on bass guitar but they would soon depart leaving the lineup as Vlad MJ Whiner (vocals), Alexander "Nomy" Agranson (guitars, backing vocals), Doran Usher (keyboards) and Cat Heady (electronics and loops). The band used a couple session drummers as well as electronic drum programming.

With the new lineup the band wrote and recorded its first album CLOSE GRIP which came out in 2003 and crafted seven highly original recordings as well as a bonus cover track of Gentle Giant's classic "For Nobody" on several CD releases. The name of the band's name apparently comes from the Himalayan mountain which is spelled Gaurishankar and is the second highest peak of the Rolwaling Himal located in Nepal directly between Katmandu and Mt Everest. While clearly based in modern symphonic prog for a great deal of time, the band also exhibits many moments with sailing neo-prog style guitars, heavy metal power chord bombast and Porcupine Tree styled space rock effects. The band itself describes its music as "The music for mystical dancing in the opium saloons." With moments of downtempo electronica, mystic musical scales from Eastern influences and English lyrics that are translated from classical Russian poetry, it's fair to say that THE GOURISHANKAR is quite an eclectic band.

It's perhaps this eclectic streak that took me a while to warm up to this band as CLOSE GRIP left me cold the first couple of spins. The music is based on highly melodic and happy compositions that often sound like Pendragon, IQ or Arena however the keyboards can get pretty wild and deliver some virtuosic outbursts and the band likes to engage in unexpected hairpin turns as well as some slightly off-kilter time signature changes as well as modulated strange juxtapositions of major and minor keys. At its most energetic the band even generates enough steam to fall into Dream Theater territory with heavy guitar bombast, sizzling keyboard antics and although never quite going all the way into metal territory certainly goes as far as possible without actually crossing the line. Four of the seven tracks are quite lengthy and go into serious prog territory which wending and winding compositional heft that takes the time to expand melodic developments and experimental procedures.

Despite the lyrical themes mined from Russian poetry, there are no indications that this band comes from Eastern Europe as it has totally adopted its stylistic approach to Western bands like Porcupine Tree, Sweden's Moon Safari and English neo-prog. Whiner's vocals often sound right out of the neo-prog playbook with emotive tenderly delivered lyrics but at times actually remind me of Geddy Lee's semi-goofy yelps. One of my favorite tracks is the ethereal "Autumn Frost" that incarnates Orthodox church choral vocals into the intro and select moments in the lengthy 11 minute run. The track journeys through heavy prog sections including some serious prog workouts where the instrumental interplay is off the charts with banging guitars, bantering bass, dramatic drums and cool as cucumber keyboards conspiring to craft a frenzy of proggy bliss. The bantering stops for a trippy vocal and ambient interlude before kicking in again. Even the Gentle Giant cover is quite clever as it faithfully revives the classic and propels it into the 21st century.

It truly took me a while to warm up to THE GOURISHANKAR probably due to the vocal style but once i adapted to this band's approach i'm actually quite in awe of the musical performances. This band made quite a splash with its second album "2nd Hands" and for a short time became one of the most favored up and coming prog bands but i have to say that i'm quite enamored with this first offering. CLOSE GRIP delivers everything a really good 21st prog album should be expected to and then some. There's enough melody here for the purists and enough panhead unorthodoxies to keep those elements of surprise humming along. This probably could be considered a more eclectic style of neo-prog because that's where it exists for the majority of its run but the artistic ingenuity is quite impressive.

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