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ESKATON

Zeuhl • France


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Eskaton biography
Founded in Paris, France in 1970 - Disbanded in 1985 - Reformed in 2011

Formed in 1970, the ESKATON KOMMANDKESTRA continued the Zeuhl tradition spearheaded by Christian Vander's MAGMA. In an move towards accessibility they discard the Kobaian lyrics, opting instead for their native French. In 1974 original members Xavier de Raymond (Fender piano), Gerard Konig (drums), Marc Rosenberg (bass guitar), and Alain Blesing (guitar) are joined by Paule Kleynnaert (vocals), Amara Tahir (vocals), Eris Guillaume (keyboards), and Andre Bernardi (guitar) becoming simply ESKATON.

1979 saw the release of their first single "Musique Post Atomique", and the recording of their first album "4 Visions" (which would remain unreleased until 1981). Personnell changes (Alain Blessing, Eric Guillaume and Xavier de Raymond out, Gilles Rozenberg and MALICORNE's violinist Patrick Lemercier in) resulted in shorter songs, tighter arrangements and their next release, 1980's "Ardeur". In 1983 after the addition of synthesizers into their arrangements, and a move away from their more traditional Zeuhl sound, ESKATON recorded their last release "Fiction". In 1984 Gilles Rozenberg left the group, and the remaining members recorded their last album "I Care", which was never released.

Now 20 years later, ESKATON remains one of Zeuhl's brightest moments, and their album "4 Visions" (released on CD in 1995 through Sweeden's Ad Perpetuam Memoriam label) is a masterpiece of the entire genre.

: : : Tyler Chovski, USA : : :

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ESKATON discography


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ESKATON top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.68 | 75 ratings
Ardeur
1980
4.35 | 259 ratings
4 visions
1981
3.98 | 69 ratings
Fiction
1983
3.00 | 2 ratings
So Good
2017

ESKATON Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

ESKATON Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

ESKATON Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

ESKATON Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

2.65 | 16 ratings
Musique Post Atomique
1979
2.75 | 4 ratings
Miroirs
2013

ESKATON Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 4 visions by ESKATON album cover Studio Album, 1981
4.35 | 259 ratings

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4 visions
Eskaton Zeuhl

Review by VianaProghead
Prog Reviewer

5 stars Review Nº 525

As many of we know, the name Zeuhl comes from a word in the Kobaïan language, created by Christian Vander and used by Magma. It's a mix of classical and contemporary music, jazz, heavy metal and Jazz fusion. It has a melancholic and intense tone in the songs, very hypnotic bass lines, ethereal keyboards and metals and complex vocal harmonies.

And as many of we know too, Magma is a French band led by the classical trained drummer Vander. The band is known for the vocals sung in Kobaïan (language created by Vander himself), for the live performances and for its intensely idiosyncratic sound. This unique style has a strong influence on the music scenes in Japan and continental Europe.

Said this, let's talk a bit about Eskaton. Eskaton is a French progressive rock band formed in Paris, France, in 1970, under the name Eskaton Kommandkestra. But, in 1974, they became simply Eskaton. In the 80's, Eskaton recorded three albums that bear a similarity to Magma, no doubt helped by the fact that several of the band's members were also members of Magma, "Ardeur" in 1980, "4 Visions" in 1981 and "Fiction" in 1983. But, despite Eskaton kept the Zeuhl tradition, they dispensed the made-up Kobaïan language. Instead of that, they sung in their native French language.

Besides the use of their native language, there is another significant difference between Magma and Eskaton. Magma writes lengthy epic compositions in a made-up language that told a story. But Eskaton, on the other hand, write songs that were long, yes (all songs on "4 Visions" are roughly ten minutes long), but that are individual pieces, not part of some larger whole. There's no mystique aura that was replaced by a down to earth music. But, that is invigorating too.

So, "4 Visions" is the second studio album of Eskaton released in 1981. The line up on "4 Visions" is Amara Tahir (vocals), Paule Kleynnaert (vocals and synthesizer), Alain Blésing (guitar), Gilles Rozenberg (Fender electric piano and synthesizer), Eric Guillaume (Fender electric piano), André Bernardi (bass guitar) and Gérard Konig (flute and drums).

"4 Visions" is one of the greatest French progressive music's successes. The rhythm section is certainly in the Magma style, circa 1975, yet the melodies and dissonances of Eskaton's music are entirely their own. Vocalists Kleynnaert and Tahir often express themselves in unusual sounding chromatic scales that come closer of the sound to the new music groups like Univers Zero and Art Zoyd. The keyboards also have a distinct Magma influenced style with a conglomerate of influences. The four long tracks are very dynamic and filled with an incredible spiritual intensity that range from ethereal to a harsh angst. All four songs are incredibly intense, only in "Pitié" there are moments of rest, but at the same time it is very sophisticated music, showing the great possibilities of all these musicians, which they skilfully use.

The original tracks are four: "Eskaton", "Attente", "Écoute" and "Pitié". The four tracks have between 8 and 13 minutes. "Eskaton" starts and ends with overwhelming energy with analog synthesizers, Fender Rhodes, female vocals, mind-blowing rhythms, heavy bass and drums. This is what awaits you. "Eskaton" is one of the best compositions of the band, with the recording of the drums with incredible stereo. "Attente" has apocalyptic atmospheres, with a sharp wind at the beginning of the track until the attack of synthesizers, vocals, guitar, bass and drums ready for battle, phrases repeating vocals, dotted by the electric piano. "Écoute" starts with female vocals, without accompaniment, until the guitar enters followed by the overwhelming rhythmic session. A difference from Magma is the use of synthesizers to make electronic effects and noise here and there. But, the best is its growing development with a guitar propulsive solo with a truly annihilating ending. "Pitié" is calm and brings some peace to the album, with an intoxicating kaleidoscopic development of great beauty. This lasts only up to half of the track, when the vocal game starts to intensify, the rhythm gets heavier, the strident noises are noticeable and the strength of the music too. That's Eskaton with the best of Zeuhl.

"Le Cri" is a piece added to the re-edition from 1995 to 2003. It doesn't stand out in terms of level, but differs in sound with a much wider use of a synthesizer. At first it's characterized by a more melancholy feel that is emphasized by nice bass lines and single synthesizer sounds. But with time it gets more intense, getting closer to the music of "4 Visions".

Conclusion: Eskaton was one of the greatest of all French progressive rock bands. Magma references seem incidental in the light of the very powerful music that they created for themselves and their audience. "4 Visions" is one of the few Zeuhl albums that can actually be placed in a row with the greatest achievements of Magma and is among the best progressive rock releases, in general. "4 Visions" is almost the perfect introduction to Zeuhl. It's more accessible than Magma, but still conveys the trademark Zeuhl sound. And for those who might not enjoy the general weirdness of Magma, at least in the beginning, may still appreciate Eskaton, especially "4 Visions". It's highly recommended to both, Zeuhl newcomers and Magma fanatics alike. If you are interested in knowing Zeuhl, this work is the right place to start.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

 Fiction by ESKATON album cover Studio Album, 1983
3.98 | 69 ratings

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Fiction
Eskaton Zeuhl

Review by bartymj

4 stars The repetition of Zeuhl meets 80s King Crimson electronics and synths. While FX is nothing to write home about, the following tracks on the CD release Les Deux Trucs and Automute pretty much blew me away with a wall of synth and Marc Rozenberg's deep vocals. Unlike anything I've heard from Eskaton previously, and from anything filed under Zeuhl for that matter. Simplicius is also a good track, a little more chilled out but with catchy humming vocals from the two ladies. Le Dance de Feux is a very jazzy track but mixed in with the usual Zeuhl vocals, and is a lot more like previous Eskaton albums. La Mort de Tristan switches things up again, for the most part a minimalist ambient/post-rock style atmospheric track mixed in with some sharp electronic noise. In Le Cinema, things return to the catchy and deadpan vocals from the likes of Automute, and a lot of 80s electronic sounds. Another really good catchy track. Plus Et Moins is incredibly funky before finishing on Parenthese, a short calm synth track. Some great stuff here.
 4 visions by ESKATON album cover Studio Album, 1981
4.35 | 259 ratings

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4 visions
Eskaton Zeuhl

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams

4 stars Recorded first but released second, 4 VISIONS has been a zeuhl classic for ESKATON who lurked in the shadows of the underground all throughout the 1970s hot on the heels of fellow Frenchies Magma but didn't find a proper release until 1980 with its second recording turned debut album "Ardeur." I've never read a satisfying explanation as to why 4 VISIONS emerged as a second release despite it having been recorded as far back as 1978-79 but what is known is that all three original ESKATON albums only appeared on cassette and remained so for decades until they finally saw a proper re-release on CD by the Soleil Zeuhl label. Rightfully so 4 VISIONS received a makeover in the cover art department transmogrifying from a rather amateurish New Wave of British Heavy Metal type logo for the moniker to the darkened "Prometheus" style album cover that suits the music much better.

Despite initial appearances form the original cover art though, ESKATON consisted of seasoned veterans in cranking out their own stylistic adaption of the zeuhl that Christian Vander and his army of Kobaians cranked out during the 1970s. ESKATON had actually formed as far back as 1970, the very year Magma released its debut but didn't find an outlet to release its own music until 1980 however with a decade's worth of a head start to hone and tighten their skills. ESKATON emerged as one of the more successful zeuhl bands to follow in Magma's footsteps. While the Magma influences are about as obvious as can possibly be, the rather limiting nature of the zeuhl sub-genre of progressive rock makes it more difficult to deviate from the tight knit instrumental interplay and at least during this era the differences were all about the subtleties.

ESKATON was definitely a much more direct action band than Magma who structured its music more in the vein of classical music particularly the world of Carl Orff and his classic score "Curmina Burana." ESKATON in direct opposition to such sophisticated compositional fortitude opted for a fire setting stampede of zeuhl fueled passages without much room for down time. Particularly impressive is the incessant bass thumping prowess of Alain Blésing who must've had arms of steel to sustain such lengthy bass virtuosity for lengthy periods of time. Of the four tracks that were featured on the original version of 4 VISIONS, only the closing "Pitié" was less than 10 minutes but still almost hit the 9-minute mark. The music fires on all pistons for its incessant 42 minute plus run.

After a bit of light jazzy keyboard tinkling, the opening "Eskaton" wastes no time jumping into high tempo frenzies with blistering bass antics and the dueling contrapuntal vocal dynamics of Paule Kleynnaert and Amara Tahir. Basically an album's worth of Magma at its most climatic moments, ESKATON distinguished itself by remaining Earthbound and employed its native French language instead of some self-constructed lingo however with such frenetic fast playing verbiage it's really impossible to understand anything therefore the vocal parts come off as nonsensical additional instrumentation. Another differentiation from Magma was a heavier use of guitars with no qualms in engaging in raucous guitar solos and avant-prog angularities as heard from of the chamber rock bands like Univers Zero or Art Zoyd. The sense of dynamics is fully implemented with thundering rhythm sections pacified by chilled out atmospheric backdrops.

While ESKATON has become one of the more successful in terms of recognition in the mondo-ziarro world of zeuhl, for my tastes they have always been a bit too close to the parent tree from which their fruit dropped. Despite the idiosyncrasies to separate themselves from Magma, they still end up sounding too similar for my liking especially given the infinitely more creative zeuhl acts who existed simultaneously that found startling new ways to implement the martial rhythms into their own twisted musical world. For many this second release from ESKATON is an exemplary masterpiece but for whatever reason this band just doesn't get me quite as hot and bothered. Despite any personal preferences, there is absolutely no doubt that 4 VISIONS is a powerhouse of musicianship with an energetic display only comparable to the world of heavy metal at the time. With much more diversity than "Ardeur" and a knack for keeping things in the extreme drama zone, 4 VISIONS is indeed an excellent display of zeuhl firing on all pistons.

 Ardeur by ESKATON album cover Studio Album, 1980
3.68 | 75 ratings

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Ardeur
Eskaton Zeuhl

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams

3 stars ESKATON are famous in the zeuhl section of the progressive rock universe for having released its second recorded album ARDEUR before it released its classic first recorded "4 Visions" the following year. This band jumped on the zeuhl bandwagon immediately after Magma unleashed its debut album in 1970 but it would take an entire decade for ESKATON to finally release this second recording ARDEUR as its debut album in 1980. The band originally was formed as ESKATON KOMMANDKESTRA which also showed a clear and direct influence to Magma but the second part was dropped before any albums were released. ARDEUR is the French word for "ardor" which means intensity of emotion, especially a strong desire, enthusiasm or devotion and nobody can refute the claims that ESKATON was indeed an enthusiastic Magma worshipper.

Being the second recorded album, ARDEUR saw the band diminish from eight members to only six with two vocalists, two keyboardists a bassist and a drummer. What set ESKATON apart from the world of Magma was the use of electric guitars although they were clearly not a dominant feature however three guest musicians sat in on a few tracks raising the number up to nine. While the band would become more original as it went along through the 80s underground, in the beginning ESKATON were undeniable disciples of Magma with a nearly identical Jannick Top styled cyclical bass groove churning along at energetic tempos and accompanied by a series of keyboard stabs as well as a stentorian choral section in the classic Stella Vander ballpark with unfortunately little differentiating qualities.

"4 Visions" was recorded as far back as 1978 and the band preceded the release of ARDEUR with the single "Musique Post Atomique" in 1979 which wasn't released on any of the band's initial three albums. ESKATON originally released its early albums on cassette only and it wasn't re-released onto CD until 2003 despite the band having reached some international success as a zeuhl band. If you listen to the ESKATON canon in order of recording it's clear how ARDEUR was a bit of a step down not only in the richness of band members but also in the boldness displayed on "4 Visions" which is deemed a superior release and i won't argue with that at all. The problem with ARDEUR is that through its seven tracks is that they all end up sounding pretty much the same. You got a frenzied bass drive and the exact same template of the "Köhntarkösz" era Magma album which featured a more stripped down approach.

ESKATON seems to be second only to Magma in terms of popularity in the zeuhl world but i have to ask the question why? To my ears they are way too derivative and rarely distinguish themselves at all even on their most creative album "4 Visions." On ARDEUR the band pretty much skirts by with their Magma-by-the-books approach unlike many of the infinitely more creative zeuhl obscurities that existed simultaneously. Yeah ARDEUR is a pleasant journey into the Kobaian martial rhythms with a few guitar sounds as a supplement but when it comes down to it, ESKATON just sounds like a one-trick pony and not even performing a trick that hasn't already been fulfilled throughout the decade prior. Truly one of those albums i just can't get hot and bothered over, ARDEUR is the antithesis of enthusiasm, passion and devotion in my world.

 4 visions by ESKATON album cover Studio Album, 1981
4.35 | 259 ratings

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4 visions
Eskaton Zeuhl

Review by Argentinfonico

5 stars What a masterful way of playing music!

Eskaton is one of the pioneering bands of the Zeuhl scene, but one that took a long time to start releasing studio albums due to their early years being dedicated to experimental live music (they formed in 1970 and their first album was only recorded in 1979!). In the mid 70s, the band broke up for about a year due to government recalls of some of the band members, but then they were easily reinstated and, all the previous years of experience and effort together with the energy to return, bore fruit in the creation of a masterpiece.

4 Visions is an album so wise, sober, deep and delicate at the same time that it is easy to digest for those who have not yet descended many stairs in the Zeuhl world, so it can function as a gateway thanks to its perfection. What makes this album great is that it maintains a very high standard all the time, the consistency is very professional and, no matter how many twists and turns it may take, everything will remain stable and entertaining.

André Bernardi's bass is absolutely protagonist and responsible for the rhythmic work and the changes that may arise. The expert level of this man's bass playing will remove any doubts. When it comes to singing, Paule Kleynnaert and Amara Tahir: voices that were definitely born to do Zeuhl! Their religious and existential singing fits perfectly with the galactic atmosphere that builds as the minutes go by. By the way, the percussion is impeccable! By Gérard Konig (who also plays all the flutes on this album), the listener's brain is moved everywhere in the mental sphere. Brothers Gilles and Marc Rozenberg are in charge of spectacular synthesizers that stand out all the time, and Eric Guillaume handles (also together with Marc) the electric piano only on two out of four tracks, being the least protagonist member.

Is it instrumentally comparable to Magma? Well yes, the influences of their first albums are definitely here. Is it comparable to Magma lyrically? Not at all! The spiritual direction and message of this album is totally disconnected from Christian Vander's story. 4 Visions talks about man standing on Earth as a thinking being, individual and constant antagonist of his struggle, his existential problems and everything that prevents him from growing spiritually. There are no invented stories or invincible superior beings intervening here. "Life is already too short to be careful: the heart of stone is already smiling at us".

The melody has never been so neoclassical and exquisite! 5 stars!

 Ardeur by ESKATON album cover Studio Album, 1980
3.68 | 75 ratings

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Ardeur
Eskaton Zeuhl

Review by bartymj

4 stars Recorded after 4 Visions but released before it, Eskaton's first album release (after the 10 minute EP of 1979) is a little stripped back having lost two key band members.

But, the shorter tracks and fast paced scatty vocals are incredibly catchy. Being slightly more accessible, in French rather than Kobaian, makes Eskaton a good entry point into Zeuhl style. However some of the elements fused into this actually make it more diverse than the likes of Magma in parts.

Ardeur, Couvert De Gloire, and Pierre Et L'ange are all upbeat, uptempo tracks full of the scatty vocals, with excellent range shown by the two vocalists. Attente is still uptempo but a little more sinister sounding, particularly with the introduction of the synths. This, and the song Eskaton are two tracks that appear on 4 Visions in a longer form. Undecided which I like more.

Dagon and Un Certain Passage however, I find a little boring. Dagon is just a bit messy without going anywhere, and Un Certain Passage is a chilled out track that is trying to be 'ethereal' without actually doing so.

On the whole, this album has some fantastic tracks, but as a whole piece, 4 Visions is slightly better. Still squeezes into 4 stars though, as an excellent example of accessible Zeuhl style.

 Musique Post Atomique by ESKATON album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 1979
2.65 | 16 ratings

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Musique Post Atomique
Eskaton Zeuhl

Review by bartymj

2 stars The ten minute debut of Eskaton is very similar in style to the earliest Magma albums. Scatty vocals in French. My French is dreadful, so I've got no idea what they're on about other than the first track being called The Chant of the Earth.

That first track is built around a toe-tapping rhythm that sticks to the same pace throughout, with the vocal scatting and jazzy synth/fender adding depth. The only change comes with a minute to go as the drum rhythm changes and the guitar and bass kick in and synthesised electronic sounds create a UF effect. Sadly it only lasts to close off the track which is a shame as you feel like its about to go somewhere.

IF then opens with atmospheric wind noises, but from there although its a different rhythm its more of the same, scatty nasal sounding vocals, jazzy organ and fender jamming.

Not much to write home about really, but its certainly not poor.

 4 visions by ESKATON album cover Studio Album, 1981
4.35 | 259 ratings

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4 visions
Eskaton Zeuhl

Review by bartymj

5 stars Incredible bass playing. Brilliant drumming. Lots of keys. Dual soprano vocals. Electronic elements that seem way ahead of its time. For Zeuhl that isn't Magma, look no further than this album. Sung in French for extra accessibility, 4 Visions avoids the gradual-build suspense characterised by Magma, for the most part utilising a furious groove from the bass and drums, with abrupt changes in tempo keeping you on your toes. The jazzy vocals blend together seamlessly in and around the rhythm passages. Highlights are the first track, and the crescendo in the middle of track3. Without doubt a 5 star example of the style of Zeuhl.
 Fiction by ESKATON album cover Studio Album, 1983
3.98 | 69 ratings

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Fiction
Eskaton Zeuhl

Review by BrufordFreak
Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars After the near miraculous perfection of 1981's 4 Visions I had been quite hesitant to try this follow up release--this despite its high rating.

My review below follows the song order as present on the 1983 release.

1. "Automute" (4:20) driving, simple rhythm with female vocals through which male vocalist Marc Rozenberg pierces through with straight singing as well as metal-boxed treated dictation. This music has many more influences from outside the Kobaïan world--King Crimson, techno pop, Talking Heads, even Canterbury. Interesting evolution! (8.75/10)

2. "Simplicius" (7:03) opens like a softly jazzed world music song--something Joe Zawinal, Freddy Hubbard, or Micky Hart might pull together. AS the synths and treated electric guitar jump in they create a great sound, but then they back off for a bouncy Fender Rhodes passage over which the two women try to scat a quite intricate melody line in unison. It's cool but doesn't always work. At 4:20 the two separate and launch into some pretty vocalise in two different octaves. The delay-echoed fuzz guitar follows with a nice solo--which is then followed by a nice display of rapid fire bass playing. The song base remains pretty simple and sparse as the instruments and voices take turns soloing each for about 20 seconds before handing off to the next. Still, a great, very engaging song. (13.5/15)

3. "Plus Et Moins" (3:40) opens with a funky beat and female vocal presentation quite similar to Belgian Canterbury artists COS. Even the accompanying second, lower harmonizing female voice sounds a lot like Pascale Son. Catchy song, interesting vocal, and funky sound make for an above average song but it never really does anything extraordinary to make it stand out or make it memorable. Nice drum, bass, and guitar work. (8.25/10)

4. "Parenthese" (2:10) opens with subdued Fender Rhodes before catching speed with bass in tow. The duet is augmented in the third section as the two work beautifully off of one another. (4.5/5)

5. "La Danse Des Feux" (4:03) Led by a Mike Oldfield-like fuzz guitar in the lead, Gilles has strong support from from the drums (as well as bass and keys). This one drives along through a couple of nice movements--mostly in which guitar and bass change leads while keys do a little fill'n'flash. In the fourth minute the Mike Oldfield guitar is even double tracked. (8.75/10)

6. "Le Cinema" (3:30) more Canterbury-like humor with male and female vocal recitations backed with some dated 70s techno-pop keyboard sounds and playing (think Devo or "Rock Lobster"). (9/10)

7. "La Mort De Tristan" (4:20) a soft, sensitive vocal presentation sounding like a respectful funereal event that is interspersed with some synthesizer flourishes and electric piano passages consistent with the theme of respect and honor. (9/10)

8. "Les Deux Trucs" (4:13) 1980s French rap? No, but almost! (8.5/10)

9. "F.X." (7:18) nice jazz fusion with some interesting bass and keyboard play but nothing really very special to make this one stand out. (12/15)

Four stars; a solid contribution to the jazz-rock fusion side of Zeuhl--or just to Jazz-Rock Fusion in and of itself--but nothing more than that.

 4 visions by ESKATON album cover Studio Album, 1981
4.35 | 259 ratings

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4 visions
Eskaton Zeuhl

Review by jayem

5 stars Much closer to five than four ! Maybe it's due to the distance in time that presents the content as somewhat exotic, (music from the past that feels great nowadays), and I don't take the lyrics very seriously. But I do with the music ! Amazing rythmic ingredients, spicy harmonic effects, changes of mood all well balanced, with both power and subtelty. I was made for listening to that masterpiece ! It is also one of the very rare music I rate very high that has female singers. I wonder why there's very little infos on some of the members, as if they did shy away and couldn't contribute to great music again. Thanks to them, this Eskaton 1973-80s was the magic band ! Nowadays the new efforts have their own ways, but it's more about the message and meeting people than the very music.

I've enjoyed the trip several times and can only look forward for the next listening session !

Thanks to ProgLucky for the artist addition. and to Quinino for the last updates

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