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Symphonic Prog • Switzerland

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Rak biography
It's a challenge to make a bio of Prog bands like RAK from Switzerland, they have a good website full of photos and links to reviews (In German) but absolutely no information about the history of the band, influences of the musicians or anything that could help people to know them better, something that Progheads love to discover, so this bio will be short:

The band was formed in Switzerland in the XXI Century and play a melodic form of Symphonic (At least they have samples) the band is formed by the ex THONK member Mark "RAK" Grassi in the keyboards, Dave Thwaites (aka Zoz) in the vocals, Mike Liechti (Drums), Sam Siegenthaler (Guitar), Tobias Reber (Touch Guitar) and Silvana Trepp in the violin.

Their only release is the conceptual "Lepidoptera" (2004) which is in the borderline between Symphonic and Neo Prog that presents influences from Genesis (4 men era), Marillion, The Flower Kings and Spock's Beard but with a totally different and very modern atmosphere, something I can't deny is that the approach is very original.

The album tells two stories, the first one is the journey of the Monarch Butterfly and the second one is the story of a girl who in order to survive is forced to change, interesting and well developed as the music, very good but not exceptional.

I believe the album is a must have, not only for the quality but because this is a new approach to old Symphonic Prog for a new century, only will ask them to provide more information in their already good website for those of us interested in finding more about them.

Iván Melgar Morey - Perú

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(BL506) The guitar of Stepán Rak - 1989 CD USD $6.44 Buy It Now
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RAK discography

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3.88 | 50 ratings
3.15 | 48 ratings
The Book of Flight

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RAK Reviews

Showing last 10 reviews only
 The Book of Flight by RAK album cover Studio Album, 2012
3.15 | 48 ratings

The Book of Flight
Rak Symphonic Prog

Review by Progulator
Prog Reviewer

2 stars Listening to Book of Flight was one of those experiences where my opinions on the album were constantly evolving and changing. "The Ascent" starts off with a very strong symphonic/neo-prog approach on a large scope, but what starts off as really awesome at some point in the track starts to get a bit redundant and it feels like the composition is not offering anything fresh or at least any moments that wow us. For the next couple of songs it's a lot of the same, but then all of a sudden, about half way through the album the sound dramatically changes; it goes from a symphonic approach to a very modern almost Pain of Salvation kind of sound, but in my opinion, not in a good way. The vocal style feels very forced and the modern pseudo prog-metal elements aren't quite strong enough. That said, the end of the album starts to head in a good direction with "The Descent," featuring cool synth and piano elements, and then finishing off strong with "The Great Machine," which is what I consider to be the most consistent and interesting composition on the album, starting from a basic point that the melodies are memorable and the song combines both symphonic and modern elements in fun ways, primarily the manner in which the organ meets the rhythmic guitars. Overall, Book of Flight is a mixed bag, going from good to monotonous, then to bad but ending great. I'd recommend checking this one out and deciding for yourself; I see it as being an album that could potentially draw polarizing opinions. On a side note, I absolutely loved the artwork, which made me think of a space opera version of some of Miyazaki's steampunk flying ships.
 The Book of Flight by RAK album cover Studio Album, 2012
3.15 | 48 ratings

The Book of Flight
Rak Symphonic Prog

Review by Windhawk
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

3 stars Multinational, Switzerland based outfit RAK is the creative vehicle of Marc Grassi (music) and Dave Thwaites, and was formed back in 2004. The band released their debut album "Lepidoptera" later the same year to critical acclaim, and their live support of it has been described as a successful one. "The Book of Flight" is the band's second full length production, and was released in February 2012.

And it is a fairly compelling sophomore effort they have made themselves, an album that will find a strong appeal amongst followers of symphonic progressive rock. That this is a conceptual creation is usually an advantage among followers of this type of art rock, and any CD that kicks of with a song clocking in at 17 minutes is bound to raise interest in itself. That the following three pieces all clock in at epic length another positive aspect for quite a few I surmise.

But framework aside, the music itself is fairly intriguing too. It's easy to hear that the main composer in the band is the keyboardist, as quite a lot is based around the tangents for this band. Wandering piano motifs and an organ backdrop or more or less mainstay elements throughout, and soaring keyboard solos can be found aplenty. The guitar has more of a supporting role when not soloing, usually delivering harder edged, dark toned and dampened riff constructions that contrast the tangents quite nicely. Steady and often fairly sophisticated rhythms complement the dominating instruments quite nicely throughout. And the different instrumental elements are utilized in an efficient manner. Each part of this conceptual creation have multiple themes, with a nice and logical development to each of them. And they complement each other fairly well to. Sparse sequences that use guitar and piano only are used to good effect, gentle vocals and piano sequences too, but the most common mode explored and the one followers of symphonic progressive rock most likely will appreciate most are majestic, richly layered arrangements dominated by multiple keyboard textures where the guitar adds the darker tones needed for that really grandiose atmosphere to appear.

Well made and well produced, and with some surprisingly well placed effects. The dissonant instrumental textures used on The Deception elevating this particular piece to a higher level a prime example in my opinion at least. But there's one aspect of this production that limits my enjoyment, which is the lead vocals. Dave Thwaites has a fairly uncommon vocal style, at least in my experience, and I suspect that his choice of tonal range and delivery both will be a feature that will, so to say, make or break this disc. Those who enjoy his lead vocals and are generally fond of contemporary symphonic progressive rock will regard this album as a strong one, while those who don't, those sensitive to lead vocals in particular, might find them too be too distracting. I'll readily admit to being in the latter category in this case.

Overall this makes for a fine piece of symphonic progressive rock, and as long as you don't have a problem with the aforementioned vocal style this conceptual creation should be a nice addition to your collection. Especially if you enjoy fairly complex, contemporary sounding music of this kind explored within epic length compositional frameworks.

 The Book of Flight by RAK album cover Studio Album, 2012
3.15 | 48 ratings

The Book of Flight
Rak Symphonic Prog

Review by Conor Fynes
Prog Reviewer

3 stars 'Lepidoptera II: The Book of Flight' - Rak (6/10)

Following up on their critically successful debut 'Lepidoptera', Rak continues their concept piece with another plate of symphonic hard rock. First starting as a highly melodic neo- progressive act, this Swiss band has continued to ferment their ambition into something a little more musically challenging. 'The Book of Flight' is an obvious work of toil. However, despite their obvious promise and talent, Rak's sophomore leaves me with a mixed impression.

Even playing within a genre infamous for its indulgence and complexity, it still takes a certain level of conviction to write an album-long piece of music. While 'The Book of Flight' may be broken into 'volumes', it flows more or less as a continuous piece of music. Even disregarding that, the songwriting is drawn out and longwinded, with four of the album's six tracks leaping over the ten minute mark. Surprisingly, the vast majority of Rak's music is still vocal driven, in spite of the lengths. Instrumentally speaking, Rak's style is on the edgier side of the symphonic, or 'classic' prog rock sound, with crunchier, quasi-metal guitars to balance out the typically lush keyboard and synth playing. The musicianship is strong, with the impressive melodic synths and technically challenging guitar playing making up the highlights. For the most part, the instrumentation is kept underneath the domination of the vocals, although 'The Deception' and 'The Great Machine' both feature some excellent instrumental moments that feel far too short-lived.

For a fairly long album that's largely led by the vocals of Dave Thwaites, his singing becomes quite a hot topic when judging the record. 'The Book of Flight' convinces me of two things concerning Thwaites' vocals. The first is that he is a good singer, with a voice that's well capable of conveying emotion and warmth. The second, and perhaps more important point is that, despite Thwaites' strength for more laid-back vocals, his delivery on 'The Book of Flight' too often sees him attempting to give an 'edgier' performance. In truth, it does not work nearly as well as a singer like Thwaites is clearly capable of. Much like the instrumental passages, Thwaites' more tender moments are excellent and brutally short- lived. Due to Rak's more drawn out and repetitive composition style, a single less-than- successful vocal idea can drag down an entire 'volume' her,e and that is certainly the case with 'The Book of Flight'.

Rak have impressed me, if only mildly, with this second album. Indeed, it does feel as if this band needs to consolidate their sound. While ambitious; the longform format feels largely superfluous relative to the band's style and emphasis on repetition. There is plenty of potential and promise with the band's sound, and 'The Book of Flight' is certainly worth a listen to any fan of a more keyboard-laden prog sound, but there is some room here to improve.

 Lepidoptera  by RAK album cover Studio Album, 2004
3.88 | 50 ratings

Rak Symphonic Prog

Review by apps79
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

3 stars From the ashes of Swiss prog band Thonk comes this act, headlined by ex-Thonk keyboardist Mark Grassi and grounded in the Solothurn area. Dave Thwaites on vocals, drummer Mike Liechti, guitarists Sam Siegenthaler and Tobias Reber completed the original Rak crew.Their debut ''Lepidoptera'' saw the light in 2004 on Circle Records.This was a double-concept release with the first story refering to the migratory journey of a monarch called Butterfly from North America to the South and Mexico and the second one telling about the life journey of a girl who is forced to change to survive and escape a life of fear, abuse and brokenness.

Musically the album goes along the lines of bands like SPOCK'S BEARD, MAGIC PIE or MARS HOLLOW, an effort by the group to come up with a refreshing sound of the 70's Classic Prog style.The musicianship is much driven by the diverse keyboard work of Grassi and the dual strong guitar lines of Siegenthaler/Teber and moves from great and bombastic organ-led Heavy Prog cuts, always with a modern edge, to Neo/Symphonic pyrotechnics with synths and guitar solos on the front.The nice amount of powerful breaks and the overall dynamic performance are sure to satisfy lovers of huge prog sounds.A few electronic beats and smooth ballad-like moments added let the album breathe sufficiently.Of course this is not the most original touch on prog's community, influences by the masters like GENESIS and E.L.P. are more than evident, the singer though has a decent and very expressive voice unlike many bands of the modern prog age.

''Lepidoptera'' belongs among the good albums of the new progressive movement.Without being anything close to a masterwork, it remains a work full of well-executed arrangements and a deep conceptual atmosphere.Any fan of Classic Prog, Neo/Symphonic Prog or Retro-Prog should give Rak a try.

 The Book of Flight by RAK album cover Studio Album, 2012
3.15 | 48 ratings

The Book of Flight
Rak Symphonic Prog

Review by robbob

3 stars From prom. copy.

Well I was expected this new work . Octophera I a beautiful album a true symphonic prog great.

So I start listening this one.

First song :awesome, expected ..symphonic prog rock with strong synths.

Second and Third songs nearly as good as the first.

But then.... A strange change to a quite Pain Of Salvation style..

¿What was the idea? Im not saying POS is a bad prog band...but I was expecting a symphonic prog rock continuing experience.... Where they trying to be more modern ....? Please stay in your beautiful symphonic prog style not innovate...or innovate but in the way your fans will be delighted..please..

Not a bad album ( even less the critic)

3 stars

 Lepidoptera  by RAK album cover Studio Album, 2004
3.88 | 50 ratings

Rak Symphonic Prog

Review by ProgShine
Collaborator Errors & Omissions Team

4 stars Rak is a band forgotten from Switzerland. I said forgotten, but after almost a decade they released in 2012 their second album.

Lepidoptera (2004) is a great Symphonic Prog release weirdly made out of 20 short tracks. We're often used to 5 tracks albums and songs over 15 minutes long. Not here. Even their 'Lepidoptera'song, divided into three parts is short (less than 5 minutes).

A curious fact about the band is that they have a touch guitar player in the lineup (Tobias Reber).

Rak (2004) deserves a good listening. This is a good album forgotten into the digital shelves of our modern times. Go for it.

 Lepidoptera  by RAK album cover Studio Album, 2004
3.88 | 50 ratings

Rak Symphonic Prog

Review by Mellotron Storm
Prog Reviewer

3 stars RAK are a Swiss band who are listed here as Symphonic but there is also a Neo-Prog flavour to their music that can't be ignored. I must admit as a reviewer who does so track by track it's always disappointing to see albums with 20 songs on it like this one (haha). At least many of them blend into one another.Themes are repeated as well throughout this 2004 release. And no I didn't know that girls grew on trees.

"To The Refuge" is led by keyboards and drums early and it's fairly heavy until 2 minutes in when the vocals arrive and it settles down.The tempo will continue to shift on this one. A good start. "Metamorphosis:One" is not nearly as good as the opener but it's okay. "Metamorphosis:Two" features almost spoken vocals as synths,organ and drums help out. "Coming To Terms" picks up as the organ joins in followed by vocals then guitar part way through. "Lepidoptera:Freefall" is a short piece that picks up speed as it goes. "Lepidoptera:Beast" is fairly heavy while "Lepidoptera:Savage" opens with keys before a heavy sound including drums kicks in.

"Dreams Like These" opens with piano then synths and violin come in before a minute.Vocals before 2 1/2 minutes. "The Consequences" opens with the synths swirling as heavy drums join in.Vocals after a minute. "Metamorphosis:Three" opens with piano and cymbals then guitar joins in. "Those Bright Wings" opens with piano before vocals and a beat join in. "Last Words" is fairly laid back with vocals then tasteful guitar and floating organ comes in. "Requiem" continues with the floating organ while female vocal melodies join in.This is good. Piano, vocals and drums before a minute. "Flashback" has some energy with organ and vocals. "Bumblebee Chase" is mellow with piano. "Play Possum" continues with the piano melodies. "Preperation" continues with piano still. "Departure" has these drums, piano and synths that standout. Organ too then vocals arrive after a minute as it settles down. "Migration" opens with piano then vocals. It gets fuller and more passionate. Some nice guitar too. "Release" features piano, organ, vocals and a beat. A calm before 2 1/2 minutes as piano only plays to the end.

A pretty good album overall but it fails to capture my imagination. If your into concept albums and melodic music you might want to check this out.

 Lepidoptera  by RAK album cover Studio Album, 2004
3.88 | 50 ratings

Rak Symphonic Prog

Review by Finnforest
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars Melodic neo/symphonic journey

"Lepidoptera" is the best Marillion album that Marillion never made. Of course I don't mean to so superficially label RAK as clones when they are a fine band on their own accord, yet the point must be made that this album will appeal tremendously to fans of Hogarth-era (and even Fish era) Marillion. In my opinion this album is much more enjoyable than some of the Marillion mediocrity over the years, though not quite to the level of works like "Misplaced Childhood" or "Brave." The work is an emotional and sprawling study of change and the human condition, via the life of a girl as well as in secondary metaphor through the incredible migration of the monarch butterfly.

As Ivan notes in his bio RAK inhabit a strange space between neo-prog and modern symphonic progressive and is something of a missing link between the two. To my ears though it is somewhat closer to neo-prog in the feel of the material. The album is an hour long conceptual work broken into two acts and twenty short tracks, but really it flows along as one complete piece, the different songs dissolving into the next one.

The two main personalities of the basic RAK sound come from the work of composer and keyboardist Marc Grassi and lyricist/vocalist Dave Thwaites. Grassi's work cannot be understated: "Lepidoptera" is a wonderful set of compositions filled with memorable melodies, long peaceful interludes, aggressive bursts of energy, good cohesion and "flow." His work on the keys is solid and diverse, from the lovely shades of background "color" to the beautiful sections of piano (or synth piano?whatever it is!) to the nice array of modern energetic synth. Thwaites has a unique voice that reminds me of Hogarth but it comes with a more energetic, sometimes defiant sounding delivery. I've not seen him sing in video but I'd guess he is a somewhat theatrical performer, or at least physically expressive in his performance. The rest of the band is solid as well, fine drumming, expressive and juicy lead guitar work. It's a combination of music that is very pretty at times and emotionally charged, even frantic at times, as the themes of the songs shift from exploring the lighter and darker sides of the subjects. Soft melodic piano interludes such as "Dreams Like These" counter modern, pulsing synths sounds and distorted guitar chords in the rocking sections. "Metamorphosis:three" is also a cool section with this repeating synth motif over very subtle drumming, rumbling low end, and a lengthy but low-key guitar improvisation. Even the softer, almost new-age feel of the keys and programmed-sounding rhythms of "Those Bright Wings" works beautifully in a relaxing way. A bit of something for everyone in terms of tone and mood.

It's nice the way the album leaves room for "drift", some ideas are clearly obvious, but others seemingly develop from simply being given space, it doesn't feel like they are just trying to get you from one chorus/catchy part to the next as other modern prog seems hell-bent on doing. The many transitions on this album are handled quite skillfully. There is room for more sound treats however. This album credits a violinist but I think a long conceptual work could benefit from more strings or some different instrumentalists or more vocal variation. The production is also less than perfect but certainly respectable.

"Lepidoptera" is quite good in my estimation though well short of a masterpiece, I'd place it over three stars, not quite four, but enough to round up to four. The tri-fold insert features some gorgeous artwork from Mark Wilkinson, on both sides of all panels. Really nice touch. "Lepidoptera" is an album that will please many and I'm really surprised it has slipped below the radar of the site's many Neo-prog fans. Fans of modern day symphonic and crossover prog, things like Moon Safari, Phideaux, and Magic Pie, may also do well to track down this recording. Those into metal and harsh/dissonant prog can safely pass on this.

 Lepidoptera  by RAK album cover Studio Album, 2004
3.88 | 50 ratings

Rak Symphonic Prog

Review by Prog-jester
Prog Reviewer

5 stars Yes, 5 stars.GO AND BUY IT!!! I wish I could change something in this world. I'd give a copy of this album to every ProgHead on this site and beyond, because it is BEAUTIFUL!!!

Terribly underrated concept Masterpiece from Swiss band with weird name RAK. Don't pay much attention to the length of songs: it's a concept story more than an hour long. It's very hard to review this CD: it contains elements of almost every Prog genre - from ELP-like bombastic bits (lots of organ scattered through the album, also a lot of piano and synth sounds...very good keyboardist - he's not the centre of everything, so you can concentrate right on the music without getting angry about his immense ego ;-) ) to MARILLION-like emotional ballads (piano-only "Dream like These"); from PAIN OF SALVATION-like metal (what a singer! Imagine a mixture of FISH and that Geoff from QUEENSRYCHE!) to spacy PORCUPINE TREEish spots; from Scandinavian-like darkness to the light of more Folkish tunes...

The main basis of it all - the Holy MELODY and the blessed EMOTIONS, the very things I adore in Prog! Another recent discovery of mine along with MILLENIUM's "Interdead". This album is recommended TO ALL PROG-FANS!!! Instead of meandering into hyped average bands or devoting yourself to 70s (G)Oldies try this one!!! HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!!! A MUST!!!!!!!!!

Thanks to Ivan_Melgar_M for the artist addition.

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