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ETHOS

Symphonic Prog • United States


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Ethos biography
Founded in Fort Wayne, USA in 1973 - Disbanded in 1978

Here is an excellent example of the US Progressive rock scene of the Seventies: having both technique and excellence, imagination & talent. They seemed to be influenced by a variety of styles. Their sound was a little folky at times, poppy at others, even a little jazzy at times, loosely in the shadow of KANSAS, YES, GENESIS, early KING CRIMSON and others, with lots of vocals everywhere.

The eponymous album was recorded in 1975, "Ardour" the following year, while "Relics" is a compilation of tracks originally destined for the band's third album. The album "Ardour" is excellent. Cool cover too.

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ETHOS discography


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

3.89 | 75 ratings
Ardour
1976
4.04 | 54 ratings
Open Up
1977

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

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

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

3.11 | 18 ratings
Relics 1973-1975
1975

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

ETHOS Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Ardour by ETHOS album cover Studio Album, 1976
3.89 | 75 ratings

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Ardour
Ethos Symphonic Prog

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

4 stars ETHOS was one of the many late-to-the-party prog bands that emerged in the US after the European scene had peaked but somehow this band that started in Fort Wayne, Indiana crafted a clever tightrope act that balanced catchy melodic hooks with stellar virtuosic prog workouts and out of the box unorthodoxies with some of the left field hairpin turns. This band was not only amazingly clever but delivered excellent tight-knit instrumental interplay that included not just one but two adept keyboardists which caught the attention of Capital Records and despite the band emerging right at the birth pangs of punk and disco dethroning the prog gods, ETHOS still managed to sell around 50,000 copies of this debut album ARDOUR.

As was one of the many midwestern bands that was absolutely smitten with English bands like Yes, Genesis, Gentle Giant, King Crimson and Van Der Graaf Generator, ETHOS staunchly adhered to the fantasy prog that dominated the early 70s with chimerical cover art, sci-fi themes about Atlantis, space, ancient history and other thought provoking esoteric themes that somehow went out of fashion however it must be remembered that a few talented symphonic prog bands from the US were bucking the trend while swimming upstream with the prime example being the other Midwestern band Kansas releasing its multi-platinum album "Leftoverture" the same year as ARDOUR.

While its origins date back to the 60s the band that became ETHOS was formed in 1973 and released two albums, ARDOUR (1976) and "Open Up" (1977) before disbanding the following year in 1978. Unlike similarly minded bands like Starcastle, ETHOS exhibited a much more creative reinterpretation of its influences, some of which were startlingly unique with influences not only from the already mentioned bigwigs of prog but also showed a keen sense of crossover dynamism in the vein of Manfred Mann's Earth Band. The band entered the famous Hit Factory studio in New York City in 1975 to record ARDOUR and crafted eight tracks into true prog excellence. With instantly addictive melodic hooks in the vein of early 70s Yes led by the twin organ, Moog and mellotron attacks of Duncan Hammond and Michael Ponczek, ETHOS had plenty to work with from the getgo.

Another aspect that puts ETHOS over the top in the originality department is the outstanding variety of percussion sounds of Mark Richards who not only cranks out delicious drum rolls delicately spruced up with jazz and technical precision but also dished out bell sounds, glockenspiels and other tricks and trinkets to take the sounds into Neil Pert territory and while Wils Sharpe's guitar role is primarily limited to rhythmic accompaniment, when the band allows him off the leash he fires up some sizzling guitar riffs and soloing especially on "Atlanteans." While rooted in sing-songy hippie-dippy lyricism which can indeed enter the cheese zone from time to time (i mean just check out "Space Brothers" an anthem of power to the people space style!), the vocal harmonies themselves are actually quite beautifully done as are all the special effects that find creative time signature deviations and off the wall synth note bends and even a moment when the music drops and only beyond trippy electronic effects buzz around like a swarm of doped up bumblebees.

ARDOUR is nothing less than extremely consistent in its ability to craft solid classy prog composiitons and add totally off-kilter deviations that literally were quite forward thinking however once again the lyrics could have perhaps been a tad more cryptic as to allow the imagine to ponder the meaning of it all rather than engage in a galactic kumbaya moment. While the Yes influenced aspects often take a back seat to the more pastoral Genesis moments, when those crazy frenzied odd meters reminiscent of "Relayer" crank it out, they are no less than magical however they are used sparingly so the vocal oriented sections with full symphonic pomp are allowed to dominate. Still though there are enough of those moments to keep this album crackling with an electricity much in the vein of fellow USA-ans Yezdra Ufa.

While not exactly a true obscurity due to the fact ETHOS had its brief day in the sun albeit with slight overcast, ARDOUR was a surprising minor hit for a prog album given the year it was released. This may have been due to a delayed American response to the prog scene but i would bet that it was the high quality of the album that just hooks you in from the start that was the magic bullet. Had this been released five years earlier it possibly could've qualified as a true classic of the prog era but getting back to the vocals and lyrical content, some of the moments do reek a little too much AOR cheese but overall the album more than makes up for all that and personally i don't give a rat's ass about lyrics anyway so they could be lamented the grime on the kitchen sponge for all i care as long as the music hits all the g-spots and in that department it does quite competently. Overall, ARDOUR has enough flaws that this cannot be equated to the true masterpieces of the era but as a second rate prog album this is one that everyone should experience if for no other reason it's unique approach to crafting a beautiful symphonic prog album.

 Ardour by ETHOS album cover Studio Album, 1976
3.89 | 75 ratings

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Ardour
Ethos Symphonic Prog

Review by markmuri

4 stars Wow! I had to read each/every critical review of one of my absolutely favorite albums of all time.

I 'get' the purist analysis against the British progressive rock bands of the time. Truly I do.

But I grew up in Fort Wayne, Indiana at that time. I had no idea (until afterwards) that they were a 'local' band. I was just a dumb farm boy whose imagination was opened up by listening to this cutting-edge album in my friend's basement in 1977.

It truly opened my eyes to the whole world and I - have since - accomplished so many, many great things. I credit Ethos, CSN, ELP, Beatles (of course) and the wonderful mix of awesome 70's/80's rock artists for everything in my life.

I'm not in a position to bless this work for any contribution to the world - but it surely affected mine in a tremendous way.

Do you own the LP? :-) I do and considerate a treasure!

 Ardour by ETHOS album cover Studio Album, 1976
3.89 | 75 ratings

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Ardour
Ethos Symphonic Prog

Review by Tarcisio Moura
Prog Reviewer

3 stars 3.5 stars, really. My good friend Erik Neuteboom sent me thie debut CD of this obscure american band that I had never heard of. Although Ethos was based in Fort Wayne, Indiana, they sound like an european group. Unlike other USA outfits like Kansas, that has always included almost as much american influences as the ones from the continent (especially from England), Ethos seems to come from anywhere BUT America. Thats not a bad thing. Like so many artists of the time those yankees really loved prog music and tried hard to produce something similar like people from Holland, Italy, Brazil, etc. And their debut is not bad at all. In fact I found Ardour quite promising and interesting.

Their main influence is certainly Yes and it shows: the opener Intrepid Traveler has more than a passing resemblance of Yes Astral Traveler in its opening riff. the good news is that unlike other Yes worshipers (like Starcastle) Ethos does not tries to copy the originals all that much (singer and guitarist Wils Sharp avoids, mercifully, any falsettos a la Jon Anderson) and includes a good dose of strong elements from other prog icons, specially early King Crimson (just listen to Dimension Man), but also Genesis (Everyman) and even some early Uriah Heep on some parts. Another strong point is their songwriting skills. Although far from being original or groundbreaking, they showed a real knack for the nice melody line and these tracks quite stand on their own after all these years. And with two keyboards men on board, If youre a fan of mellotron waves, this album has plenty of them.

With a good production work and strong musicianship of all involved, Ardour showed that theses americans had talent and could go far had they come a little earlier (by 1976 the prog scene was already on decline and under the heavy attack of critics and punk rockers, as you all know very well) and had time to develop their sound into something more of their own. As it is, the music here is pleasant and well done, although still a bit too derivative for comfort. Im looking forward to listen to their follow up, 1977s Open Up. This one is certainly not a lost gem, but it is still quite enjoyable, specially for 70s prog lovers like me.

Good CD, but certainly not essential. 3,5 stars, because they have the right influences and tasteful tunes.

 Relics 1973-1975 by ETHOS album cover Boxset/Compilation, 1975
3.11 | 18 ratings

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Relics 1973-1975
Ethos Symphonic Prog

Review by apps79
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

3 stars Legendary US Prog group from Fort Wayne, Indiana, established sometime towards the end of the 60's by lead singer/guitarist Wils Sharpe, keyboardist Michael Ponczek, drummer Mark Richards and bassist Dan Owen.Originally named Atlantis, they soon moved from a 60's-influenced sound to a more Art Rock approach with influences from Classical Music and Jazz.After finding out of the German band of the same name, they became Ethos (around 1972-73), it was the same time Owen left the band and was replaced by Steve Marra.They secured a contract with Capitol and played every year around 100 college concerts, building a cult following.Demo and live recordings from the 1973-75 period were released on CD under the title ''Relics'' in 2000 on Black Moon.

These archival pieces show a group with huge potential, playing a complex Progressive Rock along the lines of YES, maybe a tad more guitar-driven at moments, and containing some E.L.P./KING CRIMSON sensibilities in the more mellow passages, where vocals and Mellotron prevail.The album features a couple of tracks later to be found in the proper Ethos releases, ''Intrepid traveler'' and ''Pimp city''.Basically all studio tracks are home-based productions, having though a good recording quality, two of them come with former member Dan Owen on bass.The style of the group was somewhat split between British Prog Rock and US Prog/Psych with some great keyboard work, complicated guitar hooks, poetic vocals and uplifting bass, sometimes having a rural essence due to the use of acoustic guitar and mandolin and never forgetting about adding a touch of pomposity.Lots of organ, harsichord, Mellotron and layered synthesizer, some rough guitar edges and laid-back interruptions offer compositions of decent quality and even some trully masterful moments with intense interplays and dramatic vocals.''Identity'' and the hidden track ''Dream'' come from a 74' live recording at the Electric Flag concert and this is YES in disguise, nice Mellotron and tricky keyboards in mostly instrumental deliveries, supported by slightly jazzy and always adventurous guitar parts.''Perceptions'' and ''Pimp city'' (the cuts with Dan Owen on bass) are basement productions with a mediocre sound quality, but when the music is so good, who cares about the slightly bearable sound.These sound a lot like a combination between YES and KING CRIMSON, dominant Mellotron and flute (or is it flute strings?) and some very impressive guitar plays.

Really cool document of Ethos' early years.Heavily influenced by YES and KING CRIMSON, the Americans played a complicated Prog Rock with trully efficient keyboard/guitar fests and a touch of Psych and Folk.The best had yet to come.Recommended.

 Open Up by ETHOS album cover Studio Album, 1977
4.04 | 54 ratings

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Open Up
Ethos Symphonic Prog

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Ethos play in a style with touches from a range of prog groups of the era - there's some very Chris Squire bass from Brad Stephenson and Robert Fripp guitar from Will Sharpe, for instance - with an overall sound reminiscent of a looser and more ragged around the edges take on classic Yes, with an injection of mercurial unpredictability which serves their ends well. And what Yesalike would be complete without a little hippy-dippy New Agery - in this case, coming in the form of the Utopian vision of Sedona. In short, a very interesting little package which would surely have received more attention had it come out four years or so earlier.
 Ardour by ETHOS album cover Studio Album, 1976
3.89 | 75 ratings

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Ardour
Ethos Symphonic Prog

Review by maryes

5 stars Is very hard to me understand why this lost pearl of the progressive scenery of the seventies, presents so few reviews (only 11). I prefer to believe, that it is due to the ignorance on the part of the collaborators' of the PA community, that for some indifference type! However, I also verified (with satisfaction) that the last 4 posted reviews, have given the deserved value to this albun.(5 stars) Speaking about the disk , this first work of the band ETHO'S, presents a sound a little more symphonic in relation to the albun "Open Up" (I compare the 1 in relao to the 2, because I already wrote a review on the same). Such fact maybe is dueto the presence of one more keyboard player that through the use in separate from the melotron brings as in the track "Everyman" (simulating a flute) a bucolic air, and in Track "Atlanteans" (where it simulates a suit of violins, cellos and other bowed instruments the most symphonic characteristic). However that is not dazzling in any way the mixture of symphonic prog/jazzprog/hard prog and space prog (that is the signature of this fantastic band), inside of this same track. That it is one of the prominences of the albun. The Track 5 presents an air a little heavier, with a rhythm dragged in some moments and permeated by instrumental deliriums. However, so that you can have the exact notion of what is this fantastic disk , goes direct to the Track 7 "The Dimension Man" and then you will understand clearly (I hope ...) because my quotation is 5 stars!!!!!
 Ardour by ETHOS album cover Studio Album, 1976
3.89 | 75 ratings

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Ardour
Ethos Symphonic Prog

Review by Mellotron Storm
Prog Reviewer

3 stars I've never seen so many 3.5 star ratings for an album before as there is around "The Net" for this one. It might be because it's too good to simply give it 3 stars, yet to give it 4 stars would be to over value it. The "good" about this recording is the bass and mellotron, I mean both are all over this album.The bad is the lyrics, concept and the fact it just comes across as cheesy. That's the first time and hopefully the last time i'll use that word, but for this record it fits.This American band actually got signed by a major record label in 1975 which is quite impressive.Two keyboardists and the band I thought of most often was YES.

"Intrepid Traveller" opens with strummed guitar as other sounds come and go. Keyboards take over with drums a minute in. Vocals follow. A calm with piano and reserved vocals as mellotron rolls in. It stays mellow until it picks up with a YES flavour 6 minutes in. "Space Brothers" opens with strummed guitar and mellotron. Vocals join in. I like the vocal melodies on the chorus. Nice chunky bass 2 1/2 minutes in with synths. Howe-like guitar 4 minutes in. "Everyman" has these laid back vocals with mellotron. It picks up a minute in then settles back as contrasts continue.

"Atlanteans" opens with mellotron as reserved vocals enter with bass. It picks up then kicks in after 2 minutes with bass and synths. The intro section is back after 3 minutes. Nice bass a minute later. It settles late with piano and mellotron. Waves end it. "The Spirit Of Music" has a corny intro but it becomes a lot better when the chorus arrives. The lyrics are cringe-worthy though. I like the heavy outbursts with mellotron after 3 minutes. "Long Dancer" has lots of mellotron and keys as vocals come in. More great bass before 2 minutes. The guitar with bass and mellotron is incredible after 4 minutes. "The Dimension Man" calms down a minute in. Vocals follow as it gets fuller. Contrasts continue. It's KING CRIMSON-like briefly before 2 1/2 minutes. Nice. "E'Mocean" is not a lame title is it ? Yeah it is. Sea-gulls and waves to open and close this tune. Strummed guitar, keys and vocals in between.

Of course I give it 3.5 stars. Mellotron fans may rate it higher because this is drenched in it.

 Ardour by ETHOS album cover Studio Album, 1976
3.89 | 75 ratings

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Ardour
Ethos Symphonic Prog

Review by ShaiBerger

5 stars I see lots of people here generalizing this group as a mediocre American wannabe Prog band. I don't care were it came from (and I'm not an American), I just interested in the music and I think this album is simply excellent. Very few bands are able to combine beautiful melodies with complex arrangements, and sound fresh and enjoyable, yet interesting. I think everything is here, good melodies, good production and excellent musicianship. I think this is a must for every one who consider himself as someone who enjoys music - regardless to were it was conceived and by whom. Do yourself a favor and listen to this album, it will make you day and life better.
 Open Up by ETHOS album cover Studio Album, 1977
4.04 | 54 ratings

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Open Up
Ethos Symphonic Prog

Review by maryes

5 stars imagine a meeting of countless influences of great bands from the most different styles of progressive music ! This is the best deffinition of Etho's style.

Some kind of mosaic very well mounted, starting from the mixture of Yes, Genesis, Gentle Giant, Kansas, Return to Forever, King Crinsom, Pink Floyd etc... musical tendencys.

However, this "patchwork quilt" not results in a "indigestible" sound and not even in a clone from none of the bands above.

Besides, the musicians very close from the virtuosity ! The tracks 1,2,4,5 and 8, are the best moments of ETHO"S "Open Up".

Due to exposed my rate is 5 stars !!!

 Open Up by ETHOS album cover Studio Album, 1977
4.04 | 54 ratings

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Open Up
Ethos Symphonic Prog

Review by ExittheLemming
Prog Reviewer

4 stars As she was cleaning the burrow just the other day, Mrs L turned to ask me:

Why are there so few good US symphonic prog albums Exit? and... please clear away your roadkill after you've finished with it dear...(sigh) mother said as long as he's a herbivore....

This got me thinking and apart from say, the patchy but good Fireballet and less patchy and better Quill, I cannot think of too many examples that fit the bill. Therefore I was pleasantly surprised by this offering from 1977 which, given the time of its release was the dawn of prog's darkest hour, has much to recommend it as a slice of stateside bombastic symphonic prog y'all. This band's lack of commercial success was of course somewhat inevitable after the agonizing birth throes of the nascent punk changeling. Wrong place, wrong time.

Ethos do certainly wear their avowed influences of their gatefold sleeves on Open Up with dashes of Yes, Crimson, ELP, Gentle Giant and perhaps an extra garnish of....more Yes, but in the main they serve up an intoxicating array of complex and detailed original compositions that never fail to entertain. Being an extremely grumpy and grudging rodent I was expecting a little bile inducing Styx, Kansas and Boston etc to peek through the cracks but thankfully, that particular brand of stadium arena wank is absent.

'Pimp City' - Rather incongruous 'glamrock' title to be sure, which starts with a very unnerving montage of laughing/crying? multi tracked voices before moving into an angular unison riff that carries an echo of Crimson circa Pictures of a City. The sung section has a laid back jazzy feel subsequently undermined by an arresting and climactic flanged guitar which leads us to the memorable tagline chorus. Nice use of subtle mellotron to calm things down for the quieter passage featuring a haunting synth lead which transitions into a classical guitar snippet and Frippian hued guitar solo. The main thematic riff is reprised towards the end and such is its strength the repetition is not unwarranted. Ethos go for a tongue in cheek 'everything louder than everything else' bravura orchestral ending here, which at least shows the lads have a sense of humour and unlike many Americans, a firm grasp of irony.

'Start Anew' - It should be evident that Brad Stephenson (bass) and Will Sharpe (guitar) are big fans of the Squire/Howe axis in Yes and their timbres and playing on this track are testimony to the rich source of that inspiration. The groove and stop/start feel of the writing on this tune is not a million light years away from Alex Lifeson jamming with Yes with Bruford still in the drum-stool. (High praise indeed I am sure you will agree) This is a very tightly constructed and disciplined number and I like how the vocal section's relative calmness and steadier pulse provides a counterweight to the very chromatic and schizophrenic music that surrounds it. Nice work fellas....

'UV Melody' - Very short and rather superfluous little flute led solo over acoustic guitar arpeggios. Pleasant enough as a snack but like roadkill, not really sufficient to provide a healthy balanced diet. What's for tea hun?

'Memories' - This song seems to creep up behind the listener with a very low key intro featuring some tasteful Mellotron flute/strings under a beautifully sung melody before mutating into an extended instrumental workout where all the band get their little 'windows' within which to strut their stuff. As talented and accomplished as Mr Sharpe undoubtedly is he does let his 'Steve Howe for Dummies' instruction manual get the better of him in places on Memories.The synth textures and keyboards are very subtle on much of this album and Michael Ponczek displays of firm grasp of how to create eerie and spacey atmospheres as a backdrop to lend sympathetic support to the main solo excursions of the tunes. There is a beautiful guitar solo towards the end which has that thick fuzz tone without the 'twangy' attack portion of each picked note so beloved of the likes of Messrs Fripp and Belew. Lovely bubbling, squawking and delayed analogue synth injections are employed throughout this track to telling effect.

'The Players of the Game' - A very complex piece that undergoes a bewildering array of changes of tempo, dynamics and key which requires lots of plays before the underlying structure starts to reveal itself. We eavesdrop on some chattering analogue simian aliens via Ponczek's synths until a slow kit groove emerges and some of the lyrical content of Pimp City is reprised. (Methinks a concept album is afoot boys?) Thereafter we run the gamut of a jazz tinged acoustic guitar solo, bombastic Moraz inspired synth soloing circa Refugee and a swaggering climax of the repeated and powerful chorus rendered by a disorienting 'cut-up' of the multi layered harmony parts. Even Mrs L thinks this 'rawks' and her favorite band is 'Smokie'

No it ain't...it's Abba for your information you furry carnivorous wastrel

'Marathon II- Which begs the question, what happened to Marathon I? Jokey percussion effects and kiddies toy chimes introduce this with some flute redolent of PFM. When the main beat kicks in the effect is enervating and I should take this opportunity to remark on how brilliant and 'musical' a drummer Mark Richards is. Like all my favourite percussionists he is not content to just identify the pulse of the underlying music and lay down an 'in the pocket' groove, but instead interacts dynamically with the instrumentalists and is an inseparable part of the composition. Glorious and powerful pant filling chorus.

Oh do behave dear (sigh) you want a salad for a change?

'Sedona' - Sorry hun...nah. Lovely classical nylon guitar intro wedded to some creamy fondant 'tron and a quivering and haunting flutey synth voice a la the Italian school. Very strong melody but rather undermined by some risible lyrics about a fantasy/futuristic haven where everyone with shoulder length hair will eventually sail to ? This is a much more conventionally constructed track and may have made a suitable single from the album ? Even on more mainstream material like this the lads shine and display remarkable innovation within the boundaries set by the shorter pop/rock song format.

'Close Your Eyes' - Yet more inspired drumming on the false/delayed intro which carries a trace of Neil Peart. Another strong tune which eventually evolves into a fantastic eastern tinged solo from Sharpe which is one of the many highlights on this fine album. I think once stripped of his 'Howe' obsession, Mr S really finds his own unique voice here for perhaps the first time. Wonderful. The simple and infectious ostinato motif on the portamento synth reappears at periodic intervals until we build up to an instrumental climax with more dizzying synth lead (is this one of those ARP beasts?) and good use of Mellotron. Ethos close the album with a comedic single tom stroke and high pitched choked guitar 'splutter' before sending us on our way with a droning and resonating ambient soundscape in the fashion of Fripp & Eno. Yummy.

I certainly think this a rather neglected gem in the US stable of symphonic prog records and just hope that more people get to hear this very fine album. If I had to be picky, my only reservations to 5 star status are the huge debt that the bass and guitar owe to Yes and perhaps the rather bland nature of Will Sharpe's voice. Don't get me wrong, Mr S is a very good singer but there is a rather 'nondescript' element to his voice that robs it of any unique personality or endearing character. (Sorry Will)

There are those who might dismiss Ethos as Yes clones and although I can understand this initial reaction, it should be evident that Open Up has a depth and originality that will only be revealed after repeated listening.

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

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