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Eloy - Ocean 2 - The Answer CD (album) cover




Psychedelic/Space Rock

3.75 | 274 ratings

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4 stars This is Eloy's final fling, a return to concepts and themes first explored in the 1970s but updated with modern sensibilities and techniques. Ocean 2 takes stylistic references from the melodic arena-rock of its predecessor [1994's The Tides Return Forever], while resurrecting the Space Rock of its spiritual ancestor Ocean [1977] and a hefty dose of superior symphonic Prog. Later Eloy tended towards overwhelming bloated productions - while Ocean 2 does not entirely escape this criticism, the band demonstrate a far greater control of spatial dynamics with plenty of light and shade mood swings.

If the original Ocean was about the fall of mankind and the human condition, then Ocean 2 is Bornemann's vision of the way forward by exploring esoteric and religious pointers that reach deep into the mystical. For example, Ro Setau makes the familiar claim of great secrets lying in an undiscovered chamber under The Sphinx in Giza, "treasures of wisdom / left by wise men / thousands of years ago", while Awakening Of Consciousness takes the Buddhist route where "predestination and karma remain at your side". The culmination is reached in The Answer, Bornemann's vision of Revelation when the human mind becomes at last "in unison with space and time".

Musically, the album is alive with industry and imagination. No one instrument dominates, but keyboards patrol all facets of the compositions, from soft ethereal washes to the full-blown wall-of-sound of the band in full flight where they merge with Bornemann's wonderful guitar playing. Vocals are universally excellent, and special mention must be made for Matziol's superb contribution on bass, one of the highlights of this album. Sadly, apart from a recorder solo during a lull in The Answer, acoustic textures are largely absent, and even the Hammond is often buried in the mix.

Between Future And Past This is an introduction piece, reminiscent of late 1980s Pink Floyd with its synth drones, Soprano voice and beautiful liquid guitar figures. Ends with a clock chiming.

Ro Setau Generally a big number featuring a good tune and evocative vocals in a mid-paced romp. Best moment, though, is the mid-song interlude where a gentler lilting rhythm sets a mellower mood for some vocalese from soft female voices. This gradually builds towards a crescendo with strident guitars and Hammond in the mix, though the crescendo itself really needs a guitar solo before Bornemann returns with high pressure vocals. Ends on some classic Eloy riffing with guitars at the forefront before a screeching Moog solo sets the seal on a great start to the album.

Paralysed Civilisation After bursting in with chiming guitar chords, it develops into a lively bash with excellent call-and-response vocals between Bornemann and female voices. After a while, it breaks to a quite different section with guitar arpeggios and synth soloing building to a brilliant riff with masterful set-piece guitar solo. A mellow ambient section with vocoded vocals leads back to the main theme and a Moog solo before breaking down to synth drones to fade. New-Psychedelic-Symphonic-Space-Prog-Rock .... just about covers it. Great stuff!

Serenity Led by a prominent bass theme and heavily modulated guitar, this is a slow and intimate song with a wonderful synth solo. Multi-tracked backing vocals help to lift what is really an average piece of songwriting.

Awakening Of Concsiousness This is the album's weak spot, crashing in with another overblown production. While it features some nice rubbery rhythm guitar work and vocal licks, it also has an annoying clattery snare drum.

Reflections From The Spheres Beyond Synth drones and guitar figures set a mood for inventive keyboard fills to weave a hugely atmospheric web around Bornemann's softly sung vocals, a sequence that ends in a grandiose stomp with massed female singing. This is repeated before a superb guitar solo prefaces a shift into an ambient spacey mood with vocoded vocals. At 9:10 is a magic moment as the bass guitar is reintroduced, building towards a brilliant big drum beat that perfectly balances the need for power without going into bombastic overkill. This is New Symphonic Prog at its very best, and perhaps the crowning achievement of Eloy's later years.

Waves Of Intuition After the Prog intensity of the previous track, a slower, more reflective mood is established by chiming guitar chords and mellow hand percussion that lead into a soaring bluesy guitar solo. The band join in, of course, but it never descends into unnecessary bombast. The melody is sublime and infectious, with a catchy chorus and lovely harmonies. It ends as it began, with waves crashing on a shore, before the clocks [from the album's introduction] chime to herald the encore ....

The Answer No messing, just straight into one of Eloy's most powerful hypnotic grooves and an almost perfect ending to their recorded career. Underpinned by a grumbling bass that is surprisingly busy, the groove is defined by solid drumming and a phased pulsating synth that together evoke an image of an army marching toward some undefined dawn, a picture enhanced by the appearance of the definitive manifestation of Bornemann's pompous 'big choir' and some military style snare drumming as the song strides toward its climax. This is Eloy coming almost full circle, a return to the space-rock of 20 years earlier, but updated with a very modern approach.

As with a lot of good Prog music, it is not absolutely necessary to understand or agree with the lyrical themes in order to enjoy the music. Ocean 2 is a high quality modern take on spacey Prog Rock that should please all Prog fans, old and new alike, but don't expect it to sound like the original Ocean. The connection between them is mainly lyrical rather than musical. Only the relative weakness of tracks four and five prevent Ocean 2 from being a masterpiece, and a tantalising end to a long and glittering history.

Joolz | 4/5 |


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