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Lizard - Master & M CD (album) cover

MASTER & M

Lizard

 

Eclectic Prog

3.90 | 113 ratings

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tszirmay
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Lizard is a distinguished prog band that has kept its flame going for a few decades now, releasing a few spectacular albums (the tasty debut and Tales from the Artichoke Wood) as well as a few lesser successful attempts (Psychopuls and Spam). Guitarist and vocalist Damian Bydlinski as well as bassist Janusz Tanistra still lead the group from Poland but have added new blood on guitars, keyboards and drums with this rather sparkling album. The inspiration to create a brooding, aggressive and pulsating work is obvious from the get- go, Damian never compromising in singing in his native language which gives their music so much personality and creative merit. Tanistra shows off his considerable bass skills with a trebly sound that harkens back to Squire days but within his very own style. The disc is divided into 5 chapters but must be listened to as a whole, which was clearly the intention. Source material (yeah, its prog!) is the celebrated Russian novel 'The Master and Margarita' by Mikhael Bulgakov , written between 1928 and 1940 but unpublished until 1967. It 's a story woven around a visit by the Devil to the dictatorial and atheistic Soviet Union. Needless to say that bashing the former overlord after 50 years of cultural enslavement is a passion shared to this day by most Poles and Hungarians in particular!

Divided into 5 chapters , the music is tremendously effective even if one does not understand the language. There is a new wind in Polish prog , a new found vigor and energy that is highly evident in recent releases by stalwarts like Riverside, Millenium, Believe, After and Satellite, as well as newcomers like Soma White, Votum, Lebowski and many others. Characterized by modern keyboard techniques, harder edged guitar pyrotechnics as well as bold incursions into a fantasyland of tones and sounds that are truly magnificent. The live scene is also vibrant (check out all the Katowice live DVD releases, amazing!) and Lizard pull no punches, as their new theatrical material is totally resplendent, giving the listener a curiously imaginative experience that transcends the expected and formulaic.

'Chapter I' is a bombastic, dive bombing flurry of tortured guitars, deranged synths, goose- stepping bass and dictatorial drums, over which Damian unleashes a Polish version of Marillion-era Fish theatrics. Starting out with careening screeches, somber reptiles lurking in the Gdansk shipyards waiting for that one day to be unleashed by events beyond the secret police's talons. Echoes of stolid depression and barely contained rancor, the atmospherics are as overbearing as a five-year plan of gross incompetence and elitist corruption. Ominous sounds that morph into a steamroller riff, a relentless monolith, all held together with some catchy soloing of the finest caliber!

The beginning of 'Chapter II' is the polar (pun again) opposite, a trembling vocal-only that nods at early King Crimson, reinforced as the booming torrent kicks in lustily, just like 'in the Wake of Poseidon', not surprising in lieu of Lizard's early career as a KC cover band. The hints are obvious and highly reverential, as the Crimson King was quite popular behind the once Iron Curtain, a band that always, like them or not, stretched the boundaries of acceptability and norm. Axeman Daniel Kurtyka squeezes some zealous passion out of his electrified strings, while new drummer Aleksander Szalajko prefers a muscular approach, making this a lively and intense affair.

'Chapter III' is short, breezier and chattier, Damian rambling nicely over some clavinet and funky guitar riffs, as the bass powers through the arrangement, thus displaying a much wider and cinematographic tendency. Doesn't stop Kurtyka to mistreat his instrument and the assorted pedals at his disposal. After the explosive climax, gentle ripples of sweet synth and pastoral acoustic riffing returns. A jazzier side that is most welcome, almost like a Polish Stealy Dan!

'Chapter IV' is the same 7 minutes in length as the preceding piece and perhaps my favorite on this inspired disc, a highly evocative groove piece loaded up with unbridled emotion, subtle playing and a foreboding sense of doom. This is exactly my style, a contrast between menacing and pastoral, simple technically but oh so cool as the electric piano suddenly relays a stupendous vibe! Tanistra cuts a fierce bass solo through the jangly riffing, just propelling this amazing piece forward. I mean, wow! Stunning!

'Chapter V' has that deadly combination of acoustic guitar, mellotron and vocals, a progressive classic formula if there ever was one. A brilliant 13 minute + finale forces the listener to succumb to the trials and tribulations of denial as well as political survival, just like the Devil dealt with the Politburo! Undelivered promises and caged suffering that thankfully lasted only 50 years, a slew of minds released from oppressive bondage and rigorous incompetence! These thoughts are perfectly expressed by the twisting and colliding instrumentation, harsh riffs and immovable pulsations. Vitriolic cascades of KGB keys, crushing Gulag guitars, nasty Beria bass and Stalinist drumming.

'Master & M' represents Lizard's finest achievement and an all-out 2013 classic! A finely crafted and entertaining symphonic prog album that will please all fans, even those who do not comprehend the lyrics. The music thus will speak for itself! The brooding cover art eerily resembles the Flower Kings latest, lots of metallic gray amid a splotch of red, a wink at the oppression suffered by the Central and Eastern Europeans alike.

5 Barbed wires

tszirmay | 5/5 |

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