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Android - Embergép / Man Maschine CD (album) cover





3.81 | 14 ratings

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4 stars Hungarian progressive rock group Android is back with its third release, the aptly titled "Man Maschine" which finally consecrates them with both respect and admiration for how they have progressed through the years. Led by keyboardist Jozsef Tozser and guitarist Janos Dudas , the band has finally lived up to its rather scientific-leaning name by producing a work that is decidedly futuristic , an ode to the android man machine that undoubtedly one day rule over our lives. With a double keyboard attack featuring both Tozser and Sandor Milesz, a tight rhythm section in bassist Zoltan Nikolin and drummer Orban Mezo as well as supremely talented electric guitarist in Dudas , the musicality of the ensemble is a non-issue as these guys can play with the best of them. The big improvement I hear from their previous works (2011's "Midnight Ball" and "East of Eden" -2009) which were most pleasing, is the mature song writing and attention to pace and detail and I even recall stating that ' their next one should consolidate them further within the prog community'. Of course, understanding Hungarian is no problem for me, which adds to my enjoyment.

The tempestuous "Dialectics" is a sprawling nearly 9 minute affair that sets the tone for the album, a delightful plunge into modern electric prog with sweeping electronics, sizzling synthesizer runs, serpentine bass and thoughtful drumming. The electric guitar bites and snarls like some unhinged bitch while the voice sweeps along in Hungarian, a fluid and unique language well suited to prog. The soloists trade blasts that utterly convince, bold, brash and confident. The crisp keys provide symphonic bombast while the flaming axe grinds like a well-oiled machine. A thrilling opener that grabs the attention and excites to no end.

The heavy and rock n' roll influenced "Who Am I?" is super greasy, so as to avoid an overtly robotic set list of songs, hearkens back to something Blue Oyster Cult would create in its most progressive profile, with loads of bluesy guitar scratches and sweltering leads , the blase vocals suitably buzzed and detached. Heavy, nasty and oily. Dudas rips off a series of pyrotechnical leads that benefit from some stellar rhythmic activity as in a driving bass and drum attack, his brief solo is a classic piece of showmanship, stating 'this is who I am!'. "Staying Empty" continues in a rockier pub-rock style, with a chorus of "Hey!" to underscore the need for drinking one more round, another liter of wine to keep up the spirits and shove the engine into overdrive with a frenetic solo and a frantic pulse. A trembling e-piano introduces "I Am the One", laying down a somber foundation for a different guitar solo, closer to a bluesy David Gilmour and then veering into Gary Moore, in its more expressive delivery. The melody is expertly sung, with powerful passion.

Definitely one of the highlights, "Recruitment Song" is a return to bombastic symphonics which is something this band does very well, there is almost a Manfred Mann's Earth Band-like feel especially with both the electric guitar and the synthesizer interplay, which should not come as a surprise as Mann was very popular in Hungary back in the day. It also has a quasi-military march mood, marshaling drums leading the parade and the keyboard work gives the arrangement a lot of depth. A killer track that should attract quite an audience. "I Will Stay Anyway" is the obligatory ballad but features a unique whistling synth solo that is quite stunning, as well as great guitar splashes and truly fabulous singing. In a more dramatic setting, "Bluebeard" is a French classic tale of an evil serial wife murderer, fuel for Bela Bartok to compose an opera, hence the Hungarian connection. Slightly Gothic in feel, the piano leads a rather dark theme, blending theatrics and dynamic flashes, until the crunching guitar takes it by the scruff of the neck and saunters onward. A slithering synth volley leads "Holes in the Skep" (skep is a kind of beehive, an open-end-down basket) into a luminous keyboard exercise that relays over to a slide guitar squawk that wins at Steve Howe. The pace slows as the growling rhythm guitar chops through, unmolested.

Back to the longer epic tracks that really give the group room to maneuver and frankly, where they excel, first with the intriguing "Casemates" loaded to the gills with marimba-sounding keys, grouchy guitar bursts and swift keep things fresh and exciting. Lots of complex passages, turn-on-a-dime pirouettes and a river of constant change that is compelling. Once again, the Manfred Mann Earth Band parallels become obvious as Dudas has a lot of Mick Rogers in him, carving shrill solos and brandishing his axe proudly, while keysmen Tozser and Milesz combine to worship the famed South African legend. A thoroughly interesting and intense piece.

And finally, the massive title track finishes off in grand style this fine release. Molten guitar blasts give way to ambient, almost Floyd-like electronic atmospherics , slowly building up steam until the rock elements kick in, bombast and symphonics paving the way and then veering back to softer climes. The initial vocals are mostly spoken, robotic and doom-laden as the power surge widens its thrust forward. Churning organ is a most welcome addition, as the voice now starts singing the sad plight of men machines, torn between technological perfection and human deficiency. Dudas kills it with a deadly display, the man can play with the best, fast, hard, subtle and hard. The finale is way more urgent , the vocals insistent and exalted, a true classic of Hungarian prog.

Not yet the perfect album but getting there. The epic, more sci-fi pieces are stunning, while the shorter, rockier tracks are enjoyable but certainly not as rapturous. As a bass fanatic, I always would prefer a more upfront bass guitar but that's just me. Recommended.

4 Hun Automatons

tszirmay | 4/5 |


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