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Fatal Fusion - Total Absence CD (album) cover


Fatal Fusion


Crossover Prog

3.64 | 74 ratings

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4 stars Finally it has happened, happened again actually! True prog fans are 'look out' people, constantly scouring the globe for something exciting or even mind blowing to surface, out of the blue. True devotees research, cross reference or analyze the credits for a familiar musician or just go with their gut feeling. This knowledge has served us well, I can acknowledge that music has given my life purpose, enjoyment, escape and panacea. We all know life is not easy, getting even more dangerous than ever before (and I am from 'the Cold War generation', I am proud to say), so you cannot fathom the sheer salvation that music was, is and always will be. Its medication, vision, courage and unending faith, all combined as a musical vehicle to dream and emote without fear or judgement. Prog certainly covers the entire spectrum of human emotions and proud to do so. While the golden years of the 70s were remarkable and highly inspired, I must say , having lived it then and today, the quality of 21st Century prog has been the best period ever, so many talented and adventurous bands out there, who make music they enjoy, not for groupies, not for fortune or not for fame. That is the true measure of how prog is evolving, spewing out jewels one after the other.

This is another one, the brand spanking new Fatal Fusion album, a Norwegian group I only recently hooked up with, after a lot of glances but no bite. Well, their sophomore album "The Ancient Tale" really blew me away, though it did take some concentration and effort, as there were many familiar things mixed in with some unexpected ones to keep one on the edge. What threw me off was trying to compare the band to anyone else out there, which was a huge mistake on my part, as I tried to take the easy road. But once I took on that album for what it was, it started hitting hard. The first three tracks certainly do smash rigid, then the set list suddenly evolves into much mellower realms that will catch any listener unaware.

On the surly opener instrumental opener "The Gates of Ishtar", Fatal Fusion are slanted more towards the masculine, testosterone-laced prog bravado, the sonic palette pumping audacious yet heavily symphonic, very obviously led by Erlend Engebretsen who shines on a wide variety of keyboards. Guitars are honed and masterly wielded, gritty when rhyming and soaring when leading. Stig Selnes is quite the craftsman, both rash and fluid at a moment's notice, pushing the murky theme to glorious heights, with just a hint of Middle Eastern aroma. It serves as the ideal introduction for "the Shadow of the King", energized by a husky-voice singer that takes some getting used to, allied to a brooding scimitar of heavy riffs that hammer home, unrelenting. There is an undeniable Zeppelin shuffle that recalls "Kashmir" for a while until Selnes shoots off a dizzying axe solo that bounces off sand dunes, whirls beyond the oasis and spirals into the broiling sky. "Forgotten One" possesses a well-balanced arrangement that stings one moment with metallic fury , organ ablaze and drums pumping wildly only to veer into a gentler lullaby where the piano leads the march. The gargling lead vocals from Knut Grontvedt certainly are different, to say the least. And then quite unexpectedly, the material just gets flung into another dimension altogether.

On the stunning "Astral Flight", the spirit and the dexterity combine for some savagely brilliant instrumental episodes, but when the extended e-piano solo enters, I am slain! As if the early Santana guitar cavalcade was not enough, the entire mood is memorable, bright, smoothly jazzy and impassioned. The rocket-fueled rhythm section is propulsive, serpentine and utterly focused on the appointed flight path, no auto-pilot programming on this one! This is a killer track of the highest order and a harbinger of things to come.

The next three pieces are all epic in scope and running time, heavily dominated by massive mellotron winds that will take you back to the Court of the Crimson King, beginning with the reverential "the Emperor's Letter" , a colossal symphonic ballad that groans and moans with bittersweet content. The overall feel is stately and imperial, the beastly legendary keyboard doing its celebrated magic, the ideal stage for Knut to howl to the moon, the electric guitars snarling and the keys impetuous. Stig emotes on acoustic before unleashing a gorgeous electric solo, flush with pressing despair. Totally beautiful, morose and forbidding, this is primo prog that make you kneel at the shrine.

Yet the biggest surprise is without any doubt, "Endless Ocean Blue" with its disarming pastoral intro of clanging bucolic strings and weaving synths, becoming a melancholic 11 minute voyage on a sea of serenity, a sense of floating that owes more to classic Pink Floyd than anything else. The plaintive vocals in particular are hushed, elbowed by Lasse Lie's low bass rumble and concussed by a resilient binary beat. Within the mid-section, the expectant storm intensifies into gale wind organ flurries, Erlend rifling along his board with dedicated precision and urgent mania. Stig's turn to show his restraint and command of the e-guitar, carving a superlative arch of slow- burning notes, a kaleidoscope of emotions painting the air. Knut roars out his pain, in that raspy shriek that is both manly and desperate.

The title track finishes off this monster, a quarter of an hour of musical bliss that kicks off with urban sound effects, cars honking and a forlorn piano tinkling morosely. Voice, acoustic guitar and an orchestral background sets the stage for the pleasures to come, searching the road to some salvation. The buildup gradually goes tornado (as Bill Bruford once stated), as the sonic heat is ratcheted up considerably, the rhythms concussive and the guitars persuasive. The mighty Mellotron returns again to prove the point, shoving the steam roller of sound forward and beyond. Stig agrees to fiddle with his axe once again, with tremendous efficiency and taste.

Heavy prog is perhaps the best way to describe the style here, but it's somehow different from other players within the genre. Loads of paradoxes abound, its heavy and yet isn't, its brooding yet also very inspired. It's typical but also original. A wild and savage mix of entertaining progressive rock music that might not be everyone's cup of tea but highly enjoyable under the right circumstances.

4.5 complete nonattendances

tszirmay | 4/5 |


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