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Cliffhanger - Not To Be Or Not To Be CD (album) cover





3.35 | 41 ratings

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Cesar Inca
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Having started in a well-defined neoprog territory, a very common trend in the Netherland's prog circles in the 90s, Cliffhanger soon evolved into something more complex and challenging, even darker and denser, with more simmilarities to Van der Graaf Generator and King Crimson than to Genesis or camel (the most recurrent references for neoprog bands). And hat's exactly what we find in "Not To be or Not To Be!", Cliffhanger's sophomore opus. This albums shows the band clearly determined to experiment with the retro-prog sound, offering compositional ideas hat toy with contrasts, disturbing mood and energetic walls of sound. Perhaps the long duration of more than half the tracks can serve as an indication of his line of work. The dangers of inherent to patchwork-based writing are easy to notice as w ego listening to he repertoire, but the band has enough talent as to deal with this sort of danger successfully. The set of retro- prog references is quite wide, actually: the pompous energy of ELP, the relentless neurosis of 73-75 King Crimson and 75-76 Van der Graaf Generator, the somber textures of Anglagard and A Piedi Nudi, and of course, teh symphonic amalgamation of Gabriel-era Genesis, all of them are alternately summoned to forge a renewed approach beyond the confines of standard neo (which, all in all, hasn't disappeared completely from the band's spectrum). The heavy use of mellotron and the relevant presence of weird keyboard orchestrations and layers usually dominate the structure for the arrangements of all melodic motifs and mood/tempo shifts: and this structure is wrapped on recurrently tense and somber ambiences. Once you read this description, you'll know what to expect from the stimulating, intricate opener 'Innocent Victim': it really brings out neurosis in a full stylish guise. The instrumental 'Sewers' has an ethereal first section ('Above') and a powerful second section ('Inside'), which conveniently bears a slight cosmic aura in order to preserve some sort of unity for the whole. 'The Artist' increases the energy in a similar mode to the opener, although this time the melodic vibe is more prevalent: clearly, an emphasis has been laid on the main motif's hooks. The 25- minute suite 'Ragnarok' is the ultimate expression of the album's main features: abundant mellotron inputs, lead guitars than go from the Hackettian to the Frippian with equal proficiency, solid sets of contrasts, calmer passages that relief the general tension, all of them are placed to shock he listener (it also helps that the lyrics are too few). This suite is designed to be the album's definite manifesto. Last, the closing instrumental 'Moon' brings a chamber-meets-new age mood. Some minutes of silence after the final note are followed by a heavy, dissonant chaotic jam. Not a new trick, but certainly an interesting way to end what many of us regard as Cliffhanger's top achievement. It's a pity that neither the band nor this album got the recognition they deserved, since Not To Be or Not To Be! had the clear intention of setting a different pah for modern symphonic rock.
Cesar Inca | 4/5 |


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