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Gentle Giant - Octopus CD (album) cover


Gentle Giant


Eclectic Prog

4.30 | 1869 ratings

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Italian Prog Specialist
3 stars Octopus really didn't surprise me much. After listening to Acquiring The Taste and really enjoying it, it feels like this album is a repetition of that, but with a lot of emotion and fun moved out of the way. Gentle Giant seem to be polarising in that you either love them to pieces or acknowledge them for their amazing musical talent, but can't force yourself to be emotionally attached to their music. With this album I must join the latter group.

It's full of wild experimentation, a great number of instruments, strange vocal arrangements and a bunch of guys who obviously know how to handle their gear. It's in other words all that a prog lover should like, at least on the technical side of things. On the other hand it just feels cold and almost contrived at times. Overdone xylophone parts, abundant counterpoint melodies and pure strangeness seem to loose me as I listen to the album as a whole. I try to like Knots, but I still prefer Gibberish by Spock's Beard when it comes to the use of fugues and as Gibberish can be seen as a tribute, it's hardly a good thing.

Gentle Giant has a way of creating heaviness in an odd way, and they do it successfully here as well. The same goes for their way of creating some kind of medieval feeling to many of their songs. All well and good and one of their greatest strengths according to me, even if I miss the more obvious blues-rock influences found on Acquiring The Taste. This is hardcore progressive rock with the sole exception that there isn't a single epic to be found. Instead we're served a palette of assorted goodies filled with quirkiness and elaborated arrangements. I guess this is one of the reasons that the album feels very compact, like a really dark piece of chocolate it's not always easy to stomach. But I miss the elaboration of ATT once more, where atmosphere found its way into the music in a better way, smoothing out and highlighting the complexity in a much more enjoyable way than on Octopus. Funny uses of the keys with sounds that border on funny (or silly) from time to time lighten up the otherwise mathematical music.

Varied to say the least, some favourites do emerge from the mix with the first one being Raconteur, Troubadour. A great showcasing of the up-tempo classical/medieval feeling the band creates with a fantastic violin over the rest of the music. Now that's counterpoint for you! Cheerful and even an atmospheric part in there somewhere. Dog's Life is number two, an interesting, shifting instrumental with a touch of Kansas (seriously!) to it and finishing the trio is Think Of Me With Kindness. This last one really sticks out as it's a surprisingly mellow, piano-laid track for being Gentle Giant, soaring at times with a triumphant brass pseudo-crescendo. A little like a slightly happier VdGG song.

If a more mathematical approach to your classic prog makes the interest alarm go off, this is an essential listen. No doubt. But for those of you who demands a little more emotion there really is no point getting the album for its 'essential' status. An interesting and demanding listen from beginning to end, but for me it leaves something to be desired.

3 stars.


LinusW | 3/5 |


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