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Solaris - Marsbéli Krónikák (Martian Chronicles) CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

4.21 | 349 ratings

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4 stars Symphonic synthetic space rock chronicles

4.5 stars

Contrarily to other countries, progressive rock was still very popular during the 80's in Eastern Europe. In Hungary, after OMEGA during the former decade, its best representative was undoubtedly the cult band SOLARIS. Very first opus by talented multi-instrumentalists, these "Martian Chronicles" - inspired by science-fiction writer Ray Bradbury's well-known novels - are just a genuine sonic adventure.

Almost entirely instrumental, the music is an epic space progressive symphony, with multiple themes, rhythms and instruments, always changing and evolving, unpredictable but fluent and highly melodic. The titles are a colorful mixture of symphonic hard rock of CAMEL, ELOY, SAGA with lyrical progressive electronic such as VANGELIS and NEURONIUM, as well as some neo-prog synthesizers. Although not as complex as YES or GENESIS, the compositions offer different ambiances supported by rich and varied sonorities, the surprise factor being constantly present on each title. That way, the disc succeeds at maintaining the listener's attention as well as a high standard of musicality.

The first side features the 23 minutes "Martian Chronicles" suite, divided in three tracks. Part I opens with a few lines spoken in Hungarian through an alien sound filter, to unveil spacey synthesizers and a fast trippy electronic sequence. The cosmic trip is just beginning, somewhere between NEURONIUM and VANGELIS' "Albedo 0.39". Nice! Parts II-III display numerous genres, such as symphonic, hard rock, and even neo-prog, using a wide range of instruments: keyboards, guitar but also piano, choirs and futuristic sound effects. The music alternates powerful and touching melodies, reminding CAMEL at times. Parts IV-VI are my favorites. This SAGA- esque retro sci-fi musical tale is stellar with its crying guitars, calm passage and celestial final choirs. Simply epic!

The second side gathers short titles, still overall very good. "M'ars poetica" is surprising, playful and energetic. Some heroic moments sounds even possess a distant classical music vibe. On the contrary, "If the Fog Ascends" is the only average track of the record. A bit soapy, but its mysterious interlude is rather enjoyable. The epic space hard rock "Apocalypse" transports us through the universe... until the short "Prelude in E Minor" brings us back to the time of strongholds and chivalry with a medieval flute! Pleasant, however quite out of place. Heaviest composition of the disc, "Undefeatable" is a powerful synth space metal piece! Wow! The album concludes with the band's first single, "Solaris", recorded a few years earlier and already containing multiple sections despite its 5 minutes duration. The nice calm Floyd/Camel-esque melancholic overture abruptly changes and progressively accelerates into a sonic supernova! The Hungarians were already promising back then!

The 1995 and 2010 reissues feature two bonus tracks, enjoyable although less impacting than those of the original release. The synthetic "The Planet of Orchids" is more ambient, interrogative, while "The Yellow Circle" evokes the discovery of a new planet... to then surprisingly turn rock 'n 'roll, with tribal percussions and vocalizations! Fun and refreshing.

Except ELOY, there are not many symphonic space prog albums really worth the listen in the 80's. "Martian Chronicles" is definitely an exception, a meteorite, a refreshing unexpected surprise in this desolated decade. The music uses known recipes to weave its own charm and identity. The band members have a natural ease and high ability to switch between instruments and ambiances while mixing various styles, making the compositions unpredictable. Therefore, the surprise factor of this sonic and lyrical symphony is renewed at each listen.

SOLARIS' first opus is a genuine breathtaking and stellar journey, a real pity this wasn't released outside Hungary in 1984. Simply essential for space rock and symphonic prog lovers!

Modrigue | 4/5 |


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