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Ageness - Scarab CD (album) cover





3.63 | 41 ratings

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siLLy puPPy
Special Collaborator
PSIKE, JRF/Canterbury, P Metal, Eclectic
4 stars While Marillion, Twelfth Night, IQ, Pendragon and Arena have received the lion's share of credit for transmogrifying the symphonic prog of Genesis into a totally new and distinct detour called neo-prog, there were in fact other players in that game and not all of them were from England. While not nearly as well known as the aforementioned neo-prog idols, the Finnish band SCARAB released one sole eponymously titled album all the way back in 1983. This one-shot album was initiated by the founders Tommy Eriksson and Kari Saaristo and a self-financed project. After this one release they parted ways and then nine years later reunited under the new name Ageness which still continues as a band to the present day. This debut demonstrates that it was more than just the English who were influenced by Peter Gabirel era Genesis (and beyond) and bands like SCARAB dipped beyond them alone to create a unique hybrid of the different strains of symphonic prog that graced the 70s.

While this album may sound derivative in many ways of 80s Marillion and even Peter Gabriel, it should be remembered that this came very early in the game and debuted the same year as Marillion's landmark "Script For A Jester's Tear." And despite some obvious similarities, SCARAB somehow managed to meld together successfully aspects of 70s Genesis, 80s Peter Gabriel solo albums, Marillion and some tracks suspiciously sound like they took a cue from 80s Genesis with "Abacab" type progressive pop making its way into the more bombastic symphonic tracks. As well as the obvious influences emerging from the Genesis inspired pack, there are clear Kansas aspects from the ubiquitous violin that ranges from simple symphonic touches to full-out attacks once let off its leash. The acoustic guitar passages have a ring of early Steve Hackett as well. I can detect some quirky Styx type energy infused in the mix as there is an infusion of the late 70s prog pop style interspersed with the more progressive rock touches.

SCARAB was quite energetic for this time in the emerging neo-prog era and that's what appeals to me the most. While some have an issue with the vocals, i personally don't find them to be so impenetrable as they have a unique charm all their own albeit attached to the neo-prog type of emerging sound of the era. True that better examples of the newly developed symphonic prog over the decades had emerged but i really love the quirky touches and the instrumentation of the band's sharp tightness which executes the over-the-top Genesis qualities of their different band developments from pastural symphonic prog to full-on prog pop. There are brilliant keyboard riffs, gentle pastural acoustic sweeps and a very competent approach to the percussion which is often lacking in the neo-prog world where more often than not it's on automatic pilot. Add the sensual violin and viola elements and this is a compelling early neo-prog album. There are also moments that remind of bands like Rush in not only a Geddy Lee type of goofy yelp but in the song structures themselves. SCARAB managed to create a diverse album that never stagnates throughout its playing time. I'm a fan of this one.

This SCARAB album was originally released with 9 tracks on vinyl but was later released in 1995 as an Ageness album titled "Scarab: The Album & Live At Tavastia Club 30.6.1983" on CD with extra tracks that included six bonus tracks of live performances at the Tavastia Club. While this may not go down in history as the most original offerings of the early neo-prog developments, i personally find it a rewarding album in the terms of delivery. While there is no doubt that Genesis is the prime mover of influential shakers, i have personally always favored the second generation of Genesis worshipers over the band themselves in the big picture (not to say that Genesis didn't have outstanding albums of course). SCARAB simply created a brilliant album that went somewhere Genesis abandoned as they favored pop over prog. Whether this rates as high in your world or not, neo-prog fans should definitely check this one out.

siLLy puPPy | 4/5 |


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