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Kotebel - Ouroboros CD (album) cover

OUROBOROS

Kotebel

 

Symphonic Prog

3.95 | 116 ratings

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Cesar Inca
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars This is a glorious perpetuation of the sort of musical magnificence that we, Kotebel followers, have come to naturally expect from this excellent Spanish-Venezuelan ensemble - "Ouroboros" has to be one of the most outstanding symphonic prog releases in the year 2009, and why not, extensively in the new millennium. For this concept-album around a bunch of mythical figures, Kotebel operates as an all-instrumental quintet with featured room for dual keyboards, which means that the flute and female vocals are now absent in the band's sonic arsenal; but, in the end, the absence of these two items that had been so immensely relevant in the band's previous two efforts ("Fragments of Light" and "Omphalos") has been efficiently compensated by the remaining instrumentalists. The musical ideas remain equally inventive and the instrumental amalgamation continues to be grandiloquent in its infinite elegance. Indeed, this "Ouroboros" album is a total master opus for our current times' progressive rock scene worldwide. 'Amphisbaena' opens up the album with tenuous textures during its brief introductory theme, until the whole ensemble kicks off and settles in through the colorful display of the fusion-friendly motif. The combination of jazz-rock ambiences and Gentle Giant-ish tricks, when merged into the overall symphonic framework, results in an abrasive exhibition of excitement and grandeur. The interplaying among the two keyboardists is effectively massive, with virtuosic guitarist César García Forero spreading his eclectic input all over the place, complementing the keyboard developments and playing amazing leads. The piano-dominated passages during the track's last third states a proper expectation for the coda, wich starts ethereal and ends quite bombastic. A tremendous opener such as this can only be followed by a suite, and so Kotebel deliver the namesake track, which lasts 16+ minutes and comprises 7 sections. This intensely progressive journey is a constant climax of textures, orchestrations and controlled exhibitionist deliveries: the main motifs are clearly signaled, with variations and jams that go on succeeding each other in a perfectly fluid fashion. The melodic sense is brilliant, the harmonic sensibility is flawless, and both prove to be a demanding thing particularly in those passages in which the band uses a dynamic mixture of chamber-rock and jazz (i.e. 'Variation II'). 'Variation IV' is built on soaring atmospheres that may remind us a little of "Incantations"-era Oldfield, although the moment in which the lead guitar and drum kit settle in makes the track move toward momentary bizarre moods. The next 'Variation' is patently more evocative: it starts with a piano solo, then a soft orchestration is set in to evolve into a special climax, bombastic but not overdone. The punchy swing of 'Variation VII' gives way for a vibrant passage whose clever articulation allows to build a well-ordained crescendo, which ultimately leads to a 'Coda': this one culminates the overall suite's architecture on a melancholy note, yet evidently energetic in its own terms. Following this suite is a dirty job to do, but it is left to 'Satyrs' do it, and it does it by going to a different territory. 'Satyrs' is more guitar-orientated than the preceding two pieces, and it is less pompous as much as it is rockier. There is still much musical complexity to rely on while listening to this track: there is a funny tango-based interlude, for instance, and there is also a slow-paced psychedelic that provides an ounce of grayish density right before the splendid closure. The album perseveres in its wonderful majesty with the other suite, 'Simurgh', perhaps the most purely symphonic track in this catalogue: there are some Latin-jazz cadences utilized strategically in places, but they mostly serve as vortexes of varying dynamics to enrich the main motifs? developments within a consistent eclecticism. 'Behemoth' is quite awesome, a special favorite of mine. It bears a stylish tension that owes quite much to the Scandinavian standard of Crimson-inspired retro prog: the big beast after which this track is entitled meets an adequate musical portrait, featuring mellotron-like washes, eerie dissonant guitar phrases and a slow, heavy rhythmic scheme. The track's overall mood is surreal in the sense of a weird dream, almost mystic, consistently mysterious. The studio tracklist ends with 'Legal Identity V', plethoric and bombastic without any boundaries, which is reasonable since its 3+ minute span can clearly allow the musicians to think less about constraint and more about explicit expression? in typically progressive terms, of course. The bonus track is quite long, a live rendition of extracts from the "Mysticae Visiones" suite (from the namesake album) as it was delivered at the Gouveia Art 2007 festival. This item conveniently shows the listener all about the power and color that this band solidly displays in live performances; it is also a sweet reminder of the important input that the female vocals and flute used to offer to the band's whole framework in earlier times. All in all, and paying focusing my attention on the studio tracks exclusively, I?m prepared to give this album a 5 star rating. "Ouroboros" is indispensable in any good symphonic prog collection.
Cesar Inca | 5/5 |

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