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Asgard - Arkana CD (album) cover

ARKANA

Asgard

 

Neo-Prog

3.89 | 70 ratings

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Cesar Inca
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars 'Arkana' is Asgard's third effort, and IMHO; their best work up to date. Here they continued to explore their own Genesis/Marillion-based neoprog sound with strong Gothic flavours and a hard rocking twist; only this time the instrumental ensemble feels more cohesive than ever before, and the compositions are more complex and ambitious. The level of inspiration in the performances (including Grosso's emotional singing) keeps an all-time high status. The role of Ambrosi on keyboards proves crucial, since they create all the pompous orchestrations and sombre textures you find everywhere. The guitar solos are strong and powerful; on the other hand, the acoustic guitar duets and Ambrosi's occasional flute passages bring us back to the times of 'Trespass' and the first PFM albums. "A gathering of Fairies" kicks off the album with a genuine sense of eerie magic, like a journey into a parallel universe inhabited by archaic unearthly creatures. "Wolfstan" and "Olaf Stonehand" set a more incendiary pace, creating an ambience of oppressive disturbance in the stronger passages and an air of chilling mystery in the softer ones. The former follows the rockier trend of modern symphonic prog: teh guitar textures that go emerging everywhere and the amazing synth solo in the middle are among the best things I've ever got to listen regarding neo-prog music. The latter is more epic, which is not odd at all given its length: the ability of the instrumentalists and the vocalist to move from the electrifying energy to the mysterious calm is tekane to a particularly dramatic level. "The Mirror of the King" and "The Squirrel" are more predominantly acoustic: the former sets an overwhelming nostalgic aura, while the latter creates a pastoral playful spirit. "The Queen of Ice" is the most obviously marillionesque track, while "The Breath of a veilde Goddess" is a dark nocturne with the grand piano taking an abundantly featured role - it includes a very solemn hymnal interlude, which adds an air of weird dranatism. Finally, the closing number "Lords of the Mountain" is the hardest rocking one in the album, even bordering on prog metal at times, as if anticipating the trend of their following albums. But the presence of some flute soloing flourishes keeps things momentarily rooted in the pastoral realms, in this way reinciding in the contrast between the rockier and the calmer sides - a consistent trend in this album's repertoire. Asgard is one of my absolute fave Italian 90s prog bands, 'Arkana' being their crowning masterpiece, and generally speaking, a gem of contemporary symph prog.
Cesar Inca | 5/5 |

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