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Daniel Eliseev Project  (D.E.P.) - Night Shadow CD (album) cover

NIGHT SHADOW

Daniel Eliseev Project (D.E.P.)

 

Heavy Prog

3.94 | 26 ratings

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siLLy puPPy
4 stars The Balkan nation of Bulgaria is hardly the most prolific region of the planet that has produced a great number of musical exports so it's quite refreshing to hear an artist or two from this remote nook of the world just north of the much more visited Greece and Turkey. Perhaps the most famous musical export is the internationally lauded Bulgarian Women's Choir which more artistically is known as Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares which displays the intricate sophistication of a cappella polyphonic chant but of more recent notoriety is the progressive metal band Pantommind as well as the experimental metal band Smallman. Joining this small but veritable talented pool of musicians from this bucolic beauty by the Black Sea is the recently formed DANIEL ELISEEV PROJECT (D.E.P.) which formed in the capital city of Sofia.

Catching the prog bug after being blown away by albums such as "Going For The One" by Yes and Gentle Giant's "Three Friends," a young DANIEL ELISEEV felt the calling to drift into the prog universe which allowed him to assemble some of the best talent that Bulgaria had to offer and resulted in the DANIEL ELISEEV PROJECT (D.E.P.) which was formed in 2017. After two years crafting their labor of love, ELISEEV and his army of collaborators release this debut album NIGHT SHADOW which not only captures the zeitgeist of classic 70s prog bands but keeps things contemporary with just as much influence from bands like Haken, Riverside and Porcupine Tree. NIGHT SHADOW exhibits the compositional sophistication of classic era bands while sparkling with the sheen of modern day production values as well as incorporating a variety of disparate sounds from both past and present.

Bursting into action with the opening "Alter Ego," the apparent Haken references emerge with feisty heavy progressive guitar riffs duking it out with virtuosic keyboard workouts that ultimately lead to the high octane vocal dynamics of Konstantin Djambazov whose comparisons with Yes' Jon Anderson do ring true however if you ask me, he sounds like a combination of Anderson along with maybe Don Henley of the Eagles since he has more grit to his voice. One of my pet peeves in heavier prog is that bands craft technical workouts with substandard vocal contributions but in the case of D.E.P. it's obvious from the get go that that is not the case here. Composed of the typical prog rock instrumentation of guitar, bass, keyboards and drums, D.E.P. also utilizes some lesser known instruments to great results. The viola, violin and acoustic classical guitar parts are divinely integrated into the heavier sounds to offer a wide range of dynamics along with a few more exotic sounds from the glockenspiel and guest vocalists.

The beauty of NIGHT SHADOW is how well D.E.P. constructs tracks that sound like Haken's heavier prog antics but decorated with extremely demanding complex harmonies and counterpoints quite clearly inspired by Gentle Giant's most revered works without sounding derivative in any way. The tracks develop easily accessible melodies for the most part and only then once properly nurtured spiral into more off-kilter time signature workouts that implement rampaging guitar riffs, sizzling virtuosic solos and keyboards that unleash the Keith Emerson inspired juggernauts. Another nice touch is the extensive use of the fretless bass which employs a rich tapestry of microtones to be exploited for maximum effect. Generally speaking, the tracks start out slow and soft and lead their way to a more explosive climactic conclusion. Only the opener explodes onto the stage and never slows down.

The middle section of the album is much softer than the two tracks that bookend the album's 44 minute run. The short acoustic guitar track "Awakening" is more of an intro for the following "Broken Consciousness" which displays a veritable smorgasbord of softer and heavier passages with Djambazov's vocal style hitting new strides as he effortlessly keeps up with the jittery time signature passages. Perhaps the only surprise and somewhat of a let down is the track "A Song With You" which features Anelia Toteva on vocals. While a beautiful song that focuses on her feminine charm, it doesn't seem to jive with the rest of the album and would've been best left for an album of similar stylistic approach. It lacks the diverse dynamics of the other tracks.

The grand finale and my favorite track of the album comes in the form of the near ten minute behemoth "The Journey Along" which delivers all the prog goods. An atmospheric moody intro on keyboards with a wailing guitar slowly creeping in, an instantly pleasant melodic hook with just enough avant-angularity to give it an edge and plenty of dynamic shifts into classical guitar and then heavy hard rock riffing attacks. It's the kind of track that takes you on a musical journey in instrumental explosiveness before the vocals ever start nearly three minutes in. The vocals and classical guitar parts are exquisitely slightly off pitch from each other and the remaining band members never miss a beat as they drop in and out of the overall schematics, showing the talent on board this one which resulted from ELISEEV hand picking some of Bulgaria's musicals from already established careers. To top it off, the production is flawless and every instrument finds its proper place and the music speaks for itself never relying on gimmicks.

This one is excellent! My only complaint is how the album loses momentum with the misplaced "A Song For You" but other than that minor quibble the DANIEL ELISSEV PROJECT delivers a highly accomplished debut and should be on every progger's radar as this is only the beginning and a sign of great things to come. To me it sounds like D.E.P. picked up where Haken decided to drop the ball after the band abandoned the overt prog leanings on "The Mountain" and went for a more conventional heavy prog sound, however despite all the references to Yes, Gentle Giant, Haken, Porcupine Tree and the rest, most importantly is that the D.E.P. emerges with a fully formed band sound all their own and one that finds no flaws of instrumentalists or vocalists not ready for prime time. While Bulgaria may not be the world's largest producer of great prog bands, this small nation of roughly seven million sure delivers the quality emerging from within its borders. Bravo!

siLLy puPPy | 4/5 |

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