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Orion - Orion 2.0: Virtual Human CD (album) cover

ORION 2.0: VIRTUAL HUMAN

Orion

 

Symphonic Prog

4.26 | 42 ratings

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tszirmay
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Mentorship is a beautiful concept that has been around in the artistic world since Eden, seasoned veterans passing on their expertise to a younger generation of artists , often creating an altogether new style albeit with a new found vigour. The French symphonic group Orion was founded back in 1975, disbanding in 1980 and gloriously reforming in 2011, having recently released a few delicious albums , 2017's 'Le Survivant' and most especially the amazing epic 'La Face Visible ' from 2015, which were most appealing. Led by musicians of Polish origin (Janusz Tokarz and Patrick Wyrembski ), they have now positioned themselves as an overseeing influence in terms of production and methodology, giving their young musicians the platform to shine on their own. Virtual Human is a departure from their more symphonic previous catalogue, daringly edging towards a jazzier, more subtle form of prog, certainly more upbeat and crystalline than ever before . While still loaded with crafty chords and complex arrangements, the onus was now more squarely focused on attractive melodies . Lead singer and composer Jerome Nigou certainly stamps his positive style on the tracks , with a mellifluous voice that glides, swoons and caresses with flair. All the other musicians played on the previous opus 'Le Survivant', namely keyboardist Paul Cribaillet , electric guitarist PJ Horville as well as the tight rhythm section of Eric Halter on bass and Cedric Affre on drums. 5 songs are sung in English and 2 in French.

The title track introduces this new climate of shimmer and gleam, expertly infectious groove that grows into a harder edge, propelled by a tight beat, chugging guitar that explodes into frenzied licks and Jerome's suave voice. Modern life with all its gadgets, social media platforms and cellphone /computer interfaces ruling our daily activity. Contrasting the robotic feel with the more organic style they now swear by, Horville adds a more aggressive guitar to the mix that ends the deal.

'T.O.W.U' aims at a proggier covenant, distorted sound snippets churning into a more complex soundstage, contrasting with the lighter vocal-led arrangement, the swooning synth break and some wicked lead guitar soloing that twists and veers like a fly by wire jet fighter.

Keyboardist Cribaillet favours his piano for the next piece 'Run For life' , draping a classical structure onto a more folk tune, aided by a sizzling guitar line , recalling the exploits of a lady athlete who died at too young of an age. The panting arrangement is asymmetrical and choppy on purpose, with only the soft voice remaining to convey the dedication of continuing regardless. The ensuing piano solo is magnificent, steeply rooted in jazz , with a slight Celtic tinge.

'Le Nuage' (the Cloud) is a more direct song that has that swirling guitar feel so unique to PJ Horville, quite a unique style to say the least, as the singer sweetly sings about the effect of an Internet crash and how mankind would cope with such a 'catastrophe' . The lead guitar solo is noteworthy in its simple/complex rhetoric , as its screeches wildly.

'Silicon Cirkus' is inspired by California's fascination for diversity, where sunshine and silicon chips vie for attention and the human/robot conundrum lives supreme , there is a lot going on in terms of musical options: a slide guitar country a la Hotel California, mixed in with some San Francisco Zappaisms, a touch of LA Van Halen feel, and topped off by a blistering 6 string bass solo! Now that is ballsy! Nigou even does some vocalizations that emanates from funk central! Creative to say the least.

The 7 minute ballad 'Silicium' is a slick experiment in progressive creativity, combining breezy George Benson-like guitar phrasings with a high-pitched vocal that hints at quality pop music. Its quality lies in its simplicity and easy listening sheen, sandwiched between the previous wild ride and the upcoming finale which is pure prog.

Another 7 minute epic , ''Shagreen'' (a play on the french word chagrin, which means sorrow) is inspired by an 1831 Balzac novel that offers another take on the classic Faustian choice of granting your wildest wishes at the cost of the Devil owning your soul. An elaborate composition that has moments of intense hypnosis and intensity, a sublime moog solo vying for attention and a satisfying ending to an entertaining , fresh, airy and interesting album.

Orion mark II is quite the discovery, with a bright future ahead. I am still enthralled by ''La Face Visible'' as it delved into subject matter that I hold dear to my heart as it relates directly to who I am and what I have become. It would be therefore unfair to compare it to this new release or any other prog album out there! If you enjoyed Siiilk, another super French band that has some similarities with Orion 2.0 than you will love Virtual Human.

4.5 Imaginary earthlings

tszirmay | 4/5 |

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