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Eureka - Shackleton's Voyage CD (album) cover





3.62 | 68 ratings

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5 stars Another of prog's major characteristics is the ability to create through sonic experimentation an overwhelming sense of raptured escape and boundless voyage. There are countless masterpieces that confirm the yarn of progressive rock as an artistic mixture of music and arts & crafts, an endless stream of luscious textiles, gilded filaments and intricate design, heavily attractive due to the manic attention to detail, bedecked with gems and shiny stones. We used to call it "tripping" back then, in the wondrous 70s and we witnessed night after exalted night of interstellar expeditions, coated in a still pure na´vetÚ. Stories told in a wondrous musical context remain the core of the progressive muse. Well that tradition has not died out with the arrival of this exciting package from German multi-instrumentalist Frank Bossert, allied with some splendid cavalry charges from Iona's Troy Donockley, RPWL's Yogi Lang and Billy Sherwood of Yes fame. The descriptive is centered around the ill-fated polar expedition led by Sir Ernest Shackleton, a tragedy that went somewhat unnoticed during the strenuous early months of World War I. Throughout the 15 tracks, British actor Ian Dickinson offers his documentary-style voice to add some narrative, providing historical reference points for the rather illuminating music displayed.

Sweeping along the traditions of Wakeman's Journey to the Center of the Earth and Oldfield/Vangelis masterpieces, "Departure" implies the instrumental glee and buoyant confidence of a major undertaking setting sail, whooshing synths, rippling guitars simulating the flapping canvases and the exultation of a giddy crew. "The Challenge" states the purpose and the goal, crossing the Antarctic from coast to coast, Sherwood 's voice flush with muted anticipation perhaps even a hint of dread, as if expecting some frozen disaster. On "Grytviken Whaling Station" the mechanical effects and the woozy guitar instill the notion of preparation and the tedious performance of getting the show on the road. "Heading South" is an all-out masterpiece of symphonic grandeur, Yogi Lang's extended whistling synth Ó la Manfred Mann rustles up images of distance and epic melancholy, while Bossert weaves in some parallel guitar lines. The frosty "Icebound" initiates as a bleak foreboding soundtrack, crisp winds howling on the horizon, swept along by a delicate melody that hints at Vangelian majesty in a quasi-electro/classical dimension that evokes the subject matter perfectly, the frozen vastness imprisoning the tiny wooden vessel , ironically named "The Endurance"! "Plenty of Time" introduces some optimism, a Celtic romp on the Uillean pipes (here played by Stefan Markus) that playfully stares danger in the face and states "bring it on!" from the star-crossed crew. "Going Home" is the winning track here, a genial attempt at articulating the destruction of the ship by glacial asphyxiation and the need to survive the ordeal, a gigantic main melody expertly expressed by Sherwood's forlorn voice propelled by some lustrous arrangements, flush with hopeful anxiety ("fight for our lives"). Bossert's axe solo weaves magically some kind of salvation, the synthesizer egging the flight on, with some backing choir work to finalize the menace. The instrumental "Into the Lifeboats" has a buzz of impromptu scurrying, overt violin arrangements adding a grandiose implication for haste and no time to waste, while the guitar bursts Ó la Oldfield (a strong influence here), blitzing manically and spurting encouragement (the bass popping renders the urgency very well). "Elephant Island" as the title implies, reverts to the lumbering glacial mastodon of synthesized sound, plodding the eerie message of frozen destiny once again. "Will You Ever Return?" features the triumvirate of female vocals named Kalema , expressing the fears and worries of the families back home, another nod at Oldfieldian territories, majestic acoustic guitars vying with distressing piano meanderings, a completely successful piece that encompasses even further the ominous pain. "In Search of Relief" is the longest track here, ticking in at nearly 7 minutes, an odyssey of exasperating "endurance" (sic), a woozy blend of gentle harmonics blown aside by some harsh guitar blasts, furious drumming, reptilian bass and an extended and raging guitar foray that remains utterly convincing. The mid section offers some intricate picking, different patches and tones for the 6 strings involved, while the synth backwash persists further into still iced-up deliverance. Finally, the excruciating moment has arrived, "The Rescue" ushers in a feeling of exhausted disbelief, a variation on some of the previous melodic themes and humbly ending the proceedings with the words of Ernest Shackleton :"in memories we were rich. We had pierced the veneer of outside things. We had suffered, starved and triumphed, groveled down, yet grasped at glory, grown bigger in the bigness of the whole. We had seen God in His splendours, heard the text that nature renders. We had reached the naked soul of man". A masterful monument to human suffering and progressive descriptive. A gem?..

5 frozen lifevests.

tszirmay | 5/5 |


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