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Oaksenham - Conquest Of The Pacific CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

3.75 | 55 ratings

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4 stars The good old days when you could recognize a Symphonic band after two or three notes are gone, today we are before a generation of "Respectful Iconoclasts", who have broken with the pristine sound of the past but show a lot of respect for the structures.

The most interesting cases come from the Eastern Europe countries, as the Nationalist Movement in the 19th Century, this musicians of Ukraine, Russia, Romania or as in this case from Armenia, add a lot of their own ethnic identity and even when you know they are playing Symphonic masterpieces, they have no problem adding Jazz or medieval sounds at their sole discretion.

OAKSENHAM is a very complex case, their debut album "Conquest of the Pacific" is influenced by Gentle Giant, to the point that they play two tracks from them ("Talybont" and "On Reflection") but they do it in a fully Symphonic way, creating a problem for those of us in charge of cataloguing the new bands.

The album starts with "Anthem: The Unseen Land" a short track that places us in the center of the concept, short but enough to make their point.

"Water Spark" starts Jazzy with Folk touches with a flute solo, but this guys can't be happy with something so simple, sudden Hard Rock interruptions of the guitar add a lot of emotion and aggressiveness to the music.

But that's not all, around the middle it turns atmospheric and mysterious with some creepy laughs and organ eruptions, simply brilliant. At some point they come closer to gentle Giant but with a controlled dissonance, a track that has everything, pure Progressive Rock at it's best.

"Elfy" is a short acoustic track mainly played with flute, violin and guitar, like a Neo Classical approach that takes us back to the Symphonic territory, nice reliever.

"The Way Back Home" starts pompous with bagpipes (probably synthesized) that lead to a hard rocking guitar section and then to a Classical interruption where the flute dialogues with the rest of the instruments while Vardan Gasparyan keeps working with his guitar, it's almost like a collision between the Classical and modernity, simply outstanding. Vahagn Papayan deserves a special mention for his solid bass work. Another strong Prog easy to enjoy despite it's complexity.

Before I comment the next two tracks "Talybont" and "On Reflection" I must say I'm not a Gentle Giant fan, as a fact I can't stand most of their work because o the vocal dissonances, but OAKSENHAM gives this two songs a special treatment, the Medieval sound is present but more in a Renaissance style, if I had heard this tracks by OAKSENHAM before than the Gentle Giant version, I would probably had understood GG better.

"Time Out" starts cacophonic and shocking, the collision between flute and violin with the electric guitar is dramatic, but then they change the mood for a more acoustic Orchestral sound full of Horns and wind instruments, another complex track that is worth listening.

Now it's time for the central theme, the epic "Conquest of the Pacific" which is divided in five parts:

I.- "Jester's Pipe" starts absolutely Medieval in the Troubadouresque tradition, the contrapuntist performance of the Flute (that takes the lead) with the violin first and the guitar plus keyboards later is brilliant, a special mention to Ashot Korganyan who adds the perfect percussion to keep the atmosphere, a very hard task for any drummer.

II.- "Merlin's Jig" is a beautiful song again with the lead of the flute by the virtuoso musician Valery Tolstov perfectly supported by the Koryun Bobikian in the violin and harp, flows gently from start to end, a mixture of delicacy and complexity that really takes the breath.

III.- "Across the Atlantic" starts reminiscent of Serge's Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf, not my cup of tea because lacks of the originality the band has shown along the album, but again a radical change shows us they are ready to shock the listener, from Chamber Music they jump to some sort of Medieval Hard Rock and then to pristine Symphonic with Anna Adamyan making an excellent performance with the keys, specially because before OAKSENHAM she never played Rock, only classical, but a talented musician can adapt to this changing environment.

IV.- "Ocean's Web" starts dramatic and mysterious but then turns towards a Symphonic mood "a la Focus", never leaving behind their typical sound, simply outstanding.

V.- "Golden Hind" is probably the strongest section of the epic, Anna gets crazy with the keyboards experimenting all possibilities and the rest of the band simply follow her, again the Gentle Giant influence is more than obvious, but in a Symphonic style, great way of closing a solid album.

Rating them is no problem, I believe "Conquest of the Pacific" is not a perfect masterpiece but without any doubt a great addition for any Prog collection, so giving them less than four solid stars would be unfair.

I hope they keep releasing this kind of music because the experience is refreshing.

Ivan_Melgar_M | 4/5 |


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