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Caamora - She CD (album) cover





3.40 | 74 ratings

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3 stars She is quite something...

Originally reviewed for Progressive


The collaboration of Clive Nolan (Pendragon, Arena) and Agnieszka Swita has taken the form of Caamora and has brought us this impressive rock opera based on the novel She by H. Rider Haggard. As the press release says, the process of creating this epic release took many months and has culminated in this live show featured on the DVD release taking place in Poland in Katowice at the Wyspianski Theatre. The lineup consists of the vocalists Clive Nolan, Agnieszka Swita, Alan Reed (Pallas, Neo) and Christina Booth (Magenta). Musicians are John Jowitt on bass (IQ, Neo), Mark Westwood on guitars (Neo), Martin Bowen on guitars, Richard West on keyboards (Thrashold), Steve Williams on keyboards and Scott Higham on drums (Pendragon). Ewaryst Nowinowski on oboe, Tomasz Wojtowicz on horn and Tomasz Starzec on cello. There is also a choir but I will not give the detailed lineup.

As for the synopsis of the story, you can either read the book or look it up on the Caamora website. In short, She (Agnieszka Swita) who must be obeyed is a queen called Ayesha with special powers and more than two thousand years old that awaits for the reincarnation of her love, an Egyptian priest called Kallikrates. She ruled over a tribe called Amahagger in eastern central Africa, among them a young woman called Ustane (Christina Booth). When two Englishmen arrive to the tribe, Holly (Alan Reed) and Leo (Clive Nolan), She is caught up with one of them, Leo, and believes he is the person she has been waiting for all those years. Since Ustane has fallen for him, confrontation between the two women arises and She kills Ustane. Leo, who is now love struck with the queen doesn't let the murder to come between him and his new love. She then persuades him to pass through Fire of Life which will render him immortal. Despite Holly's pleas, Leo is drawn after the queen and she then proceeds to go into the fire first (her second time as she is already immortal) but since one can only bathe once in the fire, she dies. Leo is overcome with grief and enters the fire himself to become immortal and await his queen reincarnation.

The music:

The music sounds like what I had expected it to be. Though bearing the markings of neo-prog, a bit of metal-ish riffs (power-metal style) and the style of Nolan's previous bands, it is more than just that, as the scope here is much bigger, grandiose, covering a story that goes on for more than two hours. The album/show features great musicianship, wide range of instrumentation, anthemic choruses, rhythmic and catchy tunes, beautiful voices and backing vocals, majestic and bigger than life feel; all these are abundant here. I find that there is good balance between the story telling and the parts where the music is "allowed" to play though it doesn't go roaming "free" too much. There is a variety of styles, tempos, emotions shown here - from grandiose and theatrical tracks (like the opening song Overture) to prog-metal like songs (such as parts of The Storm) to neo/symph-prog (like The Veil and Ambush) to slower, quieter and emotional songs (Closer). The variety is also achieved by the instruments found on the stage: the usual rock instruments plus an oboe, horn and cello that enhance the beauty of the music; fronted by the four lead vocalists and a choir. As for the vocalists, all do a wonderful job but I have to single out Agnieszka Swita which has a spectacular and powerful voice. The sound is rich and full, and for those who have a good surround system, you'll enjoy the 5.1 version of the show. This piece will please neo-prog fans, as well as those who like a well done orchestration and building of a story into a full-blown rock opera.

The show itself - DVD:

I never liked seeing shows. I find the playing to be embarrassing and amateurish. I prefer to imagine in my mind what's going on. I find the visual aspect to mostly detract from the experience and also to take away from the charm of the music. This is why I recommend listening to the album first and then watching it, if you have the DVD. The stage is quite small, and the musicians are set on the two sides of it, and the vocalists and actors stand either in front of them or between them. The singers and actors are dressed accordingly to the story, but as for actual playing, this is where a true opera differs. There is some playing (with regards to body movements, acting etc.) but to me it mostly looks forced and artificial (except for Agnieszka Swita). I can't understand why someone would want to watch this again after the first time (and even that is too much). I much prefer to listen to it and imagine it in my mind. I have to say that for me actually watching the show and not just listening to it, takes away much of the joy of listening. But as the crowd in the concert seems to like this a lot and from the reviews I've read of the DVD, I guess many people like it and so do not rely solely on my words with regards to it; but do be warned if you do not like simple theatrical presentations or find them boring then I would avoid it and stick to the cd version. I can appreciate the effort of making such a show, and there's obviously a crowd that likes it, so I reckon that if you like this sort of staging, then go for it. I for one, will not be having a second look at this.

To sum this up, this is a well done rock-opera, which will appeal to fans of neo/symph-prog with some "brushes" of prog-metal. If bands like Arena, Pallas, Pendragon, Magenta et al. are your "drug", then this release is definitely for you. As for which particular format to choose - I personally don't like watching DVD's, but I am in a minority and therefore recommend reading what other reviews say of the DVD. A sure bet, if you're willing to invest in it, would be to get the box set which includes the double studio CD, double live CD, DVD, bonus DVD with 6 acoustic tracks and extra interview footage.

avestin | 3/5 |


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