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Phoenix - Cantafabule CD (album) cover




Prog Folk

3.96 | 126 ratings

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4 stars A few months ago my good friend Szolt Enyedi, keyboardist of the Transylvanian band YESTERDAYS, sent me a full collection of his favorite Romanian artists, among this collection I found Cantofabule (A play of words between Song and fable) by the relatively unknown Romanian band PHOENIX........What a finding!

It's no secret I have developed certain fascination for the Eastern Europe Prog scenario, specially for those albums that contain strong ethnic references, Cantofabule is not the exception, the album is based in a Dimitri Bolintineanu book called Istoria Ieroglifa, a compilation and history of fantastic creatures,

The album starts with Invocatie and it's weird keyboard intro, somehow reminiscent of a Keith Emerson nightmare, but after a couple of minutes, the change is simply radical, while the bass keeps making a strange sound, guitar, keyboards and vocals join to create a haunting but vibrant track, constantly the song enters into in crescendo passages which cerate a sense of suspense, but with great skills they manage to keep the song under control.

As if this wasn't enough the second part of the song starts Medieval but suddenly returns to the strength of the first half, but now the time and mood changes are simply breathtaking, from a strong and fast narration, to a gentle acoustic passage enhanced by an excellent choral work, fantastic opener, 10:16 minutes of pure Prog

Norocul Inorogului is a Medieval track in Troubadouresque style, the dissonant voices complement each other with great skills, it's really sad I can't understand a word. In the meanwhile a soft harpsichord sound and sweet flute enhance the medieval experience, not a masterpiece as the previous track, but the way they create the atmosphere is just perfect.

Scara Scarabeului begins absolutely different to all the previous, with a vocal introduction that takes us back to the late 60's with the spirit of the Psychedelic perfectly recreated, only two minutes but they prove how versatile a band can be.

Definul, Dulce Dulful Nostru is much more dramatic, the soft keyboard interplays with the bass and percussion to create a dark, almost haunting atmosphere that leads to an interesting vocal passage reminiscent of TRIUMVIRAT in a few moments, but too original and strange to be consider a strong influence. The Moog performance is really interesting, because Gunter Reininger avoids falling into the excesses which are so common when using this instrument, but the best part is the closing section where the band attacks the listener with everything they have, the album keeps getting better.

Now the band turns towards Baroque with the Uciderea Balaurului, but almost instantly PHOENIX starts to Rock in the style of GRAND FUNK RAILROAD, its evident they have a strong attachment to the late 60's but always keeping the ethnic references present, the Psyche keyboard work is breathtaking, another fantastic song.

Stima Casei presents us another medieval recreation where the almost Gregorian (Despite the music) vocals are enhanced by flute and acoustic guitar plus an interesting and very elaborate percussion.

Pasarea Calandrinon begins with a strong and very dramatic piano solo that doesn't prepare us for the elaborate Rock track that comes next, with a certain FOCUS reminiscence but again too subtle to be noticed if you are not worried about making a detailed review, the guitar solo by Mircea Baniciu is typical of the late 60's, giving an interesting mood to the track. The unexpected finale is too complex and surprising to be described.

Now it's turn for some sort of Symphonic Hard Rock with Filip Si Cerbul, another track that reminds me a lot of GRAND FUNK with some keyboard fugues and excellent vocal work, strong and full of energy.

Vasiliscul Si Aspida is another Medieval track with that folk flavor of Romania, even though it gets much more complex and elaborate after a couple minutes, the mysterious mood created by the interplay between guitar, keyboards and vocals makes them stay in unknown territory. Radical changes and distorted vocals plus frantic guitar and Psychedelic organ sections complete the track.

Sirena is probably the hardest and less Prog oriented track, but still they manage to keep the interest of the listener with the excellent keyboards and works as a preparation for Pasarea Roc..k And Roll, another Hard song, but in this case with weird effects and strong vocals.

Canticlu A Cucuveaualiei is one of the best songs of the album, this track has about everything, a strange keyboard intro with oriental flavor, good vocal work as usual and a hard Rock sound full of radical changes,. excellent material.

Zoomahia explores uncharted territory for PHOENIX, now they get very close to Space rock with a very strong PINK FLOYD influence, mainly from Dark Side of the Moon, the changes are perfectly linked one to the other by the competent work of Ovidiu Lipanin the percussion, a bit strange with lots of jamming and dissonant vocals, a very advanced song for a Folk band from Romania in 1975.

The album ends with Phoenix, a soft and melodic track that fulfills it's duty of relaxing the listener after the incredibly bizarre Zoomahia and even when calmed and melodic, so well elaborate that places the cherry on the top of this cake named Cantofabule.

It's interesting how you can listen Progressive Rock for decades and still be surprised by bands of the early mid 70's you never imagined were doing such an outstanding work.

Just a warning, even when the band is considered in Prog Folk, don't expect to stay inside the boundaries of one genre, because this guys explore a lot of different sounds and influences, which makes the album richer.

No less than 4 stars for a very solid album.

Ivan_Melgar_M | 4/5 |


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