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Unitopia - Artificial CD (album) cover

ARTIFICIAL

Unitopia

Crossover Prog


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Menswear
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars New formula adopted by many bands.

From Peter Gabriel, Rush to Sylvan, bands like more and more the approach of 20-80% prog- rock approach. There'a no long synth solos or time breaks; they focus more on catchy vocals and du jour guitars. There you are with this album in your hands.

I've prefered more digging in the song structure, frankly. It's not bad, it's just a-n-o-t-h-e-r band delivering an album that's been made before. I've seen worse, but this style of music is soooo easy to listen, much like the Roll the Bones album of Rush. Some parts kinda grab my attention, they are varied (nice orchestration and an actual keyboard drive!) but too few unfortunately.

Unitopia is serious band with solid instrumentation...just use it! I mean, how much slow-dancing-Hall-&-Oates saxophone can you take (biggest sigh ever)?

Report this review (#281137)
Posted Sunday, May 9, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars Unitopia are not a band to be reviewed lightly. This is not due to an overabundance of substance in their work; rather, the listener needs to become firmly acclimated with their particular style of positive-thinking lyricism, which can drown out the fantastic music in a tide of idealistic cheese. This is particularly evident in the first half of Artificial (specifically on the track Artificial World), which is the lyrical equivalent of an old man grumbling and waving his cane at those pesky youngsters. Apparently the internet is destroying our real-time relationships, we have lost the sense of community that made us human, blah blah blah. There is nothing redeeming here, save for the solid fact that the music is gorgeous and occasionally extraordinary. Unitopia are clearly talented, geriatric songwriting tendencies aside. The album picks up a fair amount of steam when it departs from its extended meditation on how technology makes us emotionless, inhuman pawns: the extended track Tesla marks a somewhat puzzling but welcome departure from preachiness. The ensuing suite of tracks are much more dynamic, musically as well as lyrically, and redeem an album that ultimately falls short of The Garden's more majestic and intense moments.

That said, the band have chosen to restrain their instrumentation, steering clear from discernible organ lines in favor of synthesizers and using the saxophone as a means of connecting intense musical moments via generic jazzy interludes. The guitar is crunchy as always, but the instrumental frenzy the band is clearly capable of creating (again, moments of The Garden astonish with their power) is eschewed in favor of the atmospheric. This works, and doesn't work, depending on the track.

I give the album four stars with some slight reservation, mostly stemming from the first four tracks (although Nothing Lasts Forever is a loving tribute to the Beatles, and has been growing on me steadily). Mark Trueak is a vocalist to watch; it's a terrible shame that he isn't given more meaningful lyrics to acompany his unique voice.

Report this review (#282263)
Posted Sunday, May 16, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars Unitopia offers many themes throughout this release, the complexity of modern living, depression, superficial existence, but finishes in an uplifting positive way - we can still have a fulfilling way forward if we want. As with their first 2 releases there is a vast variety of instruments and musical styles and this is what makes this group particularly appealing.

After a nice little introduction (Suffocation) we ease into Artificial World which offers a solid start to this impressive release.

Nothing Lasts Forever is a nostalgic revisit of happier times when the "Boys from Liverpool" gave us all we needed and life was simple and better.

Not Human Anymore has a more urgent musical pattern and grunt, but sweetly enquires if we've lost a part of ourselves. The usual enjoyable tempo changes are prevalent here.

Tesla, the album epic with several parts joined together and all the while easily holding my interest, musically and lyrically. Grand Piano, Tony Banks Organ, Orchestra, Folksy, Mediterranean, Jazzy, Acoustic etc etc. At around the 9 min mark of this 13 min cracker is the start of a great twist and you'll join in with the chant..... "we are, we are, all parts of the whole, all parts of the whhhholllle".

Timms gives us Reflections and tackles the issues of depression and along with Trueack's vocals, I defy anyone not to feel the sad depth of this beautiful track....a Unitopia classic.

The Power of 3 is the instrumental introduction to the Rule of 3's and again surprises the listener with the diversity of this band, if anything I would have loved this to have got out to 3 or 4 mins but let's not get greedy. Rule of 3's offers the continuing changes in musical patterns and poses a question I can't answer, but what I do know is I'm loving this album!

Gone in the Blink of an Eye is a punchy and gutsy output, frenetic at times but then calmed by saxophone and the message is clear - treasure today and don't take what we have for granted.

And now to the closing classic, The Great Reward. A magnificent ending to a very good piece of work. A re-occurring theme appears with a more positive outlook. An uplifting finale offering hope - spine tingling and powerful - a great reward for the listener. This song gave me a similar vibe or feel as Afterglow gave me and I imagine this song to be a great encore song for the band. Long may they continue!

Musically this album is 'top notch' and has something to offer for every Prog Rock fan, but another more than worthwhile reason to buy this release is to experience the vocal wonder of Mark Trueack. Obviously influenced by Peter Gabriel he has a sweet and powerful range and is a valuable asset to accompany the brilliant musicianship of this great band from Australia.

Report this review (#282998)
Posted Saturday, May 22, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars Well

This music group now is quite more mature.

There was no doubt they were very good musicians but (mostly because of their first album) i had doubts about their future.

The have a nearer approach to symphonic rock now.I think we can name this kind of prog. as symphonic progressive.

Nowadays their music is between The Tangent and America s symphonic proggrers Spock s Beard and Neal Morse.

The singer is every time better.

Compositions are every time stronger.

Artwork is very good too

Excellent arrangements.

This is a very pleasant light symphonic prog rock to listen.

So is very good news Australia has a prog band to remain a classic in prog rock(hope so)

4,5 stars

Report this review (#288747)
Posted Wednesday, June 30, 2010 | Review Permalink
Marty McFly
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Errors and Omissions Team
4 stars I think that Jonathan (Menswear) described it well. There is truly some kind of "copying" (nothing so visible though). However, this album is better, like for

4(-) I suppose. Artificial Life, song about disillusioned state of mind by today's world, Beatles (or simply nostalgia) inspired track Nothing Lasts Forever or nice Symphonic arrangements (featured or more songs here by the way) of The Power of 3.

But album continues in a way that I consider good. Story set in these lyrics is touching and sinisterly reminiscenting of a world we're living in. Vocalist sounds less and less like Peter Gabriel (silly presumption, I know). After first two tracks, songs get more melodic and also more "living", like there is some kind of heart involved in process of songwriting (like that it's not artificial at all).

4(+) I suppose.

Report this review (#290233)
Posted Tuesday, July 13, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars Wow, I knew this was going to be good, but I didn't expect it to be thaat good.

This album suprised me very much.

Continuing the modern prog way of having a big long song, with the Artificial suite being near 50 minutes. The bonus tracks are also pretty amazing as well, and just make the album that more enjoyable.

I also had had odd conversations with these guys on Facebook, crazy odd Australians.

I. Suffocation - Great intro with a nice percussive build up. 8/10

II. Artificial World - Very Marillion. Amazing chorusd and great vocals from Mark. 10/10

III. Nothing Lasts Forever - An amazing piece of music. Very Beatles influenced (it even mentions them in the chorus. Spectaculaire instrumental work. 10/10

IV. Not Human Anymore - Another great chorus with some kick ass riffs. Pretty epic ending. 9/10

V. Tesla - The intro sounds like an Alan Parsons moment. The chorus is odd, but I love it. The instrumental sections build up to amazing climaxes and show a lot of virtuosity. The string sections are very beautiful. 10/10

VI. Reflections - A beautifull prog ballad. 10/10

VII. The Power Of 3 - Sounds like something from Final Fantasy. Amazing composition. Very beautiful. 10/10

VIII. Rule Of 3's - Love the lyrics. Amazing instrumental work. 10/10

IX. Gone In The Blink Of An Eye - Great chorus. The saxophone solo sounds like a cheesy 80's theme. 9/10

X. The Great Reward - Beautifull ending. Very epic and a great vocal performance. Again, very Marillion. 10/10

11. What Kind Of World? - A beautifull epic song. Quite dramatic with some amazing instrumental work. 10/10

12. This Time, I Think We Got It Right - Very lo fi, almost like lounge jazz. 9/10

13. Relative To Me - Sounds like Bjork. Again very lo fi. Nice chorus. 8/10

CONCLUISON: A definite for album of the year.

Report this review (#293487)
Posted Thursday, August 5, 2010 | Review Permalink
lazland
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars I bought this album based on the 2010 best albums of the year chart. I had, to be honest, never heard of them before. I'm glad I did.

This is a very satisfying slab of modern progressive rock, and nice to see a band from Australia.

There is all sorts here, including probably the finest Beatles tribute and influenced track I've ever heard in Nothing Lasts Forever, some beautiful melancholy on Reflections, a satisfying epic track Tesla. In fact, my feeling listening to this album is that they draw their music from a wide range of influences, and also have produced an extremely easy album to listen to, which, in my book, is absolutely no drawback at all.

At turns melodic, at turns jazzy, certainly on Rule Of 3's, at others powerful classic rock, with a fine vocal performance from Mark Trueack.

I will certainly be exploring the other works by this band.

One of my pleasant surprises of the year, and rated 3.5 stars, rounded down to a very strong 3 stars for PA purposes, but with the emphasis on good, rather than non-essential.

Report this review (#305577)
Posted Tuesday, October 19, 2010 | Review Permalink
lor68
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Well, a modern work of progressive music like this "Artificial", is a little bit controversial, especially as a difficult concept dealing with life, like within the first ten tracks composing the suite, which are not always "organic", being very interesting anyway!! The epic track- "Tesla"- let me think of such a great scientist, who invented the AC-DC voltage, the radio broadcast (not Marconi, as erroneously indicated inside the scientific books) and some other incredible stuff like that!!

But, apart from my regarding above, for me their track "What Kind of World?" is the most personal composition of the present album, thinking of the deep impact with a "double-face" characterizing the controversial human being todays, on our "delicate" environment, especially when such a stupid human kind wants to innovate the world all around!! Well probably it's the same concept as in the 70's track of "Death of Mother Nature Suite" by Kansas, in a modern version, even though the theme by Unitopia doesn't reach the same dramatic tones as in the famous Kansas album, but nevermind...the production in general is very good and the lyrics remarkable as well! I don't know whether the band is better in their jazzy tunes or in their melodic aspects, even though however the work by this interesting Australian band is worth checking out at least, without the echoes of the best world music as well- and perhaps you could add an half star at the end!!

Report this review (#348398)
Posted Thursday, December 9, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars Despite living 'down under' this is the first time that I have heard of Unitopia. I find the 'Crossover Prog' genre hard to get my head around. So whether you consider this band to be 'Progressive' or not, this is an accomplished album. There is a good balance between instrumental sections and vocal melodies that allow each member of the band to display their talents. No doubt though, the partnership between Mark Trueack (vocals) and Sean Timms (keyboards & vocals) is fundamental to the quality of this album. Thoughtful and well delivered lyrics, catchy melodies, and well produced songs make this a gem in a year that has seen so much mediocrity.

Artificial explores the impact humans have on the world around them, and at times has an almost film score quality, which is perhaps not surprising given that Timms is a major contributor.

The band has described themselves as a 'musical adventure'. I look forward to seeing where that 'adventure' takes them next.

Report this review (#362246)
Posted Thursday, December 23, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars Crossover, Neo, Symphonic? A little bit of each here and there. Crossover because there are a few tunes which are just straight ahead commercial songs like Yes' more straight ahead stuff. A bit of Neo because it has an 80s/90s sound and Symphonic because there are some extended passages of noodling (ala Floyd) and film-score music.

These days, Australia produces good original music in the form of singer/songwriter pop/rock and folk music and an occasional good band, but a lot of today's Aussie music is dance pop, R&B and rap following the US and UK mold (or is that mould). Whilst most Australians would profess to 'like' Pink Floyd (because "Wish you were here" and "Learning to Fly" gets played on the radio), not many would be aware of new prog like Unitopia.

I think Unitopia have smoothed out their sound with this album and it all fits together now. The guitar work is excellent as it's lost it's metallic flavour but still employs the technique. Lyrically and melodically it's catchy, mature and lush. Musically, all members have a chance to shine.

This is a strong album although you won't hear anything that hasn't been done before, you'll actually hear ALL the influences clearly! As one of the almost 100 (or was that 50?) people who turned out to see them in Sydney recently I can say they put on a good show and it's great that Australia can produce some world-class prog. Just a pity it isn't more appreciated.

This is and excellent addition to any prog rock music collection, but I think they can stretch a bit further with their next album.

Report this review (#549104)
Posted Wednesday, October 12, 2011 | Review Permalink
Matti
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars I was mostly disappointed with 2-CD The Garden which would have been much better 40% shorter. Australians are again operating with a wide track length scale in the Flower Kings style, but much more convincingly this time. Artificial suite is over 50 minutes long 10-part epic, and in addition to that, one nearly 10-minute track and two shorter ones. The music shifts between straight pop/rock and symphonic prog, in a way that you probably have heard dozens of times. Nothing new under the sun here, but the result is quite enjoyable. A huge improvement over The Garden anyway.

The suite almost holds my interest all the way; a couple of angrier sections I rather skip. Lyrics I presume to be thoughful in its criticism about modern society - frankly I'm not paying much attention to the lyrics in prog nowadays. The most notable feature is how directly 'Nothing Lasts Forever' sounds like The Beatles, nothing wrong with that of course. There are many highlights to the suite that make an emotional impact.

The three other tracks were all quite good. A solid and entertaining crossover-prog album but not essential. 3½ stars.

Report this review (#612370)
Posted Wednesday, January 18, 2012 | Review Permalink
b_olariu
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Artificial is their third album issued in 2010 is is to me less intresting then their previous album. Even in places the bands keeping the attitude and sound of The Garden album, specially in the longest tune Tesla, the rest are pretty ok and nothing more. Lest lenghtier pieces, only one is above 10 min - Tesla, the rest are all around 5 min or under. A more direct and with to many pretentious moments as on previous album, little more rockier moments but combined with prog elements, Artificial world is an ok piec but nothing excellent about. All in all, wheile the musicinship is ok and the vocal lines also good, the album is a let douwn face The garden, no more catchy instrumental sections. Only 3 stars for Artificial.
Report this review (#966660)
Posted Thursday, May 30, 2013 | Review Permalink
5 stars "Those, who have ears, listen!" (Jesus)

The best melodic symphonic I've heard for the last 3 years with soulful vocal, which fit to the music perfectly, and with so much twists and turns, changes, inclusions, fresh ideas and influences, that they name it crossover prog. The songwriting is top notch. 'Nothing Last Forever' is amazing tribute to The Beatles. But the most impressive is little masterpiece 13 min 'Tesla'. From Flamenco guitar and lush sax to full bodied orchestra, from vibraphone to prominent bass lines, and everything so tasteful, in right measure. Some complained that lyrics are to preachy. Who cares about lyrics, if music is so beautiful? Where these guys are from? Australia? Thank you Australia for bringing such a talented musicians to us. Sound quality is also very good. To describe this album in one word, I would say: "A Must". Will stay on my shelf next to Ad Infinitum. 5 classic prog stars.

Report this review (#973826)
Posted Saturday, June 8, 2013 | Review Permalink
4 stars At first I was a little disappointed with Unitopia's 3rd album because I felt it was too mellow, lacked the grandeur of its predecessor's epics, and its own epic, 12-minute Tesla, while consisted of many individually enjoyable parts, was too disjointed. But the album grew on me, I think it's high quality, a consistency we can expect from Unitopia.

The crossover prog label is very apt here. Basically, Unitopia play sophisticated pop rock with prog elements, deep baritone vocals, occasionally crunchy guitar and a pastoralist philosophy. After repeated listens, it grew on me that songs like Artificial World, Gone in a blink of an eye, Not human anymore have great variation between instrumental parts, verses, pre-choruses and choruses fully utilizing their five minutes. Great reward is a lush slow burner, maybe kinda typical, but saved by the deep vocals, and bonus track What kind of world is a great sing-along closer to listen while driving your car.

Report this review (#1018442)
Posted Wednesday, August 14, 2013 | Review Permalink

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