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Opus Symbiosis - Monster CD (album) cover


Opus Symbiosis

Crossover Prog

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2 stars Before putting this disc into the player for the first time, I thought it was an album with four long tracks. There was nothing in the fold-out digipak to tell me it's just an EP of 17 minutes, just four regular-length songs. [I always want track lengths to be shown - often I have to mark them myself.]

My first review - about an earlier EP, Mute - for this Finnish group was very positive, but now I'm not seeing their progress as promising anymore. The keys player Staffan Strömsholm has left the group, and the composer-guitarist Victor Sågfors is now solely in charge of synths too. The second album from 2012 (before Strömsholm's departure) still waits for my review which will be more thankful. If this EP, their latest release, shows their future direction, I'm quite disappointed. Nothing very radical has happened in their style per se. They have offered fast, tight, heavy and hectic songs before too, but this four-track selection feels much more narrow and single-minded, even compared to 3-tracked Mute which also concentrated on that particular song structure.

In other words, all four songs sound pretty much the same. Maybe Opus Symbiosis are settling into Heavy Prog / Prog Metal approach, and, by doing so, losing the last bits of personal identity. Sorry, I'm exaggerating now, I mean the last bits of my interest in them. All songs seem to contain the word monster if I'm not mistaken. Used in metaphorical sense though, "monster in your heart", "monster in myself". Christine Sten has a good clear voice, but it's not nice to hear her shouting angrily on top of noisy playing.

This rather negative review is of course very subjective. That's how I am. Objectively speaking I can add that they are doing this kind of keyboard-included hard & hectic stuff very skillfully. Four guest musicians (or three if a background vocalist is not counted) include drummer Pat Mastoletto. Friends of Prog Metal and latter-day RUSH, especially if a female singer is a notable plus, will most likely enjoy this.

Report this review (#1146082)
Posted Tuesday, March 11, 2014 | Review Permalink
5 stars As for justification for five stars, this EP deserves it because it is, as EPs go, a statement of perfection in my collection. Very few albums over the last few years have gotten as many repeat listens as this EP. The band has poured as much of their heart into this EP as most other bands would have poured into a full-length album.

The four relatively short songs on this EP form a suite that easily could have been a part of a longer release. Nonetheless, this is a masterful collection of songs. Christine Sten is a wonderful vocalist, even if, on this EP, she seems to avoid the sotto voce that she masterfully employs at regular intervals on the band's previous release Nature's Choir. In fact, the only thing that seems to be missing from this release is that contrast of light and dark, piano and forte.

The strong presence of Victor Sågfors, who has taken over as full-time keyboardist on top of his regular duties as lead guitar player (as well as producer and songwriter), is also a plus. Apparently, Victor uses a synthesizer hooked up to an old Commodore 64 console. I'm not precisely sure what that does for him, but it results in some rather interesting, if slightly reedy, sounds to the band's palette.

The music itself is wonderful. I've always had a thing for the masterful union of well-played guitar and well-played synths, particularly when sequencers are used - but not overused! - as a backdrop. Certain musical themes repeat on different songs. You get a riff repeated here, but then a new variation thereon, a leitmotif elsewhere, just enough to tie the songs together musically, but not to the point that the songs seem too derivative of each other.

The progression of songs is also interesting in that the first song, "Icebreaker", is entirely in 3/4; the second, "Snowfarm", is about two-thirds in 3/4, the rest 4/4; #3, "Noolan", is about one-third 3/4, the rest 4/4; and the final, "Frost", almost entirely 4/4. It's an interesting aspect of the songwriting.

I can't wait until Opus's next release. I'm hopeful that it is full-length.

Report this review (#1227173)
Posted Thursday, July 31, 2014 | Review Permalink

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