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Oaksenham Conquest Of The Pacific album cover
3.74 | 61 ratings | 11 reviews | 30% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 2006

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Anthem: The Unseen Land (0:48)
2. Water Spark (6:26)
3. Elfy (1:31)
4. The Way Back Home (9:29)
5. Talybont (2:47)
6. On Reflection (4:41)
7. Time Out (4:00)
8. Conquest Of The Pacific: Jester's Pipe (3:10)
9. Conquest Of The Pacific: Merlin's Jig (2:48)
10. Conquest Of The Pacific: Across The Atlantic (6:16)
11. Conquest Of The Pacific: Ocean's Web (6:07)
12. Conquest Of The Pacific: Golden Hind (8:02)

Total time 56:05

Line-up / Musicians

- Vardan Gasparyan / acoustic & electric guitars
- Anna Adamyan / keyboards
- Valeri Tolstov / flute
- Koryun Bobikyan / violin
- Vahagn Papayan / bass, producer
- Ashot Korganyan / drums, percussion

- Andranik Kochar / bassoon (4-12)
- Harutyun Shakhkyan / English horn (4), oboe (3-12)
- Suren Khorozyan / clarinet (12)
- Armen Sukiasyan / French horn (12)
- Sona Yengibaryan / harp (3,4,9-12)
- Mikael Matnishyan / cello (6,8-11)

Releases information

Artwork: Artashes Stamboltsyan

CD Musea ‎- FGBG 4727.AR (2006, France)

Thanks to Ivan_Melgar_M for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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OAKSENHAM Conquest Of The Pacific ratings distribution

(61 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(30%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(41%)
Good, but non-essential (26%)
Collectors/fans only (3%)
Poor. Only for completionists (0%)

OAKSENHAM Conquest Of The Pacific reviews

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Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by erik neuteboom
3 stars This is the debut album by the Armenian six piece band Oaksenham (including players on keyboards, violin and flute) that consists of experienced musicins who played in pivotal Armenian formations and founded Oaksenham in 2001. The additional guest musicians use a wide range of instruments, from harp and bassoon to oboe, French horn and clarinet. While reading about all those instruments and the tracklist that contains two Gentle Giant cover and a piece with music based upon Ian Anderson (Jehtro Tull), I got a strong idea about the music by Oaksenham. And indeed, Oaksenham their instrumental 'conservatory prog' is a tasteful and melodic blend of Classic Prog (like Gentle Giant, Yes and Jethro Tull) and classical -, chamber - and folk music. It reminds me of bands like Gryphon and the After Crying: the one moment a powerful bass, Hammond and fiery guitar are blended with French horn, clarinet or trombone, the other moment you hear flute and harpsichord or a harp intro, followed by a slow rhythm with Hammond organ runs, sensitive electric guitar and flute. I am delighted about the composition Water Spark in which a captivating contrast between heavy guitar riffs and a folky flute, accompanied by organ runs, twangin gguitar, flute and powerful bass, what a lush instrumentation! Not every proghead will be pleased with this kind of music but if you love music like Gentle Giant, Gryphon and After Crying, this band is worth to check out. My rating: 3,5 stars.

Review by Ivan_Melgar_M
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
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.

Review by avestin
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Conquest of the listeners

Have you ever heard an album where talent is oozing from every track on it? This is one such album. Not only talent in playing, but also talent in composing accessible instrumental, melodic and sophisticated progressive rock made up of electric and classic-acoustic components.

Fantastic scent of classical trained musicians playing progressive rock. This is evident in several aspects: - Instrumentation - alongside the rock instrumentation, there are a violin, cello, flute, harp, harp, oboe, English horn, bassoon, French horn and clarinet. - The way they play - reminiscing at times a chamber ensemble - Finally, they borrow and adapt tunes from Elgar and Purcell.

I am still not sure whether they should have used a different sound to their electric guitar, as it is quite harsh and is a big contrast to the rest of their sound; but that is probably intentional as this contradiction brings out the qualities of their sound. This tension between the new (electric guitar and the rest of the rock repertoire) and the classic (all other instruments mentioned above and the style of playing) is a great way to build up the album, integrate both sounds and approaches into one coherent voice that makes up the sound of Oaksenham.

The music is precise, punctuate and effective; free-form is not to be found here too much. It is also quite rhythmic in most parts. In the second track, Water Spark, there is a splendid part played by the keyboards, which is so warm and catchy and such that it makes me want to move to the rhythm. In their sound I hear rock, folk, classical (chamber) and some jazzy influences. The instrumental tracks travel through all of these with ease and subtlety. Nothing sounds forced or out of context. Every not is accounted for, nothing is left to chance (or so it seems and sounds).

The sound is crystal clear; every note, every move is heard well and so easy to discern. From this clarity the listener can appreciate how well they play, how accurate their timing and playing is and above all, immerse in the musical ocean offered here, conquering it much like the title suggests. It is a majestic sound, one that befits compositions of this caliber; the tracks are varied in length, but each one is a world of its own; well composed, rich sounding, sophisticated and keeps the listeners attention. The fusion of the electric and acoustic is so well done; for instance in the 4th track, The Way Back home towards the end of it, the interplay of the guitar and bass with the acoustic instruments (bassoon, oboe and horn) is so natural and beautiful that you wish it will not end. Another such marvelous harmony is in track 10, Across The Atlantic.

One more point is the superb musicianship by the musicians in this album, whether the guest musicians or the band members themselves. Everyone does their part very well, and the production manages to convey this very well as the final sound of this album attests. There is no show-off tricks here, no playing for the sake of being technically complex. Rather we get (again) an accurate performance, sharp when needed and mellow and soft in the other occasions. This band is equal to a small orchestra in the variety of sounds they produce and each one executes their role at the level it's needed. The bass does an excellent work in giving a strong backbone to the music; the wind instruments are spectacular at setting the tone; the electric guitar is played very well giving the harder edge, at times even going for a slightly frisky sound. All in all, the end result has a synergistic effect on me as the listener. I am very impressed at the level of musicianship and of the compositional skills as well. One does not come at the expense of the other.

In summary, this album is a wonderful exercise in the fusion of old and new. It brings a refreshing sound (even if attempted before), and is a great joy for those who appreciate a well composed tune with skilled instrument playing and varied instrumentation. For me this sort of music is irresistible.

A great release, highly recommended.

Review by DamoXt7942
FORUM & SITE ADMIN GROUP Avant/Cross/Neo/Post Teams
3 stars Exactly Armenian folk...isn't it?

Why cannot we call them an eclectic progressive rock band? Indeed their sound is symphonic and dramatic, but, basically based on their Armenian heart, it's really mixture of folk, rock, and classic. As listeners can realize, the last suite Conquest of the Pacific by five parts is constructed by dry flute, brass and horn, keen strings, and heavy-riff guitar plus percussive drums. Besides this suite, many kinds of instrumentals, especially flute with dry and windy line, run wild and rampant. It's strange, I think, that guitar and percussion, they are basic rock instrumentals, can hear soft and warm...namely flute or strings, which should be thought as warm instrumentals, can hear dry and rampant. Does the sound owe an influence of Armenia...? Sorry, I dunno.

At any rate, we can find East European flavour in them. Excellent work.

Review by octopus-4
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR RIO/Avant/Zeuhl,Neo & Post/Math Teams
4 stars A great album with an excellent sound quality composed, arranged and played by talented musicians. what more you can ask for? It's formally a concept album, but it's totally instrumental so it can be only guessed from the tracks titles.

The bass lines together with the fact that most of the songs are composed by the bassist Vahagn Papayan give the band's sound a taste of Pekka Pohjola and Wigwam, but the flute and the violin (played by a former drummer!) add it a touch of folk, even if it's not clear from which nation. Their more folky pieces sound celtic even if they are Armenian, so from the Caucasic area that's probably one of the few places on this Earth which hasn't ever been influenced by Celts.

When the flute is not present we can hear a symphonic prog mainly made of bass, drums and keyboards with the guitar just in the back. The longest track: "The Way Back Home" mixes all those elements plus a bit of fusion with the addition of violin over an impressive bass-line. Also here the main influence that I hear (but I can be wrong) is Wigwam.

A short track like Talybont contain folk, prog and classical/medieval elements all in less than 3 minutes. The album proceeds with this mixture of unusual signatures, specially on "Time Out", then begins the suite that gives the name to the album: Conquest of Pacific. ( I don't know why part 3 is entitled "Across the Atlantic", probably they leaved from Portsmouth :)

Part 1 (Jester's pipe) is neo-classical with violin and flute later joined by the other instruments. Here they demonstrate to be a great band. Part 2 starts with harp and flute and has initially a newage flavour. Listening to it I have a lot of names in my mind, including early Clannad for the harp. Part 3 opens with a dialog between brass and "pizzicato" violin. This is mainly acoustic and not properly harmonic. After Crying are a good reference, but after a couple of minutes the tempo increases and when drums and bass are in it's quite prog-metal but the constantly changing signature make it unclassifiable. The final part of the track is back to classic with an electric coda. Organ opens part 4. This is hard to describe as it changes continuously for tempo and leading instrument. Part 5 opens with solo harp. The classical mood is suddenly replaced by the keyboard. The funky section which follows can remind to Niacin or ELP or also to Rick Wakeman's solo works of the 70s.

Excellent addition ti any prog rock music collection? It fits perfectly in this definition and is very promising as debut album. Only the tribute to "Pump and Circumstances" could have been avoided and is the least good thing of the whole album, but it's not so bad to decrease the rating. A bit more than 4 stars.

Review by Atavachron
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Maybe it's just me. Maybe being bored by such high-quality stuff is a product of age, jadedness, evolution, I don't know. In fact, I hear nothing at all wrong with this Armenian band's well-received first studio go, known for the interest it generated in the Prog world when released. And it's deserved. The six-piece do a brilliant job of taking the best of fixture medieval rock - Gentle Giant, Tull, Gryphon - and mixing it down to a healthy blend.

But that's it. That's all there is. Just a lot of really impressive post-progressive rock. They even throw in a couple Gentle Giant covers for good measure, as if the influence wasn't a bit less obvious than an unshaven man in drag. As I listen I can barely grasp a hold of the fine music as it passes by me, no tension, cues, hooks, knowing winks & nods, or even humor: once a treasured part of Prog, now a rare find. Perhaps it's all too good, lacking the delicious mistakes and unforeseen musical happenings that are so vital to rock, even prog rock. A vast, unending desert of very well-constructed and recorded music that moves continuously but goes nowhere. At first I'd hoped it was due to a bad case of "Haven't Listened Enough Syndrome", so I ignored my first impression and eagerly re-spun the 12-cutter. It actually got worse on the second and third tries, and as my disillusionment deepened with the knowledge that not only would I likely be selling the disc for credit at my nearest brick&mortar, but that I'd also have to someday be honest about my opinion of a respected record, I could only sit, stare at the beautifully done notes, this earnest band of young players risking a trad-Prog album in our time, and wish that things had been different, that I had been different. A truly regrettable three stars.

Review by kenethlevine
3 stars Like their countryman Vahan ARTSRUNI, OAKSENHAM operates in a neurotic folk tinged setting, with uneasy interactions between heavy guitars and flutes being predominant. While ARTSRUNI was more skilled in the folk realm, OAKSENHAM is at its most compelling when the arrangements transition into symphonic dominions, which transpires more and more as this debut album unfolds.

While nobody can fault the lively and TULL-like acoustic aspects of the opener, drenching rhythm guitars are breathlessly inserted, generally resurfacing during breaks in the flute work, almost as if the musicians are bowing to each other, or tag teaming. The problem is they are not in the same court, and the other predominant instrument, the organ, manages to occupy yet another orthogonal plane. Comparisons to GENTLE GIANT and MINIMUM VITAL help to depict this proficient but clinical methodology.

Luckily the group opts for a mini symphony for the 5 part title cut, and here all is integrated far better. The pinnacle is Part 3 (although Part 4 is close behind) where they manage to more deftly blend the previously disparate elements in combination with what sounds like oboe but could be anything I suppose. At times this enchanting music recalls the CAMEL's "Snow Goose" and, in the final part, some flashy RICK WAKEMAN styles keys reach a crescendo. Unfortunately, the inclusion of a portion of "Pomp and Circumstance" only underscores, by comparison, the limitations of this symphony. I cannot imagine the point of this juxtaposition.

It's unclear whether OAKSEHAM plans to record any more, but one hopes they will smooth out a few of the rough cut surfaces and focus on a more overtly symphonic style in the future, which seems to be their trump card if this partial conquest is any indication.

Latest members reviews

4 stars A new discovery from nowhere Armenia is maybe not the most known country in the world. They have a football team and a large part of their population was massacred at the end of the first world war. That's about it. Oaksenham is about to give me another thing to remember about Armenia. Their fi ... (read more)

Report this review (#200934) | Posted by toroddfuglesteg | Wednesday, January 28, 2009 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Is this a perfect masterpiece? No. But seriously, how many of the albums that everybody rates a 5, REALLY IS a masterpiece?? For me this album deserves a 5 star rating because it is very intelligent, intricate and full of many diverse styles of prog. They mix folk, jazz, metal, hard rock, classi ... (read more)

Report this review (#160015) | Posted by dalt99 | Sunday, January 27, 2008 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Well it's hard for me to give this album only 4 stars but I highly recommend it to anyone who can appreciate unique and outstanding progressive rock. Not every song on this album is truly amazing but certain tracks stand out as the best in my prog collection. This obscure band from Armenia has ... (read more)

Report this review (#152466) | Posted by dante.dio | Friday, November 23, 2007 | Review Permanlink

5 stars A superb example of instrumental prog! Oaksenham aren't afraid to acknowledge that Gentle Giant were a great inspiration to them, they also display similarities to Gryphon, Camel and Jethro Tull (in their folk-prog phase). The great thing about this band is that they can wear those influences o ... (read more)

Report this review (#146909) | Posted by barp | Thursday, October 25, 2007 | Review Permanlink

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