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Collage - Over and Out CD (album) cover





4.13 | 148 ratings

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5 stars Progress or not to progress? That is the question!

After more than a quarter of a century after releasing a masterpiece of music in Moonshine, Polish prog band Collage have returned from the ashes to offer a new album. The follow up and final album Safe came out in 1995 and the band promptly dissolved. Legendary guitarist Mirek Gil went on to ongoing fame with projects Believe and Mr.Gil , while the remaining crew formed Satellite, as well as a slew of related groups like Travellers, Strawberry Fields and Peter Pan. When Over and Out finally emerged from the fog of the past, it was obvious upon first listen that the Collage sound was deemed to be preserved. Not surprising as drummer Wojtek Szadkowski has long been the main composer, along with keyboardist Krzysztof Palczewski as well as bassist Piotr Mintek Witkowski. New singer in Bartosz Kossowicz, who sang with Quidam , another founding Polish prog act, while Michal Kirmuc fills in the big Gil boots , as the melodic guitar style really does make Collage tick. Some have expressed a disappointment with the maintenance of that classic sound, which after 27 years is clearly retro, and it is understandable to always look towards something fresh and new. But this is why Wojtek and crew decided to revive the Collage stylistics, because had they opted for a different tone, it would have been better to create a new band name and moniker. As much as I dislike labels, the truth is that a band is a brand after all. Imagine if Metallica put out an ambient folk synthesizer album with a high-pitched female vocalist who whispers seductively? It isn't Metallica! Called it Velvetica then. The hallmark attributes that made Moonshine such a success was the absolutely whopping melodies, the passionate vocals, the sweeping synthesizers, and Szadkowski's rather remarkable drumming. Mirek Gil has a guitar style not far removed yet still different from Steve Hackett and Steve Rothery (who guest here on the final track) in that sustained powerful notes can be devastatingly effective in expressing emotion. Its all here, and in spades.

Kicking off with a massive 22-minute title track epic is quite the ballsy move, a beeping cardio monitor is a humorous wink at resuscitation as the ominous mood sets in, piano and synths in full glory, as the rest of the crew enter the fray, particularly Bartosz' exalted whisper that can turn into a shout at a moment's notice. The fluidly aquatic guitar line is captivating as the arrangement follows peaks and valleys, familiar yet with a sense of urgency that is undeniably attractive. Szadkowski certainly proves once again that he is the masterful drummer, pulsing, propelling, and pummelling wherever needed. The classic Genesis visits Marillion tendencies are there, unashamedly vibrant and glowing brightly. With lyrics such as " The moon is the mirror of the sun", the band clearly connects with its proud legacy, the drum and synth interplay provoking raised eyebrows , while the electric axe solo shines brightly into the moonlit night! Its like opening a vintage claret and enjoying every single earthy sip. This is definitely "feel good music", as if some kind of musical celebration of life's renewal after 2 years on isolation! Palczewski has a lovely piano spotlight that warms the heart as Bartosz croons gently. This segues into a stunning acoustic guitar melody of absolute beauty, joining the ornate piano as the piece evolves into a vortex of passion. The finale is bombastic and explosive with some seriously agonized screaming, capped by a ranting and wicked guitar lead. There is nothing sloppy or even predictable here, all is crisp and exciting, just like all good epics! Follow that up with a drop-dead extended ballad in the finest tradition of the majestic "Living in the Moonlight", a fervent vocal evocation that has grandiose stamped all over it, twinned with a sublime melody for the ages, "What About the Pain" is surely the finest ear candy! But again, this is not bland or saccharine at all, loaded as it is to the gills with gritty edge, grizzled agony, and voluptuous liberation. Screeching guitars, mountainous keyboards and thunderous drums really take this piece into the stratosphere! When the child choir appears, the heart is slain. Kirmuc unleashes a writhing guitar solo, elevating this to the loftiest heights. Utterly gorgeous. The lovely piano intro on "One Empty Hand" should penetrate anyone's soul like a hot knife in butter, a melody so overwhelming, it must be sheer genius, as it raises immediate goosebumps. The harrowing vocal is compelling, intense, and convincing. Twirling, fluttering, and shimmering, the axe just lights it up, insistently persuasive. After such an onslaught, maybe its time for another mid-sized epic? "A Moment, A Feeling" chooses a more contemplative intro, ratcheting up the atmosphere with some rapid-fire arrangements that defy gravity (these lads know how to play!), weaving, diving, soaring, gliding, and leaping as if the devil was running after them. The gargantuan keyboard waves find a strong association with the resolute rhythmic percussives, constantly pushing, perhaps even shoving the mood along, to desperate elevations. The guitar just adds to the dazzle. The impeccable vocals confirm once again the crafty quality of the emotions displayed. Deliriously tasty. The gentle finale has the blessed presence of Steve Rothery, as if to stamp this fine release with even more accreditations. "Man in the Middle" pays homage to the famous Marillion, very much in their vein stylistically, especially vocally where Bartosz evokes his inner Fish/Hogarth, a mix of anger, whimsy, bitterness, and unbridled desire. The dexterous guitar shines brightly, scintillating, dazzling in its simple audacity. Brilliant, just brilliant. The beeping monitors brings on the silence.

Maybe formula for some, but this baby sure likes the nourishment it provides! This arrived on December 2, shooting up the ranks of the finest 2022 prog albums. Finally, Moonshine has a partner to play with. It was about time. Beautiful cover art as well.

5 montages

tszirmay | 5/5 |


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