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(205 min DVD / Metal Mind Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Periscope 2. Mirages 3. In the Deepest of Waters 4. Two Is One 5. The Hidden Riddle 6. Chameleon Carnival 7. Inner Circle 8. Eclipse 9. In the End 10. Encyclopedia 11. Reaching Deep Within 12. The Words Unspoken LINEUP: Johan Reinholdz - guitar Martin Hedin - keyboards David Fremberg - vocals Thomas Lejon - drums Fabian Gustavsson - bass
Prolusion. Swedish band ANDROMEDA, instantly evoking the nebula of that name, have been around on this earthly plane:-) since 1999. "Playing Off the Board" is their first DVD, following their three studio albums, "Extension of the Wish" (2001), "II=I" (2003) and "Chimera" (2006).
Analysis. This is my first encounter with Andromeda, and as a neophyte I must simply admit I am deeply impressed with most of this quintet's work, in terms of both composition and performance. Without borrowing anything from anyone else, they play classy classic symphonic Prog-Metal of the same caliber as Dream Theater or Sieges Even, to name just a couple of the genre's protagonists. Comparisons to the former band could be made, but the similarities are transitory. Filmed and recorded live in Katowice, Poland, during Andromeda's last-year's tour in support of their latest CD "Chimera", the concert lasts for about 87 minutes and includes twelve songs, four from each album, - a really welcome mixture equally touching on each period of the band's studio activity. The set is overall so very strong that it is easier for me to cite the numbers I like less than the others (it would be Eclipse, quite a plain ballad, and In the End) than list all those I find to be excellent, so I'd better touch on the most characteristic aspects of the theme. Much of the music is genuinely cerebral, with a challenging structural style, a chemistry that secures a harmonious coexistence of elements belonging to various sources. The sound is much more often both hard and bombastic than delicate, but it doesn't matter much in the end since the band is equally masterful in whichever direction they wend their way. It is guitarist Johan Reinholdz, keyboardist Martin Hedin and vocalist David Fremberg who, so to speak, drive the act, but the work of the rhythm section shouldn't be underestimated either, as its commanders, bassist Fabian Gustavsson and drummer Thomas Lejon, are both at once tireless and resourceful in providing the key players with what can probably be regarded as both a basic and supporting fabric. The singer is a true showman, sounding generally great, and his kind of laidback-from-surrounding-events approach is a pleasing contrast to the more violent instrumental passages. Even though there are lots of lyrics, the vocal lines are never trivial or, to be more precise, at least overtly so, except for the aforesaid ballad. Besides, personally I think it would've been better if the instrumental Chameleon Carnival had featured some singing, because as it is it (is certainly excellent, yet) smacks at times of a benefit performance for the guitar player. The visuals and the sound are perfect, which has been quite typical of the Metal Mind DVD productions since probably the very beginning of the label's activity in this field. What seems to be unusual is the behavior of the audience whose (truly inactive) response to the event, despite all the singer's attempts to sway them, brings me back to Soviet times when the public is ceremoniously-immovably sat down throughout, with a near-stony expression on their faces, doling out their approval as if dispensing alms to the artists. The extras run for two hours, and apart from the usual set of features (the band's biography, discography, photo gallery, desktop images and web links), include some of their earlier live performances, two interviews and plenty of their 2006 tour footage.
Conclusion. Throughout the concert Andromeda prove themselves all to be first-rate musicians with much versatility, regardless of whether the matter concerns their solo fireworks or their joint performance. Recommended to fans of Prog-Metal.
VM: October 7, 2007
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