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Apogee - 2020 - "Endurance of the Obsolete"

(65:34; Progressive Promotion Records)


TRACK LIST:                  

1. Interpretations 9:41
2. Waiting for the Dawn 5:43
3. Endurance of the Obsolete 12:06
4. Spirits Disengage 8:34
5. The Complex Extensive Way 12:55
6. Overruled 16:35 


Arne Schafer - vocals, guitars, keyboards, bass 
Eberhard Graef - drums, percussion

Prolusion. German project APOGEE have been releasing material at a steady pace for the past 25 years or so, a venture that started out and still is the creative vehicle of composer and musician Arne Schafer, but now with drummer Eberhard Graef appearing to be a permanent member as well. "Endurance of the Obsolete" is the tenth album to be issued under the Apogee moniker, and was released by German label Progressive Promotion Records in the summer of 2020.

Analysis. From what I can recall of previous Apogee albums, they have had a tendency to be rather keyboards oriented, and while blending symphonic progressive rock elements with details with more of a neo-progressive character, I have by and large regarded this project as one with it's roots and foundations inside the symphonic oriented parts of the progressive rock landscape. As of 2020, this doesn't appear to be the case anymore, and for me at least this album doesn't really fit nicely into any of the niche descriptions commonly used to pigeonhole progressive rock artists. The opening cut 'Interpretations' strikes me as an invitation for the listener to engage in doing just that: To interpret. The key moments of this song are recurring layered vocal arrangements of the kind that Gentle Giant specialized in back in the day, somewhat challenging and suitably complex, and with a nice array of vintage oriented keyboard sounds used throughout. The structure of the song and the arrangements strikes me as slightly more neo-progressive in nature though, but also contains a wee bit of what I'd describe as 60's psychedelia as occasional undercurrents. Most listeners will probably find the aforementioned vocal arrangements to be most striking and memorable though, and I rather suspect Schafer can look forward to quite a few descriptions about how this particular song is something of a homage to Gentle Giant. As this album unfolds we are treated to a very nice and romantic layered acoustic guitars and vocals driven affair next, with only a faint whiff of keyboards present. A sparse creation that functions surprisingly well, and serves to document that Schafer has developed a lot as a vocalist over the years - I'm probably not the only writer that has pointed out that the vocals have been the weakest point on some previous Apogee albums. As of 2020 I'd say that Schafer now strikes me as comparable to someone like Frank Bornemann in terms of delivery. Bornemann uses his voice better though, especially when choosing range and register, but Schafer appears to have a better overall range, register and a more melodic delivery. In this case the vocals work very well, but the guitar motifs and arrangement is what makes this song function as a whole, complete with classic and latin guitar details. On a few other parts on this album my taste in music in general and for vocals in particular would have desired him to use a different register, but the vocals as such are much improved compared to previous productions, at least in my personal opinion. Next up we are hit with a trio of songs that mix and blend multiple aspects of progressive rock, often using vintage sounding keyboard details and Mellotron sounds to give the songs a classic era feel, with lapses into pastoral landscapes as well as classic era organ and guitar combinations, with space and room for delicate moments as well as orchestral details, a possible slight one off nod in the direction of 60's in general and possibly The Beatles in particular, amidst a nice array of changing and altering arrangements that are somewhat challenging to pigeonhole into any distinct niche or tradition. Undeniably progressive rock, and die hard progressive rock fans may well have a jolly good time in pinpointing various details. The most striking aspect of these compositions for me is that they strike me as being more sparse and less keyboard dominated than what I can recall from previous Apogee albums, with more room for arrangements more sparse and economical. This album concludes in a more recognizable manner for me though, as the 16 minutes plus 'Overruled' brings in just about all the elements I recall from previous Apogee productions. Liberal amounts of keyboards, repeated motifs, symphonic progressive rock oriented escapades blended with more atmospheric laden neo-progressive passages, and a song that twists and turns in a myriad of ways that all strike me as being logical developments.

Conclusion. Apogee as of 2020 strikes me as a band that should have a fairly good appeal among progressive rock fans. "Endurance of the Obsolete" is an album in need of fans that enjoy epic length compositions with enough twists and turns to merit the description challenging, as well as those who do not see the need for such creations to be within or in touch with the symphonic landscapes of the progressive rock universe at all times. In my view this is probably the most accomplished creation form this venture I have come across so far, and a strong album overall.

Progmessor: August 2020
The Rating Room

Related Links:

Apogee Progressive Promotion Records


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