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Tracklist: 1. The Opening 2:01 2. Upstairs 14:15 3. When I Revive 13:02 4. The Word 2:35 5. Wake Me Up 16:16 6. Pulse 2:43 7. By Daybreak 1:00 Line-up: Alexander Kulak - electric & acoustic guitars, vocals Vitos Afanasiev - digital & analog keyboards, flute, harp, vibe Demitry Bakay - bass guitar Idris Faridonov - drums & percussion With: Female Vocal Band "DIVO" ("Miracle") on track 3. All music written & arranged by Azazello. All lyrics by Alexander Kulak. Produced by Alexander Kulak. Recorded and mixed by Alexander Kulak & Demitry Bakay.
The official Azazello homepage: >http://www.progressor.net/azazello
Prologue. "Upstairs" is the second album by Azazello and the first one that they released on the Musea label, which, along with Charisma, I consider the best and most important label in the history of Progressive. (As for today's scene, "Musea" is, in my view, the premier contemporary Prog label by all means.) By the way, there are plans to re-release the debut Azazello album "Black Day" on "Musea", as well , (in the spring of next year, it was initially released by the "Moonchild" label back in March of 2000). Let me also remind you that Azazello is one of the main heroes of "Master And Margarita" - the famous novel of the great Russian writer Michael Bulgakov. Russia's best contemporary Progressive Rock band live and work in a small town Tynda in the Far East region of the country. At the moment, they are touring in Moscow, while I am dreaming of the joint tour (at least the show) of Azazello and Garden Wall (if you wish, visit the official homepage of the best contemporary Italian Prog band too: >http://www.progressor.net/garden-wall).
The Album. There are only three tracks featuring vocal parts on the album: Upstairs, When I Revive, and Wake Me Up. These long compositions contain, however, too few vocals to call them songs. Taken together, the vocal parts of each of them sound no more than 3 minutes in length, while the remaining tracks of the CD are completely instrumental. All of the said compositions: Upstairs, When I Revive, and Wake Me Up, as well as three instrumentals: The Opening, The Word, and By Daybreak, represent nothing more than complex, serious, Classical Music performed with contemporary instrumentation. Only Pulse consists of diverse interplay between varied percussive instruments and few solos of vibe. When I Revive contains just a short couplet sung by female Russian Folk Vocal Band "Divo" (please don't confuse it with Dio, which is an American Rock band: sorry for the joke if you know that). I will now describe in detail all of the short classical instrumentals. The Opening is the only track that represents Classical Music played with only acoustic instruments. This 2-minute piece consists of several different interplays between classical guitar passages and solos with acoustic guitar along with very effective pizzicatos of the harp. The Word, performed with only the Church Organ (OK, with a digital organ that sounds not unlike a real Church Organ), impresses me no less than most of the fugues of Bach. Despite the fact that By Daybreak is a very short piece, with two duets of 'synthetic' symphonic passages and 'soft' solos of bass guitar that are different in themes and tempos (!), it sounds like a classical piece. Actually, all of the said instrumental pieces sound wonderful and magical. While it was easy for me to describe the short compositions, it is more difficult for me to describe the long ones, especially in detail. Upstairs, When I Revive, and Wake Me Up consistently display constant, kaleidoscopic, sudden, and absolutely unpredictable, changes of diverse and complex arrangements and tempos of all the same qualities. I use the word "arrangements" because there aren't any themes (as well as repetitions), apart from a couple of vocal ones that, though brief, are very changeable at the same time!) Everything is unique on these long tracks (on the album as a whole, though) - music in itself, arrangements and solos. There are, however, no separate solos and interplay between varied soloing instruments. Common techniques that musicians contrive to elicit from their ('Rock'!) instruments, their incredibly virtuosi musicianship of each of them and their joint performance as well, etc, again and again, and over. Especially outstanding are the high-speed duels between keyboards and guitar, though they sound like 'Classical' instruments, especially guitar: could you ever imagine it?
Summary. While formally "Upstairs" represents a unique blend of Classic Art (Symphonic) Rock and Prog Metal, actually this is the first album that represents complex Classical Music, (just) performed with traditional 'Rock' instruments. Yes, Azazello are friends of mine. But even if they would be my blood brothers, I would never allow myself to tell you lies, dear brothers and sisters in 'Prog' land. I still have not received the "Upstairs" CD from "Musea", but, having this brilliant album on original cassette already for several months, I couldn't write the review before it was released officially. So I had enough time to think of the status of "Upstairs" as I saw it and still do. While I consider it to be one of the five best Prog Metal albums ever created, (along with Black Sabbath's "Never Say Die", King Diamond's "The Graveyard", Mekong Delta's ("Mussorgsky's) Pictures At an Exhibition", and Garden Wall's "The Seduction of Madness"), I find it a most unique and diverse album of the Prog Metal genre (at least: because anyone of those into a complex and innovative Classic Progressive Rock will undoubtedly love it, too).
VM. November 9, 2001
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