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(79:54, MALS Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. The Sun / You're My Son 13:58 2. Transition A 2:17 3. Mercury Who I Am 9:08 4. Transiiton B 0:50 5. Venus / Brought You Roses Every Sunday 11:13 6. Transition C 3:28 7. Earth / I'm Walking 13:16 8. Transition D 2:13 9. Mars / Four Years Since 12:15 10. Transition E 0:54 11. Phaeton / Don't Touch Me 10:22 LINEUP: Oleg Anurin – vocals; flute; keyboards; didgeridoo Michael Zonov – guitars; vargan Michael Heifets – drums With: Vladimir Kislyakov – bass Mike Volokh – doudouk Roman Savin – vargan Aleksander Movsesyan – kemancha, kemani
Prolusion. The Russian band BATISFERA was formed by Oleg Anurin back in 2007, and following an initial demo production interest about this new band was high. Following up this initial interest was halted when Anurin broke his hand however, but in 2012 Batisfera was back on track again, releasing their debut album "Solar Wind - The Inner Circle" on MALS Records towards the end of the year.
Analysis. Of the many variations of music that is described as progressive rock, the symphonic variety of it is traditionally among the more popular ones. First and foremost because the majority of the giants of the genre from the 70's, commercially speaking, explored this particular style. New bands exploring this particular part of the progressive rock universe are measured against high standards, but are also frequently met with a keen and genuine interest. And it is easy to understand why there was something of a buzz around Batisfera when they started out. Their take on symphonic progressive rock is of the kind that merits the description vintage in style, sound and structure. Epic length, multiple themed compositions tied together by, literally, transitions, all of them are parts of a larger conceptual whole. A description that in itself will be tantalizing for quite a few, I expect. That the compositions themselves are a literal smorgasbord of vintage symphonic art rock will most likely emphasizes that. Pastoral sequences sporting flute and acoustic guitar? Check. Jazz-oriented sequences and occasional jazz rock details? Check. Whimsical wanderings and details not too far away from and perhaps bordering the Canterbury tradition? Check. Smooth symphonic rock similar to Camel? Check. Organ driven movements with suitable guitar support and vice versa as Genesis were the masters of way back when? Check. Add in some neat guitar soloing in the style of Steve Howe and occasional dips into harder edged territories of the kind you might expect from bands inspired by the likes of Uriah Heep or Deep Purple, and you've pretty much got this band sorted. Most often with all of the above contained within each of the epic length main parts of this album. Apart from the more atmospheric laden transitions there are two deviations of note to this description: The Eastern oriented instrument motifs applied to Mars, which gives this piece an atmosphere of its own, and the focus on darker toned, harder edged and more aggressive themes on final piece Phaeton. Both of them incorporate the earlier mentioned tendencies too, but especially in the latter of these two compositions not to the same extent as on the preceding parts. Which for that particular item is a detrimental feature to my ears. What stops me from heralding heaps of praise on this album is a couple of aspects that do come across as somewhat flawed: mix and production the minor of these, a somewhat closed in sound that doesn't manage to fully convey the by and large intriguing arrangements as good as they deserve. The major one is a detail that comes down to individual taste more than anything, namely Oleg Anurin's skills as a vocalist. He's got a decent voice in itself, but to my ears he tends to stray slightly off tune. When this is combined with a rather nasal voice and what I'd describe as a fairly unique delivery, the lead vocals will be an aspect of this production that limits its overall appeal. Those less concerned with vocals in general will see this album as a strong entity, while those who are more reserved in their taste of lead vocals will have to approach this one with some caution.
Conclusion. Symphonic progressive rock with quite a lot of its heart and soul placed in the 70's somewhere is what Batisfera provides on their debut album "Solar Wind - The Inner Circle", and explores in an elongated conceptual context as well. Apart from the lead vocals, which will be very much an acquired taste, this disc is a smorgasbord of delights for those who love this type of music, even if arguably staying put within the more accessible parts of it. This CD probably won't have a broad appeal due to the nature of the vocals, but if you tend to enjoy music of this kind it is a production that merits an inspection.
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