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TRACK LIST: 1. Duction from the Intro 8:05 2. A Night of Candles 6:50 3. Handing a Challenge 4:00 4. Equal Strokes 3:50 5. Between the Face and the Mask 10:09 6. Return to Same 5:19 7. Ojales 2:39 8. Selajo 3:21 9. Intrada 3:50 10. Less Complicated 9:18 11. More Complicated 4:29 12. In Front of My Eyes 4:01 13. Pyro-Lamb 3:09 LINEUP: Alfonso Vidales – keyboards Pepe Torres – woodwinds Antonio Bringas – drums Claudio Cordero – guitar Flavio Miranda – bass Bobby Vidales – vocals
Prolusion. A living legend (at least to my mind) from Mexico, CAST was formed in distant 1978. However, it’s still at the forefront of the modern international progressive rock movement, one of its most prolific, creatively at once successful and uncompromising units. “Cast Art” is its brand new album, released in December 2011. The outfit’s sections on this site with links to reviews of all sixteenth of its studio creations can be entered by clicking here.
Analysis. “Cast Art” is composed of thirteen tracks, and while six of them have vocals (again in English which, though, is improved now), the music on those is normally as intense and varied as that on the other pieces, so I won’t specify which of them are instrumentals, etc. As to the album as a whole, it displays on the one hand that the band has returned to its symphonic art-rock roots, but on the other, it incorporates such a strong prog-metal element into the style that, well, it will definitely appeal to fans of both of the genres. However, it begins with what is clearly a standout here, the 7-minute instrumental Duction from the Intro. A piece of exquisite complexity, it instantly brings me back to the band’s mid-2000s period of work, which embraces its three longest and, at the same time, most profound albums to date, “Al-Bandaluz”, “Nimbus” and “Mosaique”. Combining classic, vintage-like Symphonic Progressive and RIO along with some jazz-fusion inflexions (mainly outside the RIO-related moves), this is a more avant-garde piece of music than any of the others, somewhat surrealistic in a way. Sensible use of atonality, complex rhythmic measures and plenty of inventive arrangements take it far beyond the standard prog rock fare. At first, following those of my tastes that have been formed most recently (read: when I dug Chamber Rock), I had a thought that it would be better if the band continued playing this way throughout the album. Upon the second listen, however, I realized that the rest of it is a musical gem of the first water too, especially since the band’s current approach to create heavy music formations, as well as blend those with symphonic and fusionesque ones, is completely new compared to anything it has done in that field before and is quite experimental and innovative per se. Alfonso continues to develop his composing style (and also bravely change it when necessary), as a musician appearing now as more than a ‘mere’ techno-wizard, as well as each of his bandmates. I’m not sure why the – gorgeous, intricate – tenth track Less Complicated got the title it did: perhaps because it’s the only composition here that shows interest exclusively in Symphonic Progressive – at its best, exploring a variety of its facets. Okay, then the most complicated one would arguably be A Night of Candles. Ranging from Art-Rock to jazz-tinged Prog-Metal to almost Jazz Metal, the piece goes through a series of phases, all of which fit comfortably together, in spite of the striking stylistic as well as structural difference between most of those. Some of the most unexpected – and therefore highly intriguing – moments, including some surprising avant metal-evoking moves, are just here. The other two pieces that also contain jazz-fusion features, Ojales and Pyro-Lamb from time to time incorporate those into the mixture of contrasting, lushly symphonic and violent-heavy elements, which is in turn always the basis of the compositions. The same complex synthesis of styles forms the music on three more tracks, Equal Strokes, Intrada and More Complicated, but already with no jazz inflexions, for sure. Handing a Challenge and In Front of My Eyes alternate art-rock sections with prog-metal ones, while Between the Face and the Mask (the longest track here, 10:09) and Selajo are heavy throughout. Quite a few of the described pieces at times-to-often find the rhythm section providing highly complex pulses, while the core musicians thresh away with jaw-dropping virtuosity. Occasional comparisons with Rick Wakeman (within the synth-driven arrangements) and Dream Theater (within those prog-metal sections that are full of technically complex moves) are overshadowed by the band’s own very unique overall style. Only deploying fortepiano, acoustic guitar, flute and some vocals, Return to Same is a quieter, yet also brilliant piece, most of the time evoking a symbiosis of classical music and acoustic Progressive at its best, and be sure, it contains enough complexity and thoughtful arrangements to please even the most discerning fan. All of the album’s tracks without exception are excellent examples of the band’s skill and maturity, to say the least.
Conclusion. The best 2011 release I’ve heard so far, “Art” is a high-tech, high-intelligent, high-spirited creation that will demand you to listen to it. While not as incredibly innovative as the above three albums by the band, it’s still a first-class outing, undoubtedly a masterpiece, proving that Cast is one of the best as well as creatively most stable acts in the modern prog rock world. Top-10-2011
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