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(71:03 / 'Emkog')
TRACK LIST: 1. Inaugural Bash 26:57 2. August in the Urals 15:52 3. Abandoned Mansion Afternoon 12:14 4. A Squirrel 8:45 5. The Solitude of Miranda 7:18 LINEUP: Dan Britton - keyboards; guitar; vocals Patrick Gaffney - drums Dave Berggren - guitars Brett D'Anon - bass
Prolusion. Hailing from Baltimore, Maryland, DELUGE GRANDER present their debut outing, "August in the Urals", though this project is in fact an off-shoot of another American band, Cerebus Effect (review here). Having united his efforts with his Cerebus Effect partner, drummer Patrick Gaffney, and two recruits, bassist Brett D'Anon and guitarist Dave Berggren (both of whom are outstanding musicians as well), keyboardist, singer and songwriter Dan Britton forms Deluge Grander with the purpose of creating something different from what forms the work of his other outfit. The album also features performance contributions from three session musicians, namely Frank D'Anon (who plays xylophone, trumpet and flute on tracks 1 and 5), saxophonist Jeff Suzdal (1) and female singer Adnarim Dadelos (5). I can't resist the temptation to mention that some of my distant relatives live in the Urals, although I understand this remark is as 'necessary' here as the fifth wheel for a car.
Analysis. In this current period of symphonic Art-Rock's existence, which can in many ways be viewed as an epoch of mystifications and hoaxes, the appearance of such creations as "August in the Urals" is like a gulp of fresh mountain air after a long period of breathing urban smog. I perceive this album as the flower of classic Symphonic Progressive, which was planted in the distant past of the '70s, but has blossomed here more than 30 years later. Indeed, "August in the Urals" sounds like it has been delivered to the present right from the heart of the genre's heyday. The album comprises exclusively excellent compositions and masterpieces, but nevertheless, it is the monstrously long opening track (clocking in just under 27 minutes), Inaugural Bash, which, say, is the best of the best here, the vocals being in the minority or, to be more precise, only occasional. It will be a very long story if I enlarge on the details of the epic, so I'll try to be as compact as possible. This is a highly intriguing, multi-dimensional, intricate, constantly developing (yet never losing its inner coherence) music in the vein of that manifestation of classic Art-Rock which secures the presence of elements of most if not all of the other basic progressive-rock genres without destroying the integrity of the prime style itself. Apart from improvisations, symphonic space-rock patterns, prog-metal-like movements and classically inspired interludes, there are even some fascinatingly angular arrangements that suggest RIO to be found here. It is possible to talk profusely about the similarities between Inaugural Bash and some creations of some vintage bands, but since the resemblances are never vivid, the associations coming mostly from the subconscious, I will dare to name only the most notable one. With the exception of The Gates of Delirium, any of the side-long suites by Yes can serve as a point of comparison in this particular case. Now however, I must note that whenever I use references in this review, I don't mean any kind of imitation (God forbid!), but mainly the depth of musical mentality and a stylistic diversity. In any event, Inaugural Bash is a magnificent creation, without a single note being unnecessary, though if I were in the group's place, I'd have located it on the last track. The point is that the other tunes are somewhat less tangled than this one, so it would've been of help to those who are still on their way to comprehending the highest forms of the style if they'd steadily approached the recording's most intricate composition. The two tunes that follow the opening one, the title track and Abandoned Mansion Afternoon, are both genuine songs, although purely instrumental fabrics cover approximately two thirds of each. To my way of thinking, the difference between Inaugural Bash and these two is the same as that between the title track of Yes's "Close to the Edge" and each of the two consequent semi-epics from that disc, respectively. In other words, August in the Urals reveals a somewhat lesser number of positively frenetic arrangements, whilst its follow-up is already noticeably richer in quieter textures, which however doesn't diminish their general progressive value - otherwise we should apply such 'sanctions' against, well, the B-side of Yes's said creation. However, the vocals in both cases aren't too clear or generally impressive either, so the compositions would have lost nothing without those, especially taking into consideration their musical greatness as such. The remaining two tracks are both dynamically developing instrumentals, neither in the least being inferior to any of the two previously described cuts. The richest in keyboard patterns, A Squirrel might suggest upon the first spin Sympho Prog in its pure type, although the attentive experienced listener will instantly notice the latent classical influences, as well as some quasi improvisations, all of which is relevant regarding the last track too. However, The Solitude of Miranda additionally stands out for its bright Turkic and Spanish folk colorations, one of the acoustic guitar solos being performed strictly in the Flamenco style.
Conclusion. It is possible to end up reasoning unlimitedly upon the stylistic and other peculiarities of any recording, whilst in the end everything is reduced to the realization of the following, most important matter: whether its makers are able to compose music of quality, as well as fittingly perform it, or not. "August in the Urals" is a true piece of art. Having already several listens to the CD behind me, I became sufficiently imbued with appreciation to Deluge Grander for creating a really grand thing to forget of all the disc's insignificant flaws. This is easily the best debut effort of 2006 and is generally one of the very best art-rock creations I've heard during the last fifteen months. Indeed, this band's skill to create a vividly picturesque atmosphere under ever-changing arrangements, within large-scale musical forms, places them much higher than most of their contemporaries playing in the same style - above all their own countrymen. Top-20-2006
VM: March 29, 2007