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(46:00, MALS Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Nowhere and Never 5:55 2. The Snowy Tale 6:50 3. The Wave 6:23 4. November Snow 7:18 5. Island of Dreams 6:24 6. When the Rain Will Come 6:09 7. The Cloud 7:00 LINEUP: Igor Savich – guitars; vocals; keyboards Constantine Savich – bass Vlad Nemchinov – drums
Prolusion. Hailing from Uzbekistan, FLIGHT 09 has been around in one form or another for almost 30 years, formed all the way back in 1986. Over the years they have released a good number of albums too, although the greater majority of them aren't that well known from what I can tell. "Signs of the Water" is Flight 09's tenth full length production, unless I've read their history wrong, and was released through the Russian label MALS Records in 2014.
Analysis. From what I understand from reading site editor Vitaly Menshikov's notes on one of this band's earlier albums, this current CD has been in the works for almost 10 years. I also see that the earlier productions of this band have harvested quite a few words of praise over the years, which makes me wonder if I have missed something vital someplace, as this is an album that to me doesn't sound like a production that has been finely polished for almost a decade, nor does it come across as a particularly impressing one as such. The basic premise of this CD is that it is mostly a hard rock oriented material. The guitars are given plenty of room to provide riffs in varying degrees of grittiness and intensity, and at least on the first handful of compositions in a manner that makes hard rock a more correct description than heavy metal. Careful keyboard details are placed on top, with occasional room for more keyboard dominated sequences, then first and foremost in the instrumental passages. Firm and steady bass and drums support the arrangements, with a somewhat limited vocalist belting out the lyrics in classic hard rock style on top. The main alterations in the song is the transition from an initial opening phase to the main part of the song as such, with some room given for gentler inserts, but by and large the pace and rhythms aren't altered all that much in any of the songs. The arrangements have a fair degree of diversity in build and intensity though, but the typical progressive rock song structure of featuring multiple themes and defined theme developments and variations is absent. Sophisticated hard rock, or hard rock with tendencies towards neo-progressive rock may arguably be a fair description of the contents. There are two exceptions to this, concluding tracks When the Rain Will Come and The Cloud, as both of these tracks are a tad more intense and with more of a metal oriented sound to them. As far as the latter of those goes there's also a stronger emphasis on defined theme variations, earning that one a description as progressive metal in my book. My problem with this specific album is that the songs aren't all that great, combined with some details that are rather detrimental for me personally. Some of the songs do have a lot of promise, and would probably have been truly enjoyable affairs in the right circumstances: Island of Dreams with its playful and highly compelling recurring keyboard motif, and concluding song The Cloud, again with a defining keyboard motif that combines nicely with the additional instrumentation into a compelling and recurring theme, two examples of songs that in other circumstances would have given me a broad smile and a strong thumbs up. As far as the detrimental details go, mix and production are ones of them. The overall sound is a closed one, which is rarely a good thing for any type of intense music, nor for material that features multiple textures. The drum sound is hard in a drum machine kind of way, and the presence of the cymbals appears to be a cloaked one. In sum the mix and production come across as fairly basic ones. Lead vocalist Savich isn't one that manages to elevate any of the songs either. While his voice is fair enough in terms of range and intensity, and he does know how to use his voice in the best possible manner too, his accent is rather thick, and thick enough to become a distracting element. Combined with what I have to describe as a weak production the end result is a CD that doesn't manage to inspire all that much. There are many fine ideas here, ones I suspect would come across as much more compelling if given an expert remastering, but the vocals would remain as a detrimental aspect. The strength of some songs, and then especially those with more elongated instrumental passages, still makes this a production with at least a limited appeal though, but this is a good case of an album one needs to listen to at least a few songs of prior to making a decision to spend money on it.
Conclusion. As much as I'd like to throw praise at Flight 09's latest CD, this isn't a case where that is possible. Their material alternates between compelling blends of neo progressive rock and hard rock on one hand, with an emphasis on the latter, and a nice enough take on progressive metal on the other. The songs are good, but not great however, and with a fairly weak production and what I'll have to describe as heavily accented vocals, the detrimental aspects of this album does outweigh the positive ones rather extensively. There is an audience for this album just as most others of course, I'd suggest fans of sophisticated hard rock to be the core audience for this production, where individual tastes in production quality and perceptions on accented vocals will decide whether or not "Signs of the Water" will be regarded as an enjoyable production.
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