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(59:13, MALS Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. The Autumn Evening 7:33 2. The Keeper of an Hourglass 4:56 3. The Confession of a Witch 6:54 4. You Sleep 5:19 5. May I Draw Wings for Myself? 6:54 6. Everything Has Been Thought Up So Well 4:28 7. One Under the Umbrella 4:42 8. The Shades of the Past 5:45 9. Tranquilly and Uneasily 3:50 10. The Wheel of Our Fate 5:02 11. Follow the Way of Birds... 4:30 LINEUP: Andrey Pishchulov – keyboards; vocals Igor Inshakov – guitars Andrey Travkin – basses Ruslan Dzhigkayty – drums With: Nikita Simonov – bass Irina Surina – backing vocals Nikolay Vengrzhanovich – backing vocals
Prolusion. The Russian band THE GROUP 309 is the creative vehicle of composer and musician Andrey Pishchulov, initially conceived to give life and music to the poetry of writer Dashi Yashenko, which resulted in the debut album "Dreams of Sea" in 2010. "The Keeper of an Hourglass" is the second full-length recording by the band, released by theRussian label MALS Records in 2014.
Analysis. Those with a keen interest in progressive rock will, perhaps, have a hard time placing this specific album into a context. Not due this album being all that diverse and eclectic, but because the band here has created music that blends in also elements not all that common among progressive rock bands. But for a general description, I'd suggest that those with an interest in neo-progressive rock might be the audience that will find this material most inspiring. With that being said, there are plenty of details and some compositions here that orient themselves towards a classic symphonic progressive expression, with classical music a likely source of inspiration and with wandering piano motifs something of a recurring element throughout. The keyboard presences can also be both inspired and relatively complex, albeit in the context of being mainly accessible and without too many excursions into the technically challenging realms more common among the symphonic progressive rock bands of older times. More often the keyboards are used to create moods of a more atmospheric nature, often tied in with gentler guitar details and solo runs also corresponding to that general description. What sets this album slightly apart is that there's also room for harder edged guitar riffs, often of a kind and nature that makes me think about AOR and even hair metal. In addition there's also an occasional visit or two into a sound closer aligned to vintage ’70s hard rock with majestic, powerful organ and guitar riff combinations leading the way. Tying this all together are gentler escapades that appear at regular interval, where the aforementioned more careful keyboard arrangements are paired off with emotional lead vocals and rhythms, and guitars also falling in line with a gentler, more careful general approach. Extremely well made, although at times with subtly odd and unusual combinations of sounds, but just about always with an apparent focus om making the music easily accessible yet retaining enough details and unexpected twists to keep it interesting as well.
Conclusion. The manner in which The Group 309 blends elements from vintage symphonic progressive rock, hard rock and atmospheric neo-progressive rock into a whole results in a likable and compelling production. Perhaps not the kind of album ardent fans of the more challenging aspects of progressive rock will be intrigued by, but those with an ear and a feel for accessible, melodic progressive rock should find the charms of this CD rather alluring, I'd surmise.
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