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Heliopolis - 2014 - "City of the Sun"

(42:48, 10t Records)


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TRACK LIST:

1.  New Frontier 10:11
2.  Take a Moment 8:55
3.  Mr. Wishbone 3:30
4.  Elegy 6:07
5.  Love and Inspiration 14:05

LINEUP:

Jerry Beller  drums, percussion; vocals
Matt Brown  keyboards; vocals
Kerry Chicoine  bass; vocals
Michael Matier  guitars 
Scott Jones  vocals 

Prolusion. The US band HELIOPOLIS was formed back in 2012, with a line-up of musicians that merits a description as fairly experienced, and with backgrounds from band constellations such as Mars Hollow, Ten Jinn and (cover band) Gabble Ratchet. "City of the Sun" is their debut album, and was released in the early fall of 2014 through the US label 10t Records.

Analysis. Symphonic art rock remains a popular staple amongst fans of progressive rock. A subset of progressive rock that does come with quite a bit of variety though, from artists crafting complicated and fairly demanding varieties, blending classical symphonic music with rock, to those who opt for more of a distinct rock foundation, on which they apply keyboards with a distinct relation to the aforementioned subset of classical music. There are, of course, also bands that seek inspiration from the innovators of the golden age of progressive rock that falls in under this description, and Heliopolis is, to my mind, a band that belongs to this category. The five compositions on their debut album are ones that come with quite a few notable associations. The lead vocals, as well as the vocal harmonies used throughout, are all of the kind that should inspire fans of bands such as Yes and Starcastle to take notice. As far as instrumentation, structure and general expression go, the opening epic-length song New Frontier should tick the boxes amongst the same group of listeners quite nicely, perhaps apart from the dramatic, dark opening sequence and some recurring details from that one later on this is a creation that wouldn't have come across as out of place on a Yes or Starcastle album. Familiar sounding, not to the point of replication, and extremely well executed at that. The following Take a Moment and later on the lighter toned, frail Elegy are rather different creations however. These are creations that arguably may be pointed towards fans of more contemporary bands; Spock's Beard comes to mind, as well as Genesis. Without sounding anything like either of them, but with some faint traces and details here and there that make me suspect that those who enjoy those two bands might enjoy these compositions a bit more than the rest. Take a Moment is also much more of a guitar-driven affair, just about the sole exception to the symphonic progressive rock description given earlier on. We're treated to a brief instrumental affair midways, three minutes of quirky instrumentation of the kind that gives associations to a meeting between King Crimson and Gentle Giant in the mid 70s, and then there's the concluding epic Love and Inspiration, a fourteen minutes long affair, where my main impression is that the band incorporates all the details from the previous compositions (perhaps apart from the aforementioned instrumental interlude) into a jubilant, positive creation.

Conclusion. As far as debut albums goes, "City of the Sun" is an impressive one. Symphonic progressive rock with a core foundation placed in the 70s, nicely blended with a late 90s-oriented US version of the same. Fans of bands like Yes and Starcastle would appear to be a key audience for this album, which sold out its first pressing in record time, and especially those amongst them who also find bands like Spock's Beard to be enjoyable.

OMB=Olav M Bjornsen: April 14, 2015
The Rating Room


Related Links:

10t Records
Heliopolis


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