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(76 min, Musea)
TRACK LIST: 1. Sadfield 10:07 2. Crowd on Sail 8:08 3. Empress of the Frozen Sea 10:18 4. Rejected 1:27 5. Voices 7:25 6. The Magnifying Glass 2:47 7. Mirror Man 3:52 8. Distorted Reflection 3:14 9. The Hallucinogenic Lake 8:56 10. Peaceful 0:21 11. Domain of Oblivion 16:05 12. Distinctive Signs 3:51 All tracks: by Ken's Novel, except 7 & 12: Vael, Muermans & Leontiev. Produced by A. Hercor & Ken's Novel. Engineered by A. Hercor. LINE-UP: Patrick Muermans - vocals Geoffrey Leontiev - drums Eric Vanderbemden - guitars Bruno Close - keyboards Sebastien Mentior - bass With: Gabriel Luna - cello Ales Hrdlicka - violin Christine Michel - backing vocals Alain Vael - additional guitars
Prolusion. KEN'S NOVEL was formed in Belgium in 1997. The quintet's recording debut took place in 1999 and resulted in the release of their first CD "The Guide", which was eagerly received by Neo lovers. The 76-minute "Domain of Oblivion" is their second album and features two newcomers: on keyboards and bass.
Analysis. This is the case that I feel I can put a banality in the next sentence. The band didn't spend the five years that separate their two releases from each other in vain. "Domain of Oblivion" is a much stronger effort than "The Guide". Well, not everything went off swimmingly about the change of the band's primary stylistic orientation, but there is direct evidence of progress too. Although the album is rather heterogeneous by structure and not only, the conception of connectedness is applicable to most of the twelve tracks presented. The exceptions are The Magnifying Glass, which is a nice spacey music and is the only instrumental here, and the 21-second Peaceful. What peaceful? I don't know, but this is a strange trick, somewhat of a vocal joke. I really wonder by what necessity it was included in the album and, what's especially incomprehensible; it was placed on a separate track. I also don't see any reason for the presence of the fourth track. Rejected is just a logical continuation of the last theme on Empress of the Frozen Sea, by all means inseparably linked with it. So that Sea seems to be really frozen, looking like mother who rejected her child:-). In reality, this is one of the best, most profound and intriguing compositions on the album - along with both of the other long tracks here: Sadfield and Domain of Oblivion. These three have much in common with each other, representing a fresh sounding, well-balanced combination of classic Prog-Metal and Art-Rock, and only these contain also elements of chamber classical music, provided mainly by guest violin players. It's quite regrettable that their participation turned out to be so limited. (I am guessing why the band didn't ask them to play more, so I'll get back to the topic below.) Although rather short, Distorted Reflection is excellent too, with intricate Prog-Metal-related arrangements throughout. The three moderately long songs: Crowd on Sail, Voices and The Hallucinogenic Lake are musically rather homogeneous as well. Unlike those on the described tracks, here, the instrumental parts going alongside the vocal lines aren't notable for a particular diversity, which, in conjunction with the rather large number of repetitions, results in a typical Neo whose main virtue is that it is not deprived of originality. Fortunately, all the three contain purely instrumental arrangements too, and these are done in conformity with good progressive traditions. So the album's overall integrity would've been compromised if there weren't a couple of strikingly contrasting colors. Of course, I mean the remaining two songs: Mirror Man and Distinctive Signs. They are the shortest in the set and the only the music for which was penned by a guest guitarist Alain Vael. His 'Neo' contributions to the album look really unnecessary, especially counting its monstrous length.
Conclusion. It's clear that with this effort, Ken's Novel planned not only to draw the people from a classic progressive camp, but also not to lose their old fans. I think they have accomplished the task and can count on success regarding the widening of their audience. Besides, such versatile albums as "Domain of Oblivion" serve a really necessary stage in the further development of those Prog lovers who are by nature predisposed to complicated music. Nevertheless, considering all the pros and cons of the CD from my personal standpoint, I can't rate it higher than with five out of the six stars I have. Also, I hope Ken's Novel will keep the tendency to make their music more profound, because most of their audience will certainly mature until their next output appears.
VM: January 14, 2005
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