[ SHORT REVIEWS | DETAILED REVIEWS
TRACK LIST: 1. Bronto's Navel 3:09 2. 11th Sense 11:57 3. Nomouglea 7:12 4. The Chasteness 8:17 5. Making of SWEP 1:37 6. Musicogenic Epilepsy 3:50 7. Sheol 8:21 8. Lick Me 5:17 9. The Venturous Dream of a Schlabbershirt 3:02 10. Thin as a Skin 22:47 11. Arrived Without Travelling 1:31 LINEUP: Hans Jorg Schmitz – drums, percussion; keyboards; guitars, bass With: Andrew Marshall – guitars; keyboards Dago Wilms – guitars, bass Steve Unruh – flute; violin Arne Schafer - guitars Erik Vaxjo – Mellotron Peter Simon – oboe Gary Farmer – bass &: Three more bass players
Prolusion. The German project KING OF AGOGIK is the creative vehicle of veteran drummer and composer Hans Jorg Schmitz. From 2006 and onward he has steadily released material under this moniker in between other assignments and obligations. "Exlex Beats" is the fifth of his quasi-solo albums, and was released through his own label Saustark towards the end of 2014.
Analysis. Schmitz is a versatile drummer with a vast experience in many fields of the music scene, something which is noticeable also on this latest of his albums, but it's also crystal clear that he has a firm fascination for many of the classic progressive rock bands in general, and the ones from the ‘70s appear to be as close to his heart as it is to many others that have been around for some time. Still, there are many good reasons for why the word ‘exlex’ (from Latin ‘bound by no law’) is the first word of the album title. A few exceptions aside, this is a production containing material of the kind that many would say has anything but the kitchen sink thrown in for good measure, more or less. It's not actually a wildly eclectic affair as such, however; although initial impressions may be of that nature, constantly changing compositions are something of a trademark feature throughout. Elegant, almost ambient sections with atmospheric-laden keyboards or Mellotron alternate with classic symphonic progressive rock arrangements, more explosive passages closer to progressive metal in style and execution, as well as some nice takes on the classic guitar riff and organ combination. Pastoral prologs and interludes are a part of the varied landscape explored as well, and while not all that prominent, there's also a few instances of arrangements with more of a jazz-oriented or funk-oriented style at hand here. The numerous guest musicians are important contributors throughout, adding their particular expertise to the various styles and atmospheres visited, but as with all albums released under the King Of Agogik moniker, it's the versatility of Schmitz as a drummer that is the standout feature. The manner in which he moves with the music, as well as establishing drum patterns, that functions in at times wildly different stylistic expressions is a joy to hear for anyone with an interest in drumming, and is a key feature that creates a sense of cohesion and unity to all the material, no matter just how eclectic and ever-changing it may be. Those with an elephantine memory and vast knowledge of music will also find three of the creations here to be arguably more interesting than the others. The epic-length piece 11th Sense, that opens with a distant echo of the guitar riff from Yes mega hit Owner of a Lonely Heart, and throughout its 12 minutes long journey, touches upon many details that sound rather familiar, presumably with quite a few direct or indirect nods towards specific bands and songs tucked into the totality of this one. The rather shorter and more hard rock and metal-oriented piece Lick Me Up provides more of the same, now with references to artists such as Black Sabbath, Metallica, Aerosmith and Nirvana as some of many artists given a direct and specific homage in the five or so minutes of playtime here. At last, there's the mammoth composition given the name Thin as a Skin. Those with a quick mind will probably take it for granted that a creation clocking in at more than 20 minutes with this name features some key details more than reminding of Jethro Tull. But rather than being an improvisation over or direct homage to that band's massively popular concept album “Thick as a Brick”, I get the impression that this album and that band functions more as a red thread here, and that the sound of Jethro Tull is one returned to at set intervals, with more of an improvisational aspect to the passages in between those moments. I'm also fairly certain that other artists are given a few nods along the way here, although my memory is not up to the task of establishing just whom. It's an impressive creation though, and the most ardent fans of progressive rock will have a hard time not getting a sheepish grin now and then when listening to it.
Conclusion. While there is a lot of variation and a certain eclectic spirit surrounding just about everything on this CD, "Exlex Beats" comes across as, first and foremost, an affectionate celebration of the spirit of progressive rock. Some inclusions from related styles of music can be found, which can possibly be regarded as minor statements about the influence progressive rock has had on other genres of music, but it is the progressive rock aspect of this production that comes across as the main focus. Which perhaps an impression formed due to the various homages found on certain key compositions, causing an effect on the end listener that hasn't been planned by Schmitz himself. Still, this is an eclectic instrumental album of progressive rock that merits a check by those with a particular fondness for this type of music and keen to hear artists celebrating it.
[ SHORT REVIEWS | DETAILED REVIEWS - LIST | BANDLISTS ]