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TRACK LIST: 1. Jihad 8:01 2. That's Life 4:42 3. Ode to the Ex 3:07 4. Siren's Song 1:14 5. The Golden Fleece 4:48 6. Daydreams 2:41 7. Build a Better Mousetrap 4:08 8. Boll Weevil's Flea Circus 1:01 9. Through the Looking Glass 3:22 10. Savannas 3:58 11. The Maelstrom 2:20 12. Death & His Half-brother Sleep 1:43 13. Full 4:40 14. Catacombs 2:53 15. Deja vu 5:41 16. Anyman 4:01 17. Echoes 1:10 18. Back to the Tribe 4:59 All music & lyrics: by Lunn. All arrangements: by NEO. LINE-UP: Mike Lunn - keyboards; guitars Dave Marion - vocals; drums Scott Schrecengost - guitars; vocals Bill Hankins - basses; vocals Marc Reynolds - drums & percussion Produced by NEO. Engineered by Reynolds.
Prolusion. "Anyman" is the debut album by the US quintet NEW EDEN ORCHESTRA (NEO hereafter, especially since the band uses the abbreviation as well, and I believe it's not without intent). According to the CD press kit, this is a concept work "in the style of "The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway", "The Wall", and "Tommy". The individual tracks depict the various emotional states of an ordinary man confronted with the everyday drudgery of his life."
Synopsis. Indeed, "Anyman" is a full-fledged concept album with good music and lyrics. But although the band asserts that a wide variety of musical styles are represented on it, I will dare to disagree with them on the matter. There are a wide variety of compositional and performance particularities. Stylistically, however, this is a rather coherent album, which, in my view, is always better than vice versa (read motley), especially with regard to the works that are submitted to a unified lyrical concept. In a general sense, the music is Symphonic Art-Rock, and as for the details, I'll point them out below. Another aspect of the band's view on their brainchild that I am going to call in question concerns the principal sources of their inspiration. There are episodes and the entire songs as well that arouse immediate associations with "Tommy" by The Who, Pink Floyd's "The Wall", and Genesis. The Genesis influences dominate the album, but the band should have referred to "Duke" (which is also a concept album), and not to "Broadway", as "The Lamb" never stepped on these fields. A typical Neo, done much in the style of "Duke", appears on That's Life, Savannas, Full, and Back to the Tribe (2, 10, 13, & 18). The distinctive, immediately recognizable sound of Pink Floyd is present only on Ode to the Ex (3), which can in many ways be regarded as (yet) Another Brick in the Wall, and that of "Tommy" can be heard on many songs, but only in places. What's interesting, however, is that on any of the tracks where NEO displays who, including the Who, are their benefactors (here: teachers) in absentia, the band used only compositional archetypes of the music from the aforementioned albums. In short, you won't hear on "Anyman" any solo that would remind you of Tony Banks, David Gilmour, etc. Even in the vocal parts the guys don't allow themselves to imitate the 'corresponding' singers too frequently. Besides, each of the said songs contains the band's original ideas, too, while the other compositions are either absolutely free of influences or are very close to the status of complete originality. The latter part of the remark concerns only the vocals, which, sometimes, have much in common with Genesis, especially on tracks 1 and 5, and those in The Who on some others. Daydreams and Build a Better Mousetrap (6 & 7), the first of which was performed without drums, are the remaining two songs representing Neo Symphonic Art-Rock without any stylistic makeweights (or in pure form, if you will). Something average between Classic and Neo Symphonic Progressive with elements of Prog-Metal is the music on Jihad, The Golden Fleece, and Deja vu (1, 5, & 15), though the first of them is also notable for the Saz-like solos in particular and some shades of Arabic music in general. The other eight tracks are instrumentals. In most cases, Through the Looking Glass, The Maelstrom, and the album's title track (9, 11, & 16) follow the direction of the three songs that I've just described, but these are the representatives of the genre's classic manifestation and, apart from the latter, are free of heaviness. Brilliant works. The music on Catacombs (14) is made up of exclusively orchestral arrangements, and Death & His Half-brother Sleep (12) is a classic acoustic guitar piece. The remaining three tracks: Siren's Song, Boll Weevil's Flea Circus, and Echoes (4, 8, & 17) are too short to consider them real compositions. Nevertheless, being symphonic by nature, they fit the overall musical picture of the album.
Conclusion. Neo fans rejoice: your day has come! Despite the fact that the music on "Anyman" is accessible rather than complex, at least for the most part, it is very tasteful and has plenty of the other merits, all of which weren't ignored by yours truly. Although NEO presents itself as an independent artist, I would highly recommend them to immediately contact the people at Inside Out Music, who, I believe, will be happy not only to sign them, but also re-release "Anyman". This way, NEO might have a really radiant future. Otherwise... The band's potential audience is inconceivably large, but I am certain that they won't be able to reach many of their possible fans on their own. The band has every prospect of success to be at the head of the new millennium's Neo movement, and by the way, its name is also of help, - all joking aside.
VM: June 1, 2004
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