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(67:22; Duck Dive Music)
TRACK LIST: 1. Masquerade 5:12 2. Shadows of War 6:13 3. Ghosts of Yesterday 4:38 4. Autumn Sky 6:11 5. Twilight 11:14 6. Mysterious Place 5:11 7. Evermore 4:34 8. Change My Yesterday 6:55 9. Crying in the Rain 4:11 10. Grace of Time 6:58 11. Lost in the City 6:05 LINEUP: Derk Akkermann - guitars, keyboards, programming Henrik Wager - vocals Anja Gunther - vocals Lutz Gunther - bass, vocals Jens Beckmann - drums, percussion
Prolusion. German band SARIS has a history that goes back to 1981 and a somewhat complicated history with quite a few different line-ups along the way. The current incarnation of the band solidified sometime after 2010 I believe. "Ghosts of Yesterday" is the second album this version of the band have crafted and their fourth album overall, and was released in 2017 through local publisher Duck Dive Music.
Analysis. As this is the second album I review by this band today, a further presentation regarding style is perhaps not all that needed. For the sake of this album I do feel that their categorization as a neo-progressive band may perhaps be not quite as evident here as on their following album. It is probably what fits the band best though, all things considered. As of 2017 the case is that Saris strikes me as a band with less of a distinct identity, at least as far as pigeonholing a band goes. And in that context I do experience that this is an album with distinctly different sides to it as well, with the first half of the album having some key differences to the second half. Perhaps not any major differences for most listeners, but the devil is in a few details I guess. The first half of the album presents us with a band that creates a distinct blend of hard rock, neo-progressive rock and, arguably, symphonic progressive rock. A blend not perfect on all levels, but where the band manages to keep momentum and tension up nicely by balancing the elements they use. Straight forward and easygoing songs with some progressive elements as far as structure is concerned, with space and room for majestic and swooping keyboard arrangements as well as orchestral details, but also for fiery and atmospheric laden guitar solo runs. Some fine vocal harmonies and female lead vocals and decent male lead vocals are present too. There's always an element at hand that maintains either drive, momentum and tension on this first half of the album, with the epic length creation 'Twilight' as the high point in that regard. If it is a case of the songs dropping off after that, the music becoming too similar or some other reason, the songs that follow just don't gel or engage me at the same level. I think I hear stronger tendencies towards AOR style hard rock in some of the songs, some arrangements strike me as being a bit too busy, some details here and there just fail to engage me on some level or the other. It's one of those cases where I ideally should spend a few more hours trying to dissect an album to find specific causes and reasons I guess. That being said, this doesn't make the second half of this album a lackluster experience, it is more a case of going from something that strikes me as very good to something that is more pleasantly engaging. A subtle difference, as is also the case with the experienced differences in the songs presumably. And as a total album experience, I do rate this album as being slightly superior to their most recent one.
Conclusion. Saris' blend of hard rock and various aspects of progressive rock on "Ghosts of Yesterday '' is a very engaging one at it's best and a pleasantly engaging one otherwise. The first half of this album in particular strikes me as a strong example of relatively easy going hard neo progressive rock. While this is not an album I think will find favor among those who enjoy the more challenging aspects of progressive rock, I would suspect that those with an interest that spans hard rock and AOR style rock as well as neo progressive rock should find this album to be an interesting one to lend an ear to.
Progmessor: August 2020
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