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(62:33; Progressive Promotion Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Avalon 5:09 2. Time Machine 7:08 3. Oblivion 4:00 4. Beyond the Rainbow 11:47 5. Orphan 5:55 6. Strange Melody 6: 11 7. New World 5:17 8. Heaven's Gate 7:00 9. Away From You 4:57 10. Infinity 5:09 LINEUP: Derk Akkermann - guitars, keyboards Jens Beckmann - drums Lutz Gunther - bass, vocals Anja Gunther - vocals Henrik Wager - vocals with: Lena Hulsken - vocals Annika Plackert - vocals Laura Lutze - vocals Joana Soballa - vocals Sven Wobser - vocals Nils Jischewsky - vocals
Prolusion. German band SARIS has a history that goes back to 1981, and have numerous line-up alterations in their almost 40 year long history as a band, especially for the first 30 or so years. For the past decade or so the band have remained firm though, and this has also been the most productive span of the band's history. "Beyond the Rainbow" is their third album with the current line-up, and the band's fifth studio production overall, and was released through German label Progressive Promotion Records in 2020.
Analysis. Saris is a band that is fairly easy to pigeonhole in a progressive rock context. They focus on moods and atmospheres in their compositions, the keyboards are by and large the most prominent instrument throughout, and the compositions are fairly straight forward in nature. Combined with material that tends to shy away from pop music sensibilities, the expression neo-progressive rock is one that readily comes to mind here. Saris have their particular way of exploring this genre of course, and tend to focus on certain traits throughout. As with many neo-progressive bands the lead vocals are often dominant, and will have the function of carrying the song in certain phases. For this band and this album we have both a male and a female lead vocalist , used to good effect for variation and, presumably, story purposes, and a liberal use of female backing vocalists throughout. The latter is also used for dramatic purposes and as effects in non-vocal parts of the compositions. The keyboards are dominant throughout. Not always as a dominant effect, but as a just about ever present feature, and as a central and dominating element in multiple passages, and in particular the non-vocals transitions and solo parts. While more careful overlays is a feature throughout, richer and multiple layered keyboard arrangements is arguably more of an identity mark for this production. In addition it would appear that the band is rather fond of orchestral sounds and orchestral sounding arrangements, as both of these elements are used extensively throughout. From more careful plucked string sounding details and underlying dark cello sounding textures to full blown, multiple layered keyboard arrangements that mimic the rich and majestic sounds of a classical symphonic orchestra. The guitars have more of a supplemental role on this album, providing a firm backbone that at times gives the songs something of a hard rock vibe. Plucked guitar details appear as a more delicate element here and there, used to good effect in that manner just as some piano details of a similar nature and with a similar role. But the guitar gets some moments to shine brighter as well, in terms of providing some rather nice and expressive, fiery solo runs here and there. The rhythm section is probably the least up front element on this album, but provides a steady foundation and maintains momentum nicely throughout. The compositions as such are fairly straight forward affairs. We do get our fair share of alterations, bridges and transitions, but only rarely explored in a manner that can be described as challenging. Much the same is the case with the instrumentalists, even when being expressive this is material fairly easy to digest. Not uncomplicated, but compositions that strike me as honing in on creating moods and atmospheres to a much greater extent than highlighting and focusing on beiong flamboyant and virtuous.
Conclusion. "Beyond the Rainbow" strikes me as a pleasantly engaging production, the kind of album that quite a few people will like and enjoy, but where the audience that will love and cherish this production will be more finite and in a certain niche. The niche in question here being fans of 90's era neo progressive rock in general, and those fond of bands with a harder edge and a focus on moods, atmospheres and majestic keyboard arrangements in this subset of progressive rock in particular.
Progmessor: August 2020
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