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(68:02; Giant Electric Pea)
TRACK LIST: 1. Goliath’s Moon 9:12 2. Cries For The Lonely 19:13 3. Crossroads 29:15 4. Innocence And Fortune 10:22 LINEUP: Danny Lopresto - vocals, guitars Cam Blokland - guitars, mandolin, vocals Jez Martin - bass, flugelhorn, vocals Brody Green - drums, percussion, vocals Sean Timms - keyboards, guitars, percussion, vocals with: Steve Unruh - violin, flute James Capatch - saxophones, flute Marek Arnold - saxophone
Prolusion. Southern Empire is a relatively new Australian band founded in 2014 by Sean Timms when his former group, Unitopia, had disbanded. After the release of their eponymous debut studio album in 2016, two years later the team recorded their second work, Civilisation. The album under review features the same line-up, with only the set of guest musicians changed.
Analysis. Frankly speaking, I subconsciously postponed reviewing this album, because that would subsequently mean proceeding to other material and, more or less, parting with this one, which I didn’t want at all. I do not often come across works that appeal to me in so many ways. The music on Civilisation, as well as the band in general, is located on the harder edge of symphonic progressive rock, which invokes stylistic comparisons with such bands as Dream Theatre, Liquid Tension Experiment, Arena. The album contains a lot of clear allusions and references to a wide range of classical progressive units, among which are Jethro Tull, Pink Floyd, ELP, Genesis, Rush, IQ, Arena and, perhaps, many others of which I do not know or whose spiritual presence I haven’t noticed. Yet, since there was not a moment of direct copying or cloning, all this made Civilisation pleasantly nostalgic and very fresh at the same time. The latter quality is also achieved through an unusual combination of different styles coming hand in hand. So (in Goliath’s Moon) after a heavy classical part the music may suddenly (and very logically!) switch to a heavy jazzy mood ending in a soul-like singing by all the musicians with a light accompaniment, which is followed by a jazz piano impro returning to the soul-like section, this time much more richly accompanied by the jazz piano melody and classical electric organ chords. All this culminates in rather heavy classical guitar and keyboard riffs resolving into a marvellously beautiful electric guitar solo. Fantastic! Structurally, each of the four epics between 10 and 30 minutes long consists of several songs, as if enwrapped in each other, like the matryoshka doll, with every layer concealing something truly interesting and valuable – a beautiful improvisation, an engrossing conversation between the violin and guitar, a competition between the flute and sax... And the deeper and further you go into a composition, the bigger and more beautiful are the pearls you find. The musicianship of every participant is impeccable, while every instrument plays an essential part in the entire texture and makes it impossible to imagine the compositions without it. Danny Lopresto’s somewhat coarse voice proves highly diverse and fulfils successfully all the variety of vocal tasks. One of Civilisation’s most important merits for me, however, is the way the men build up their songs, going very smoothly from one part to another, never once invoking an impulse in the listener to skip a section of music because it is too lengthy or is weaker than other sections. There is not a moment when you feel that musicians don’t know what to do and play something with the only purpose to fill the space, which is often the case with long compositions even by the most respectable bands. Everything is enjoyable there. Everything is meaningful. Thank you very much, Mr. Timms and Co!
Conclusion. One of the best works exploring and developing the classical period of progressive rock, where you can also find a lot of most interesting musical discoveries. Highly recommended!
Proguessor: 28 August 2019
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