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(57:37, Generation Prog Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. The Game of Ouroboros 9:41 2. The Blood That Floats My Throne 8:18 3. Creatures of Our Comfort 6:51 4. These Are the Simple Days 8:05 5. Idle Worship 13:28 6. Exile 11:14 LINEUP: Jim Alfredson – lead vocals; keyboards Gary Davenport – bass, Chapman stick Kevin DePree – drums; vocals Jake Reichbart – guitars With: Zach Zunis – guitars Greg Nagy – guitars; vocals
Prolusion. The US band THEO is the creative vehicle of composer and musician Jim Alfredson, who appears to be a better-known name in jazz circles than he is in rock music. "The Game of Ouroboros" is his first attempt at creating a progressive rock album; it was released through the German label Generation Prog Records following a three-year long creation cycle.
Analysis. Many productions have been given the description an album of two halves over the years, and "The Game of Ouroboros" is one of those. Not due to quality issues however, but due to some marked differences in style and approach between the opening three cuts and the concluding three compositions. While rather different in scope, sound and style, all of them are still very much progressive rock however, and I suspect that the general consensus is that this is one of those albums that will be given the vintage branding by most as well. The first three songs here are three parts of a suite, tied together by a briefly and effectively dystopian story that plays out in cinematic sequences concerning a phone call. To quote from one of them: "A good citizen is a passive citizen". If this guy doesn't know his Judge Dredd he really should start reading that comic book, as I would guess that he would feel right at home in the environment and themes of that one. But I digress. In terms of the music explored, I guess the simple description is that subtly jazz-tinged vintage progressive rock, paired off with classic German electronic progressive music, should fit the bill quite nicely for this three-part story, with a liberal amount of futuristic sounds and textures giving this 25-minute creation a distinctly dystopian mood and atmosphere. The following three compositions are standalone creations. These Are the Simple Days is a light toned, elegant, piano and vocals dominated affair with a distinct jazz orientation, arguably more of a sympho prog-meets-artful pop rock affair, of the kind that I'd imagine would strike a chord with fans of bands like Supertramp or The Alan Parsons Project, although without truly being comparable with either of them in terms of specific style. Idle Worship to some extent and Exile to a greater extent shift the focus over to a symphonic art rock variety of progressive music, with names like Genesis, Yes and to some extent ELP being some of the associations one gets when listening through this pair of epic-length songs. Both of them with jazz-oriented details, mind you, and also what to my ears came across as more of a US-founded mood and atmosphere, although I can't for the life of me pinpoint the exact details that gave me this latter association. Be that as it may be, both of them are multi-themed, changing and developing affairs of the kind I suspect all fans of vintage progressive rock will find familiar-sounding on most levels. At the end I should probably add that mix and production are excellent throughout, that Alfredson is a more than capable vocalist, which is always a good thing in my book, and that this is an end product of the highest quality in just about all departments. Not quite up there in terms of the creation of magical songs of the goosebumps inducing variety just yet, but awfully close for one with my taste in music, and I'd suspect that many with a deep fascination for ‘70s style progressive rock will think I've been too harsh in my personal verdict as far as rating goes.
Conclusion. Theo has released a rather stunning debut album with "The Game of Ouroboros". The futuristic first half and the standalone compositions in the second half all explore different varieties of vintage, ‘70s-oriented progressive rock, and do so in an accomplished and well thought out manner. Alfredson's jazz background does shine through, as jazz-oriented details are a recurring feature throughout, but while this is a much used flavoring it is still just that. The main dish here is progressive rock, and it is a very well made one at that.
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