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(42:11, Progressive Promotion Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Farewell 42:11 LINEUP: Marek Arnold – keyboards; saxophone Robert Eisfeldt – drums; vocals Uwe Reinholz – guitars Robert Brenner – bass Larry B. – vocals With: Cornelia Pfeil – violin Angelika Grunert – violin Susanne Goerlich – viola Uta Schroder – violoncello Martin Schnella – vocals
Prolusion. The German band TOXIC SMILE was formed back in 1996, and is among the veterans of the German progressive rock scene. From 2001 and onward they have released new material at a fairly steady pace, and have five studio productions to their name as of now. "Farewell" is their most recent outing, released by Progressive Promotion Records towards the tail end of 2015.
Analysis. There are many ways to approach the art of creating progressive rock, but one way that will always intrigue a certain set of fans is to create complex, epic-length compositions featuring multiple themes, a vast array of alterations in pace, style and intensity, and also visiting a number of different expressions along the way. Those who find such a description intriguing should feel right at home with the 42-minute long magnum opus Toxic Smile has conjured up here. The band is often described as being progressive metal, and they do indeed visit that style on multiple occasions along the way here. From dampened, almost neo-progressive sounding sequences with floating keyboard textures and dampened dark toned guitar riff backing to more intense guitar riff driven instances, as well as the classic guitar riff and organ combinations so many progressive metal bands are fond of exploring. There's also a slight nod in the direction of the classic hard rock band Deep Purple on a couple of occasions, with a less metal-oriented combinations of those two dominant instruments at hand, although in this case this is one of the tinier details present. There's also room for some elegant passages sporting saxophone soloing over a smooth, funky jazz rock foundation here, and rather more prevalent are sections sporting a calmer general expression, often with delicate or plucked guitar details complemented by strings of various kinds, and also sections with a more full-blown and dramatic orchestration combined with a more rock-based, as well as a more metal-based, core sound. A lot of variation and versatility, in other words, and I should probably mention that the good, old Mellotron has been dusted off for a few sequences as well. The most important aspect of such an epic and varied creation is that it feels like a solid composition, of course, and the manner in which the band uses interludes, transforms one style into another, and also uses the occasional more dramatic shift, is all splendidly done. This is, in that context at least, a flawless piece of music that comes across as seamlessly woven together with excellent flow and with the needed repetition of minor and major themes that makes it come across as cohesive and as one massive composition rather than a collection of various soundbytes put together piece by piece. A well made composition on all levels, well performed and with compelling lead vocals to boot. If it will become a classic is something time will have to decide, but as far as I can tell, subjective taste in music is just about the only aspect that may make people dislike this quality production.
Conclusion. There aren't too many albums around that consist of a single, epic-length composition, even in this age of musical plenty, and Toxic Smile's addition to that list is a worthwhile one indeed. Mainly alternating between various forms of progressive rock and progressive metal, this is a varied, sophisticated, but also compelling and accessible creation, delivering enough details to keep the busiest brain going but also seeing to it that the themes and motifs used don't stray too far into the challenging territories. This is quality progressive metal of the kind that should have a fairly wide general appeal, despite clocking in at a bit over 42 minutes.
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