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The Union
August 2002
Released: 2002, Lion Music
Rating: 2.0/5
Reviewer: CrashTest

aRABESQUE began their careers as a threesome in 1989 writing instrumental hard rock with traces of jazz and symphonic rock. The band added a few more players over the years and made a significant change by finally adding a vocalist in 1996, Nicole de Seriere du Bizournet. By the year 2000 the band had solidified it’s lineup and found it’s niche musically, making progressive hard rock / metal and finding themselves lucky enough to appear on the bill with prog stalwarts such as Dream Theater, Opeth, Vanden Plas, Evergrey and Spiral Architect at various European festivals. Not a bad cast of characters to be hanging out with.

Let’s start with the good news. The musicianship is pretty good, especially as demonstrated by keyboardist Rene Ulbachs and bassist Frank de Groot. Both shine like diamonds on “Instant Daydream”, an epic eight minute instrumental number that also happens to be the best song on the album. The guitar work by Joop Wolters throughout the album is good as well. The music tends to drift more to the hard rock side of the spectrum, but has it’s metal moments as well.

Now for the bad news. The vocals are absolutely horrid. Let me clarify, whoever is singing most of the lead parts has a decent voice, but it does not work for the type of music aRABESQUE plays. If the ambiguity about the singer confuses you, don’t worry, I’m confused too. The liner notes list both Nicole de Seriere du Bizournet and Katja Salemi as vocalists. As to who is singing on any given song, that’s anybody’s guess. The band plays prog rock/metal, but one of the vocalists sings like a semi-soulful pop singer and the other like an AOR pop princess. Matters become even more complicated when it comes to some of the lyrics. Nowhere is this deadly combination of voice and lyric more apparent than on the song “Heal Me”, where words like “don’t let me die this way” are sung in a light love song manner reminiscent of Gloria Estefan. Ironically, another lyric from this same song sums up the entire feel of the album as the words “it is so awkward” are repeated several times. Awkward, indeed.

In the end, though I enjoyed the musicianship on the instrumental portions of the album, the vocals are just too hard to overlook. The biography I was sent indicated that the band’s original record label did not resign them due to “musical differences” soon after they acquired their vocalist. I can understand why. They would have been better off to stay an instrumental unit.

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» The Union
by CrashTest

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