Next review: » Artension - Sacred Pathways
Released: 2002, Frontiers
I admit it. I am late on the Artension bandwagon. For whatever reason I NEVER heard the band until this 5th studio CD. I’m ashamed to admit it but it’s the truth. In fact I almost feel unqualified to review this CD as I have no experience with them. Perhaps that is an advantage in a way, I have no preconceived notions. I mean, I know about the band, who they are, the history and the hype was pretty decent.
Anyway…I’m disappointed. Maybe my expectations were too high. Maybe I’ve been influenced by all the Soilwork and thrash I’ve been cranking lately, but this CD was pretty dull. I was expected speed power, blazing solo’s, soaring melodies, almost a Shrapnel Records version of a power metal super-group. How wrong I was.
The more I think about it my expectations were way too high…a super-group, a new label, original line-up, the Ring of Fire was kick-ass…but yet for me it falls flat, and it is because of the songs. Everything about this CD is good and as it should be, 12 tracks and 58 minutes it is a good value. A somewhat dull cover by Eric Phillipe, not one of his best, but good packaging with lyrics, photos etc…the usual high quality from Frontiers. The production is good, maybe a little sedate, Mike Terrana’s usually thunderous skins are a little far back in the mix for my taste.
The solo on “The Calm Before The Storm” is nice as is the acoustic piano. The Deep Purple inspired key work of Vitalij on “The Killing“ was also pretty cool as was the vocal work. There were lots of little neat points but overall the songs lacked bite. Maybe too much synth, and keys and not enough guitar? Hard to pinpoint why I felt the songs were the letdown on this CD. For me to say the songs were weak is odd because I’m pretty open minded (I think) but they just didn’t inspire me lyrically or musically. Credit where credit is due however, the keyboards ARE amazing. The instrumental “March To Ruin” is a masters level keyboard clinic, the guy is amazing, no doubt. The whole CD is quite mellow and despite having 12 songs, there are 3 instrumentals, 3 ballads, a radio edit version of “Nightmare”, 3 mid-tempo rockers, leaving only two songs with any real balls of metallic steel.
In conclusion, take this review with a grain of salt, if you are an Artension fan you may want to bump it up a notch as there is nothing technically wrong with this CD in anyway, in fact it was quite good in almost all respects but man, it just didn’t do it for me. Flower of the Orient!? Sheeeshh…a total Billy John piano ballad all the way, or was that Elton Joel? Approach with caution.
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Next review: » Arthemis - Live From Hell
Released: 2002, Frontiers Records
It seems like forever since I have sat down to write a CD review. Its been awhile what with some outside problems that I have encountered that needed my attention. I just looked at the pile of CDs I had to review and tried to figure out which one I would tackle first. I figured Artesian would be a good place to start. I have a couple of Artension discs MACHINE and IN THE EYE OF THE STORM and I have heard them all at one point or another and am a fan of John West so that sealed the deal. Before the Cd is even spun its hard to get past the great lineup that the band brings to this disc. Vitalij Kuprij (Ring of Fire): Keys, Kevin Chown (Magnitude 9, Tiles):, Mike Terranna (Rage, Axel Rudi Pell): drums, John West (Royal Hunt): vocals and Roger Staffelbach on guitar. Artension was born out of the collaboration of Krupji and Staffelbach who originally made instrumentals. After Mike Varney from Shrapnel Records had heard one of their demos he encouraged them to add some vocal tunes. Enter West, Terranna amd Chown. The lineup was now complete and they settled in Philadelphia. In 1996 Artension released IN THE EYE OF THE STORM, which they followed with PHOENIX RISING, THE FORCES OF NATURE AND MACHINE. It had been a few years since the busy members of the band could get together but they finally have and what has resulted is this release SACRED PATHWAYS.
The first thing I notice is that the band is still Artension. They haven’t decided to go in a new direction,. This is Artension’s version of prog metal and its a verison I have to say that I enjoy quite a bit. The thing is, this CD could be enjoyed by a non metal fan as well as a metal fan. "Running Out of Time" sounds like a cross between prog metal and 70s prog with a tad of 70s stadium rock thrown in. My favourite song on the CD. West shines on this track and to me sounds a little like Steve Perry from Journey but with more balls. Artension kicks it up a notch with "The Emperor", a great up tempo almost powermetal like tune complete with swirling keys from Kuprij. Another track to keep an eye on is "Nightmare". This track for seems so emotion filled as West sings of the terror of his nightmares. "The Calm Before The Storm" is a piano centered ballad is at once serene yet powerful. Kuprij has a chance to showcase yet more of his classical training. The piano theme is carried on with "Flower of the Orient". Another slower piece that is again a great composition penned by West and Kuprij. They close the disc with a bonus edit of "Nightmare".
Even as I am finishing this review I am finding new things to listen to on this CD. At first it seems straight forward but there are so many things going on within the songs that its hard to tear yourself away. West and Kuprij produce this CD and do an admirable job. The sound as well as the content is excellent. The name Artension was born from the combination of ART and TENSION. Lets hope that the it won’t take so much time before we hear some more Art and Tension.
Previous review: » Artension - Future World