Apogee is the largely solo project of German multi-instrumentalist and composer, Arne Shafer who co-founded Versus X in 1991, paving the way for such as RPWL and Sylvan. Although Versus X took a break in 2011 following their 4th album Primordial Ocean, Shafer had already released 6 albums under his own project and has continued to be a prolific tour de force of the prog scene with this release, Endurance Of The Obsolete his tenth as Apogee.
Ably assisted on percussion by Eberhard Graef, Shafer puts in a tour de force on guitars, keyboards and vocals an impressive feat given the complexity of the multi-textured arrangements which range from standard driving rock to full blown symphonic textures. Unlike some one-man projects there is no sense of compromise although one minor criticism is that I felt that a specialist vocalist would have brought more to enhance the impact. Shafer's singing is competent, and his range can be impressive, but I did feel myself looking for someone to hit some of the notes at full power (more can belto than bel canto as my music teacher used to say) and with a range of expression. I have to say that after several plays, this really starts to grate as it is a blot on some otherwise good, and in places outstanding musicianship. Having got that bit of churlishness out of the way, it has to be said that this is a good rendering of some traditional symphonic prog rock. Ambitious, complex, packed with drama and a good measure of harpsichord thrown into the mix for that authentic folk-classical feel. The themes musical and lyrical are interwoven, atmospheric cerebral and often beautifully rendered. While previous releases have been patchy and unsure in execution, this has a great feel to it with assured compositions rooted firmly in 20th century prog rock ethos.
While there may not be a lot new here, many will not mind that and if you enjoy your prog traditional there will be much to admire. Despite the criticism of the vocals, I enjoyed the intricate multi part vocal sections of Interpretations, proof that a bit of wit and imagination can go a long way. The extended songs are well constructed and the arrangements, given the solo musician are admirable in their multi-textured feel and complex changes of tone and style.
Without over-egging it, this is, or would be an enjoyable collection of trad-prog and one of Apogee's most complete performances, but man - get a singer. There are lots out there.
***+ Andrew Cottrell
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