One of the musical surprises of 2009 was the release of the eponymous debut album of the Norwegian prog rockers from D'AccorD. They got their musical inspiration from bands like Jethro Tull, King Crimson, Pink Floyd and Genesis. The band was founded in 2008 by frontman Daniel Mage (vocals, flute) and Stig Are Sund (guitars). Together with Martin Sjoen (bass), Bjarte Rossehaug (drums), Arstein Tislevoli (keyboards, backing vocals) and Fredrik Horn (piano, keyboards) they recorded the always difficult second album Helike. It's a very ambitious project containing just two long epic pieces lasting more than twenty minutes each. It's a concept album about the lost city of Atlantis.
The first part starts with a marching theme played by the drums, the flute and the organ. Then Daniel Mage shows his various qualities with his clear, aggressive and sometimes screaming voice. In the beginning this piece is more of an opera than a progressive rock epic which may be a problem for a number of listeners, but to me it's just the right way to sing this dramatic story. After six minutes the song turns into a very friendly rock song with many well-played guitar and keyboard solos. The drama reaches its climax around the tenth minute when Mage's 'slow singing' is accompanied by a fantastic bluesy guitar solo of Stig Are Sund. The final four minutes of part one are again rather varied; a bit in the vein of Camel's highlights Moonmadness and The Snow Goose.
The second part begins as heavy rock sounding like Uriah Heep or Black Sabbath performing a prog song just for once. This is not my favourite part of Helike, I have to admit. After seven minutes Mage's shouting stops, while Sund delivers a lot of musical tricks on his guitar that lead to an emotional and sensitive guitar solo. Also Daniel Mage's voice is now more balanced singing a tender refrain containing the often repeated phrase it's late, oh it's late, now, you must come now... This stops abruptly and around the fifteenth minute we're suddenly in the middle of a typical seventies rock song with a saxophone solo! 'Rock till you drop' we then said in the pubs while listening to similar songs of Deep Purple, Uriah Heep and all those other classic rock icons. The last minute has been reserved for the dramatic sinking of the city of Atlantis musically expressed by a brass section.
Well, Helike is quite heavy stuff to listen to, but it certainly is a deserving successor of the debut album. Anyway, this is no music for sissies, but for tough, heavy tattooed and lots of beer drinking men...
***+ Cor Smeets (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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