Many critics agree that the Norwegian outfit Gazpacho belong to one of the most talented bands in recent years. Starting as a light Marillion tribute band, they developed to a professional heavy weight with its own unique musical style. If you compare their debut album Bravo (2003) to their latest recording Missa Atropos you'll easily hear a significant difference. Jan Henrik Ohme (vocals), Jon Arne Vilbo (guitars), Thomas Andersen (keyboards), Mikael Kromer (violin, mandolin, guitar), Lars Erik Asp (drums, percussion) and Kristian Torp (bass guitar) are now six confident and self-assured musicians. Missa Atropos is their sixth studio album and the third conceptual album after the successful albums Night (2007) and Tick Tock (2009). This time the concept doesn't deal with the story of a well-known novel, but with a classic story about one of the three Greek goddesses of destiny and someone who's searching for his own destiny.
In the short opening song Mass For Atropos I you hear electronic soundscapes, piano music and female voices. When Jan Henrik Ohme started to sing in Defense Machinism was instantly in a state of excitement. This up-tempo song with several breaks is about the devil, pain and doubt. The atmospheric music has been beautifully arranged for Ohme's voice. I Was Never Here could be a track of the legendary Brave-album from Marillion. This time the song is built upon Jon Arne Vilbo's guitar and the drums of Lars Erik Asp. Snail is a typical lingering Gazpacho-piece containing a great guitar solo. Play this one loud and you'll hear a band playing very passionately. The piano theme in Mass For Atropos I returns in the ballad River, but this time with more speed and accompanied by acoustic drums. When I listened to this song I could only think of two words: emotion and hypnotic. The end is heavy but fits well to the rest of the song. Mass For Atropos II has the same structure and acts as a linking pin to the title track, one of the longest songs. This piece can be described best as a complete mini-symphony with a remarkable feature: the heavy guitars combined with the violin. She's Awake is a rather tranquil song with piano, violin and a soft voice 'restoring the peace' on the album. Vera contains a fine interplay between the drums, guitar and the piano. It sounds a bit boring, but in spite of that I was carried away into the world of the Greek gods. Will To Live is a dramatic ballad resembling Marillion. The highlight on Missa Atropos is without doubt the heavily orchestrated Splendid Isolation. Here Gazpacho express all their lyrical and musical emotions in just eight minutes. The final song An Audience can roughly be compared to Made Again from Marillion's Brave-album.
I think the music of Gazpacho is difficult to categorize. Some critics name it post-ambient nocturnal and atmospheric neo-prog folk rock. Well, I don't know what that means and I wonder if anyone does. Anyway, whatever you name it, I for one love Gazpacho's sound every second of the day. For me Missa Atropos is just a masterpiece.
Read the interview with Jan Henrik Ohme
****+ Cor Smeets (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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