When the British prog act Citizen Cain released in 2012 Skies Darken (see review) I had serious problems writing a review of their latest release. Why? Well not because it was a bad album. Not at all. The reason was more to describe what happened during the more than seventy minutes of outstanding music. The same thing more or less happened to me when I received the debut album made by their keyboard player Stewart Bell. On The Antechamber Of Being Part I you can again hear outstanding prog rock. But again as this album has more than seventy minutes of music, there's so much to discover. The Antechamber Of Being Part I just isn't an album you put on and go do the dishes or clean the windows. This release takes some time from each and every one of you to fully understand the content on this disc.
Where to begin with an album which has so many musical facets? First let me tell you who were responsible for the music on this release. Namely Stewart Bell (keyboards, drums and vocals), Phil Allen (guitars and vocals), Simone Rossetti (The Watch, vocals), Arjen Lucassen (Ayreon, vocals) and Mhairi Bekah Comrie (vocals). They all together created a style of music which has elements taken from progressive rock, retroprog, prog metal, avant -garde and classical music. This mix of all kinds of musical styles of course only can come to blossom when it is used in a real concept. This concept is based upon a story that has the title "The Cupboard Of Fear Storybook" and was written by Mr. Bell himself. The theme is the experience of Stewart Bell as an Oneironaut, so as a plain dreamer. It's all about a lucid dream. This is a dream in which the dreamer is aware that he is dreaming, and he can intervene at will. Moreover it's about key events in Bell's life to strange coincidences and travel between realities.
The music that comes along with this story can be regarded as a kind of prog rock opera. Therefore it isn't so strange that many different vocalists are used. Bell just knows how to use all those voices the right way. He is very confident with the history of the genre. He used Simone Rossetti to get the same kind of Peter Gabriel-like vocals as you can hear in the fascinating classic Genesis passages. He used Phil Allen as the rock opera star in the more metal styled musical passages. The whole thing of using different musical styles to explain the story is not sharply separated. Bell very well managed to combine all those styles. Thanks to his compositional skill he brought all these heterogeneous elements into a closed piece of music that flows almost continuously from one track to another. The best way to compare this whole piece of music is with that of the music which you can find on the many albums made by Ayreon.Lucassen has the same musical abilities to mingle several musical styles into a coherent musical concept-a concept in which he also uses several guest singers to tell his stories. Naming each track separately is impossible and therefore I will not do this but believe me, every track you'll find on The Antechamber Of Being Part I is of a very high level. It doesn't matter if you are a lover of progressive rock only or also like the musical styles of retroprog, prog metal, avant-garde and classical music. This melting pot of so many styles created by Steward is one you have to enjoy all the way and take the time to listen to the whole concept many times. This way you can only fully understand what's happening music wise on all of the seventy four minutes that are contained!
Writing this review was as exhausting as listening to this album. But at the same time, it gave me the same pleasure as listening to this excellent release. The entire album is a fine piece of art and if you do know that this is only the beginning, who knows what's next? Hearing this first part of The Antechamber Of Being only makes your desire to hear part two and three of this trilogy even more.
**** Henri Strik (edited by Robert James Pashman)
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