This album The Mirror Effect released by Artnat gave me a hard time doing a review. I started listening, let it be after a track and a half. Returned a week later, tried, stopped. And so, I think six to eight weeks dragged on. Now, having given it ample time and attempts I'll just try to finish this review. But first, some facts.
Artnat was founded by lead guitarist Manuel Cardoso. He used to be a member of semi-legendary Portuguese prog group Tantra. I have Tantra's first two albums, Mistérios E Maravilhas (1977) and Holocausto (1978) in my collection. Both are great examples of symphonic progressive rock with a jazzy or Floydy dash. Haven't heard the third yet, and then it seems that they reunited in the early 2000s. And now here is sort of another incarnation. The name turned backwards is intended to symbolise the continuation of Tantra's symphonic prog music. The press release claims “...high compositional levels and wild experimental themes...” of “a colourful, multi ambiance work with top-level musicians, but with no technical show off”. Well, I don't fully agree, I am afraid.
The opening track is a busy affair. It is clearly Yes-influenced with female vocals by Sara Freitas that have that eerie Jon Anderson touch. Halfway through there comes in a distorted male voice. The music is hectic and layered and I have the feeling that they want too much and try too hard without considering that the listener wants a melody that sticks or flows. But hey, perhaps their aim is a more experimental market? In that case they should have pushed the envelope much, much harder.
The feeling of trying too hard to sound overly progressive continues into the next piece, Eternal Dance Of Love, where it seems as if the female lead singer actually battles against the busy instrumental parts. Maybe they should have titled it Eternal Fight Of Love?
The third piece, Return To OM, is the album's longest track (14 minutes) again clearly drawing on Yes (the guitar runs sound very Howe-influenced) with some bleepy electronics added in. And again, I have the feeling as if vocals and instruments are competing against each other instead of creating music together. Actually, that might even apply to the instruments amongst them... The calmer section around 5 minutes comes as a true relief because so far, I have found the album a rather tiresome affair.
From Chaos To Beauty lives up to its name (well, at least the first bit) with busy stuff and some male voices trashing around in the background. The soaring synth in there is cool for a moment, but the rhythm and guitar basis are just a mess. Cosmic Machinery brings more chaos between various synths and guitars. The Mirror Effect (perhaps a hint at the band's name?) feels a bit classic-meets-Orient influenced and has a relatively upbeat tinge. But again, there is too much going on without finding harmony or melody and connecting to the listener. I will not describe the other tracks as it will have me repeat much of the above. One of the better, or more bearable tracks is Celebration which is again drawing on strong Yes-influences.
By the way, what is the deal with the cone-head cover? I find it looks disturbing, but that's perhaps just me. I am sorry, I liked Tantra's music, but I cannot say the same for this album by their successor. I doubt I will play this ever again.
** Carsten Busch (edited by Tracy van Os van den Abeelen)
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