Cast - Vigesimus

(CD 2021, 76:38, Progressive Promotion Records PPRCD092)

The tracks:
  1- Ortni(5:31)
  2- Black Ashes And Black Boxes(6:18)
  3- The Unknown Wise Advice(9:43)
  4- Another Light(3:40)
  5- Manley(5:16)
  6- Location And Destination(7:52)
  7- Crossing(10:00)
  8- The March(7:21)
  9- Contacto(10:44)
         - i. Primer Acto
         - ii. Profundi
10- Dredging To The Higher Plane(10:13)

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The Mexican band Cast were formed in 1978, so they have existed for more than 40 years! In the Nineties I listened to a series of albums, and witnessed Cast at a Dutch progrock festival. But then I lost the band, this new studio album (#20 since Landing In A Serious Mind from 1994) is my first musical encounter with Cast since the late Nineties, so I was very curious to hear its latest effort entitled Vigesimus (the successor of Power And Outcome from 2017, see review). Well, during my first listening session I could hardly believe my ears, because in my memory Cast were a fine blend of symphonic rock and Neo-Prog, no more or less. But this 2021 version of Cast blows me away: outstanding musicians and interplay, tastefully arranged compositions (between 3 and 11 minutes) with flowing shifting moods and lots of musical ideas, the Holy Trinity of keyboards, violin and guitar, and what an exciting blend of classical, symphonic rock, jazzrock and Heavy Prog!

The album opens with Ortni, one of the 3 instrumentals. This track showcases the huge progress and skills of this current Cast line-up. The band starts with an exciting up-tempo number in a bombastic atmosphere, featuring outstanding interplay between heavy guitar, keyboards and violin. Then the music turns into a slow rhythm with wonderful piano and violin, soon followed by a virtuosic acoustic guitar solo. Then a mid-tempo with propulsive guitar riffs, the amazing interplay is in the vein of the best jazz rock, including swirling violin work. In the end a sumptuous atmosphere, topped with fat Minimoog synthesizer flights, intense violin, and heavy guitar riffs, welcome to Cast's New Musical World, wow! The other two instrumentals are also amazing, often Kansas come to my mind. Manley delivers propulsive and dynamic percussion, a bombastic climate, awesome interplay guitar, violin and keyboards, and finally a blistering guitar solo. Contacto features lots of captivating musical climates (alternating between dreamy and bombastic), embellished with intense violin and piano, heavy guitar, sparkling piano, an acoustic guitar solo, romantic work on piano - and violin play, and halfway a break with Heavy Prog, including a blistering guitar solo. So many thrills, this instrumental part of Cast reminds me of 76-82 jazz rock master Al Di Meola and his exciting solo work.

The other seven outstanding and alternating tracks (from dreamy to bombastic) feature strong contributions from a male and a female singer (solo and duo), from warm to powerful, at some moments the use of the vocals brings Ayreon to my mind. Prime mover Alfonse Vidales shines with his varied and tasteful keyboard work: from sparkling Grand piano and orchestral keyboards to flashy Minimoog flights. Alfonso is the leader of Cast but he gives plenty of room to his talented fellow musicians: the classical sound of the violin (from warm to swirling) and the heavy sound of the guitar (from moving to blistering) create lots of tension and dynamics in the music.

What a very tasteful stew of classical, symphonic rock, jazz rock and Heavy Prog, after all those years Cast are still going strong, very strong!

**** Erik Neuteboom (edited by Dave Smith)

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