Deep Space Eight is the fifth studio album from Loonypark, the Krakow based 5-piece outfit consisting of experienced session musicians, formed in 2007 by keyboardist Krzysztof Lepiarczyk. This time around theatrical vocals are provided by Magda Grodecka, otherwise the line-up is the same as that which has graced the last three recordings.
As you might expect from musicians of this calibre, the effect is polished and assured, the performers enjoying the freedom of expression allowed within this project. Every number is a powerful piece of AOR-infused crossover prog (if that isn't too contradictory). The emphasis is on powerful ballads which Grodecka delivers with some style. A powerful presence on this recording, one imagines that she is formidable in a live context. It is to the credit of the ensemble that they are happy to create the space for this mighty instrument, allowing their individual contributions to complement the vocal. I particularly enjoyed Piotr Grodecki's tasteful guitar interpolations and his interplay with Lepiarczyk's keyboards, notably on tracks such as Little Girl, while the solid rhythm section picks its way intricately through each arrangement. There is certainly confidence and assurance aplenty in the material with some justification. Each track is melodically strong, often delicate and repaying repeated listening. I could happily enjoy each and every tune in almost equal measure as an individual piece. This does tend to lead to the overall effect being a bit monochrome even over the space of a most pleasing 43 minutes, with power ballad succeeding power ballad in an overwhelming display of power balladry. Perhaps my favourite though would be the album closer, and nostalgic Odyssey which gives all members of the band an opportunity to step to stage front and even drummer Grzegorz Fieber gets a rare foray into the spotlight for a militaristic accompaniment to Grodecki's simple triumphant lines.
From uncertain beginnings, Loonypark have surely become a force to be reckoned with. It would be good to see them make full use of the freedom allowed to ring the changes even more and show a variety of what they can do. Having said that, what they currently do, they do it very well.
***+ Andrew Cottrell
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