We have probably all heard of Pandora's Box, but what on earth is a Pandora Snail? Some evil that comes slithering at a very slow pace? Whatever, I think the name contains a mild form of humour like Spock's Beard. Pandora Snail is a Russian five-piece founded by professional musicians in 2008 in Saint-Petersburg. In practice the band became a solid team in 2010. This was also the year when this album was recorded. A shame it remained unreleased all this time!
On this CD the band consists of Ulyana Gor (keyboards, vocals), Oleg Goradze (electric and acoustic guitars, sounds, vocals), Kiril Klyushin (bass, contrabass), Artem Gareev (violin) and Igor Cheridnik on drums, percussion. Cheridnik's place was in the meantime taken over by Vsevolod Shuvalov.
I'm not quite sure what vocals are mentioned in the album's credits, because everything is all instrumental as far as I can tell after repeated listening. The CD was aptly titled after that Russian literary masterpiece, and while there is no relation to the story in Tolstoy's book, there is definitely a fine alternation of heavier ('war') and calmer ('peace') pieces on the disc.
The CD starts with the classically inspired opener Dilemma, with violin full in the lead. People who don't like violin should stay away from the album, because it's one of the lead instruments on the disc! This is for example illustrated by To Catch The Wind, which is an absolutely dazzling classical/Gipsy piece that then ends up in some kind of a Latin-party.
The next piece, Submarine, gives us a possibility to breathe. It starts romantic and ends up with lazy jazz before we get to the centrepiece of the album. This is the almost 17 minutes long James Pont (unsure if this is a funny hint at agent 007) which starts rather aggressively and somewhat dissonant. I presume that King Crimson has been one of the inspirations for this track. There is also some delicious organ exchanged with fiery guitar. The electric guitar plays a more important part on this track than on the previous shorter pieces and I think I detect some influences from Rush in there too. I also have to mention the absolutely cool bass or Stick playing around 6:30 to 7 minutes. After The War kicks off heavy in a Rush-with-classical-violin-meets-King-Crimson mode and then via a more atmospheric part ends in a structured cacophony of instruments. The closer Satori starts dreamy and then explodes into a lively, sparkling, rhythmic piece of sheer fun where piano and violin battle things out.
There is only one point of criticism I have with this CD... I wonder if the album wouldn't have been even stronger if they had limited the time to between 40 and 45 minutes so it has a larger impact. I notice that I tend to drift off slightly between James Pont and After The War and that really is a shame! Apart from that: very much recommended!
**** Carsten Busch (edited by Astrid de Ronde)
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