Some people might be familiar with the American keyboardist Jim Alfredson. Alfredson is most of all known for his releases with organ jazz trio Organissimo. During his youth he enjoyed his musical education by his father and sister who played the classic prog of the seventies. Listening to Yes, ELP, King Crimson, Pink Floyd and Genesis made him realise that someday he who would like to make an album inspired by those bands. With The Game Of Ouroboros he kept his word and under the moniker of THEO he released his first album containing only progressive rock music.
Just like the great prog bands in the seventies he also managed to make a real concept album. He came up with a fantasy sci-fi story and the music that came along with it sounds pretty amazing. Don't expect a retro sounding album on which the names mentioned earlier most of all shine through. No way. Jim managed, along with his fellow musicians Gary Davenport (bass, Chapman stick, fretless bass), Kevin DePree (drums, percussion, backing vocals), Jake Reichbart (guitars) plus special guests Zach Zunis (lead guitar on The Game Of Ouroboros), Greg Nagy (12-string guitar on The Game Of Ouroboros, chunky rhythm guitar and backing vocals on Exile) to come up with a rather original and modern sounding album.
Sure, you hear things that might make you say you have heard it before. But I guess that happens all the time on the releases that come out every day. This time around the names that came to mind while listening were bands like Manfred Mann's Earth Band and RPWL. The first name because of the way the vocals of Jim can be compared to the lead singers that once used to sing with this band. I am talking about Chris Thompson and the late Steve Waller. But also the way Alfredson plays on his keyboards resembles the way Manfred Mann did this on the albums he made with MMEB. As for RPWL the same can be said about the keyboards. Their keyboarder Yogi Lang was also influenced by Mann and therefore the link was an easy one to make. But this band was also inspired by Pink Floyd and their guitar player Dave Gilmour. Some of the excellent guitar parts from time to time move into the direction of the way Gilmour sounds. As for the piano parts on this release right away I thought of Jim's fellow countryman Bruce Hornsby. Finally I thought about the German pioneers of electronic music, namely Tangerine Dream. This comparison is mainly because of the sound of the sequencers that occasionally come to the surface.
As for the six compositions on The Game Of Ouroboros I can only say that I didn't spot any weak tracks. Every song is of a very high level and most of all very enjoyable. I have a couple of favourites that grabbed me by the throat right from the start. I am talking most of all about the compositions The Blood That Floats My Throne, Idle Worship and Exile. These are most of all very inspired epic pieces. They contain grandiose melodies and have plenty of space for exceptionally strong instrumental passages performed on the keyboards and electric guitars. Strong organ waves, orchestral keyboard parts, melodic solos, dreamy piano lines mainly dominate the scene. But also elegant guitar riffs, punchy bass playing and very vital drums parts are offered. Truly classic progressive rock in a modern sound, because the production is up to date to nowadays' standards. As for the first two named titles I'll have to mention the strong musical climaxes on both pieces of music. They are just incredible and lift those compositions to an unbelievable high level.
THEO released with The Game Of Ouroboros one of the musical highlights of 2015 for me personally, no question about that. Most of all people who enjoy Manfred Mann's Earth Band and RPWL should check out this excellent album!
****+ Henri Strik (edited by Astrid de Ronde)
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