Recently, I discovered Facebook and I found this to be a very addictive social network. I also discovered there are a lot of bands to be found there and in a short period of time, I discovered some pretty cool (to me) new bands. Someone who is very active on Facebook, is Ed Unitsky. I knew he was a great artist, as he did many covers of albums that I have. Through him, I learned about a band from Australia, that works a lot with Ed for artwork. This band is Unitopia.
Now Unitopia has been around for a few years and already has two albums out in the world, More Than A Dream (2005) and The Garden (2008). As said, I just found out about this band, so I am not familiar with these albums. But in the past weeks I’ve had the pleasure to listen to the newest release: Artificial. And I can stress it was a real pleasure! So far this year I already heard some pretty good albums, but honestly I must say this one tops all of them so far.
Artificial is pretty much a song-orientated album that keeps a good pace, yet does not rush anything. The band takes time to tell their story and steers pretty much clear of all the prog rock clichés. Yes, they do have a 10+ minute song, but in no way does Unitopia compare to the most familiar (neo) prog bands. This is-and I really see the start of a trend here-because the band incorporates a lot of different elements in their music, elements like world music, jazz and classical parts. Despite all this, the music will still very much appeal to the ‘prog fans’.
Unitopia is a very tight playing band, with two men on drums and percussion, Jamie Jones and Tim Irrgang. Of course you’ll understand the band has a very solid rhythm section, together with Shaun Duncan on bass guitar. But it is also very balanced and the drums do not dominate the sound. One element that I find a key to the total sound of Unitopia, is the saxophone, played by Peter Raidel. To me, this is the gravy over the meat, the icing on the cake. I really love it!
Another element, that is a great strength for Unitopia, is Mark Trueack. He is the lead vocalist and I love his voice! Singers are, in my opinion, important for a band and really good singers are hard to come by. But Treuack is a really good singer. To describe his voice is a bit hard for me, but I hear some references in his singing. Strange as it may sound, I hear hints of Peter Gabriel and even Ozzy Osbourne. Yeah, I know, it may sound strange. Just listen for yourself...
Once the first notes of Suffocation come out of my speakers, I am hooked and I enjoy the rest of the album. I would almost say I have no favourite songs. Almost...Although I love all songs, a few are exceptional like Nothing Lasts Forever. Wow, what can I say...Unitopia’s homage to The Beatles? And the references are not even subtle, when Trueack sings “Even the boys from Liverpool got it right, when they say ‘come together’. Even the fool on the hill can plainly see that nothing is forever”...add to that some mellotron sounds! It is a magical song that has a real Beatlesque sound and is very catchy-for me a highlight of the album.
Fortunately for me I said earlier in this review that the band pretty much steers clear of the prog clichés but Sean Timms adds a lush prog sauce over the songs with his keys. It is never too much, always in the service of the song. The keys are not there to emphasize the prog elements, but to make the songs ever better than they already are!
Every time I hear the songs, I marvel about how beautiful the music of Unitopia is. So many great songs-so many details to explore. With prog music it seems obligatory to have an epic track, and fortunately hardly anyone complains about long tracks, as long as they are done well. And Tesla is absolutely done well-more than well. It’s catchy, proggy, jazzy, has twists and turns and note the superb percussion parts in the middle of the songs. And would you believe there is a part you can almost dance to Latin style? This one will really make you sing along: “We are, we are, all parts of the whole”... All for one, none for all...all parts of the whole”. Do yourself a favour and listen well to this song! You will be astonished how many different parts they managed to squeeze into it and still come up with a coherent, balanced and above all, beautiful song. Kudos to Unitopia for this.
Despite my already lengthy review, I still have yet only told you about the tip of the iceberg! Artificial is an amazingly wonderful album, with so many beautiful and strong songs. The band consists of top notch musicians and the artwork is simply fantastic. What more can I say? Plenty. But do I need to say more? In my humble opinion Artificial is an album you must have. And if you are smart, you should get the limited edition, so you have three extra songs (over 15 minutes of extra Unitopia music!) to enjoy.
I rest my case.
***** (Marcel Haster) (edited by Robert James Pashman)
Read the interview with Sean Timms of Utopia.
Where to buy?
All Rights Reserved Background Magazine 2013