Unitopia - Seven Chambers

(2CD 2023, 44:39/ 37:48, ProgRock. Com Essentials)

The tracks:
CD 1
  1- Broken Heart(8:31)
  2- Something Invisible(7:20)
  3- Bittersweet(6:39)
  4- Mania(12:30)
  5- The Stroke Of Midnight(9:39)
CD 2
  1- Helen(19:14)
  2- The Uncertain(18:34)

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Australian formation Unitopia was founded in 1996 by Mark Trueack (vocals) and Sean Timms (keyboard and guitar) after they were introduced by a mutual friend who noticed that the two had similar tastes in music. The story goes that as soon as Timms heard Trueack sing, he knew they had to do something together. In 2005 Unitopia released their first album entitled More Than A Dream, followed by The Garden (2008), Artificial (2010, see review), One Night In Europe (2011, see DVD review), Covered Mirror Vol 1: Smooth As Silk (2012, see review) and recently Seven Chambers (2023), this review is about that latest effort. The recent line-up features Mark Trueack (vocals), Sean Timms (keyboards), John Greenwood (guitars), Steve Unruh (flute and violin) and the awesome rhythm-section Chester Thompson (drums) and Alphonso Johnson (bass), both highly acclaimed jazz rock musicians.

I needed a few listening sessions to get into the music on this double CD set because to me it sounds as Unitopia blends two musical directions in most of their mid-long and epic compositions. On one hand melodic, harmonic and accessible with the focus on the distinctive vocals of Mark Trueack, in fact pretty song-oriented, like many Neo-prog bands. But on the other hand in between many complex and varied instrumental parts, with a lush instrumentation, performed by excellent musicians, in the vein of genuine progressive rock, adventurous and exciting.

CD 1 (44:39):

Broken Heart (8:31) : First an intro with classical overtones and moving guitar (The Enid comes to my mind). Then a mellow climate with dreamy vocals, moving guitar, rock guitar riffs, blended with lots of shifting moods and musical ideas. The voice is strong and expressive in a song-oriented part, like Neo-Prog, embellished with wonderful interplay between flute, violin and guitar, and topped with classical orchestrations, a very lush colouring. Finally a sumptuous atmosphere, like the end of a rock opera.

Something Invisible (7:20) : After a dreamy start Unitopia really starts to swing, with a funky bass, swirling violin solo and a fiery guitar solo.

Bittersweet (6:39) : The twanging guitars reminds me of early Genesis, then a moving electric guitar and a catchy beat.

Mania (12:30) : The first part delivers Neo-Prog, then the music becomes bombastic and compelling with slide guitar, Mellotron choirs, and powerful drum beats, wow!

The Stroke Of Midnight (9:39) : After dreamy vocals and classical orchestrations the focus is on a beautiful, very intense violin solo, top notch!

CD 2 (37:48):

Helen (19:14) : This alternating and interesting epic composition features varied rhythms, strong beats and lots of changing atmospheres. A strong musical idea is the exciting sound of the flamenco guitar, what an inspired solo, blended with piano and violin, great interplay, in a Spanish mood.

The Uncertain (18:34) : After a classical sounding intro the music shifts to a heavy metal atmosphere with propulsive guitar riffs, another musical face of Unitopia! Then a dreamy climate with a didgeridoo-like sound, another intense violin solo, blended with tender piano runs, wow! Now more musical surprises, first a percussive part that evokes Brazilian carnival, and next awesome interplay between metal guitar and high pitched flute, topped with a flashy synthesizer solo. What variety and dynamics!

**** Erik Neuteboom (edited by Tracy van Os van den Abeelen)

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