K2 - Book Of The Dead

Year of Release: 2005
Label: Progrock Records
Catalog Number: PRR160
Format: CD
Total Time: 00:00:00

Upon looking at the mysterious cover of this CD, ideas speculating upon the contents of those shiny circles of data swirl round your head. They could be based upon the endeavours of other progressive acts that have touched upon Egyptian Mythology such as Symphony X ("Pharaoh" off Divine Wings? or "Egypt" off V) or Camel (take your pick). The Eastern mysticism is most certainly there as in those aforementioned but the overriding musical influence is from the 70s not circa Cleopatra.

We are taken back to ancient Egypt when natives buried their dead with a book full of spells and prayers that help the dead on their journey through the afterlife. Each person had their own "Book of the Dead" and the spells contained therein were determined by the status of the deceased. It was said that once dead your soul was transferred from under the command of Isis, the god of the sky, to Osiris the god of the underworld - keeper of dead souls.

Ken Jaquess, bassist for LA-based Atlantis, chooses to realise this voyage mainly in the style of Genesis, with the help of some very capable artists. Ironic that a band moniker that means creation is a primary influence for an album about death. Jaquess also plays keys and 10-string acoustic, creating a grand symphonic sound worthy of his idols - dark yet still bombastic in its multi-layered delivery.

Ryo Okumoto of the Beard and Allan Holdsworth contribute some great solos to the project. The most impressive guest musician of them all has to be Yvette Devereaux, who is an ever-present on the album with her phenomenal violin solos and background riffs that add another skin to the troubadouric onion. It is amazing to hear a violinist duel with a guitarist, exchanging musical blows with unprecedented proficiency, particularly in the first track.

The first track, "Infinite Voyage," is the prime example of the quality of song structure on this album. This is the way prog should be. Non-linear and unpredictable, but bringing back the best motifs when necessary, my favourite part of that song being the one that precedes the "They move?" line that has Holdsworth imitating Hackett perfectly with the old "Is it keyboard or guitar?" trick. On the same tune, Ryo contributes a great moog solo which is based upon what sounds like a sample of someone going "MEMEMEMEME" (17:26) very fast ? tripp-ay m'yah! Other great melodies can be found in the lyrics, ?My deepest travels, just to reach / The evening's spirit speaks" in "Mirror To The Spirits" and the invocation-styled verses of "The Edge Of Light": "The course of reason, the edge of light / A palace shines off angles of white."

The rest of the tracks are more conventionally structured almost like pop songs with their verses and subsequent choruses - supplemented with the odd solo of course. This does not make them any worse than the first epic as the melodies are exceedingly catchy and I've found myself continuously singing the chorus of track two, "Mirror To The Spirits."

The only problem structure-wise comes in the fourth track, which claims to be an instrumental that is a bass solo with background keyboards. With this comes the first proper criticism of the album - the bass solos on the whole aren't particularly interesting. That is not to say Ken Jaquess sucks on bass, as the playing is great on the rest of the album, but the solos seem to be unnecessary when there is so much other activity. Most bands don't even have three soloists in their band, so to have the fourth of a bass nature clutters things somewhat.

Ken impresses me more with his keyboard playing. He's not afraid to use some affecting and diverse riffs to mix things up. A worthy illustration is again in the first track when Ken switches between two different rhythm tracks whilst Alan contributes another blistering guitarist solo. This keyboard wizardry adds even more impetus to an already impressive solo.

Shaun Guerin gives an impressive performance that proved to be his last. I never thought that anyone could successfully sound like Peter Gabriel. The only artist I've heard that sounds so close to his idol is Valensia and his Mercury-inspired vocals. More listens to this album makes Shaun take on a more individual tone that, whilst having Gabriel as an important influence, retains a unique pitch within the vocal spectrum.

Genesis is not the only influence on display on this album. The beginning of track one starts something close to "Shine On you Crazy Diamond;" the second track has a beginning that sounds a lot like "Watcher Of The Skies" from Genesis' Foxtrot album and in the fourth track, "Aten (Window Of Appearance)," there is a feel reminiscent of Trent Gardner's Explorer's Club's Age Of Impact where Bill Sheehan gives some nice solos in "Time Enough;" but as mentioned before they're not as successfully implemented in this outing.

Some listeners may dismiss this album as too derivative, but songwriting flair such as this should be appreciated by all lovers of progressive rock and not be prejudiced by the openness of its influences. At 46 minutes, the album is also quite short for prog standards and I felt it could have done with another epic to give the album a big send-off. Nevertheless, what is present makes for a joyfully symphonic listening experience that may take a few spins to get your head round but like all good prog; when it clicks, it sticks.

Infinite Voyage Part 1 / Infinite Voyage Part 2 / Mirror To The Spirits / The Edge Of Light / Aten (Window Of Appearences) / Cloak Of Antiquity

Ken Jaquess - bass, keyboards & 10 string acoustic guitar
Yvette Devereaux ? violin
Shaun Guerin - vocals
Allan Holdsworth ? guitar
Ryo Okumoto - piano, Moog
Doug Sanborn - drums
John Miner - additional guitar

Book Of The Dead (2005)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin US

Added: May 21st 2005
Reviewer: George Heron

Artist website: www.kenjaquess.com/
Hits: 947
Language: english


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