Year of Release: 2002
Label: Periferic Records
Catalog Number: BGCD 112
Total Time: 59:17:00
I cannot remember when I last heard an album that was so clearly a 5-star winner before I'd even heard it through once. I'm the principal of the school of listen to it again and again before you make your assessment ? I've said it many times on these pages ? but this one sank in after the first 3 tracks and it got better with each listen.
Holy Lamb is a 5-piece progressive act from the Republic of Latvia, in the Baltics. Their 4th release. Beneath The Skin is a concept album, based on a silly story about the serious subject of corporate greed pushing horrid pop songs onto a gullible public at the expense of true music. Sound familiar? The storyline is conveyed through the fairytale of 'Headturn,' the undergod of music, who is captured by 'Makhtartam and the Low Brotherhood' ? the evil corporate types. Music is saved when he is rescued by the angel 'Laudor' and the soldiers called 'majorminors'. You get the idea. It's a sort of modern mythological tale depicting the rise and fall and resurrection of progressive music.
In the interests of full disclosure I must confess to having grown up in the '70s, on a diet of Gabriel-era Genesis and Hammill's Van Der Graaf Generator. And in the tradition of those bands Beneath The Skin is witty and irreverent and frankly silly, all put to a wonderful composition executed with exemplary musicianship. This is music to be seriously appreciated, but not taken too seriously. This music is fun!
The sound on Beneath The Skin isn't easy to describe. It is rooted in classic 1970s progressive rock but it is substantially enhanced by the addition of modern instrumentation and sampling and some excellent production talents. Counterpoints and recurring themes are reprised and developed throughout the album's 59 minutes, and there are countless changes in tempo and mood and time signature and key. The style is essentially symphonic prog, but it wanders comfortably into passages of fusion, avant garde, progressive rock, and neo.
It is presented in the format of a rock opera with different voices depicting each character, often in caricatures more extreme than we ever heard from Gabriel or Hammill. The lyrics are very good. There are grammatical problems and the singing is slightly accented, but given the band's national background, those are minor transgressions.
I've always believed that the best description of progressive rock is "the thinking man's music." If that description is accurate, then surely Beneath The Skin is music for the intelligentsia.
Psychovertureture - In The Beginning (1:33) / The Plan That Failed (8:32) / Makhtartam And The Low Brotherhood: i) The New Order - ii) Get-Together - iii) Our Power Supreme (5:40) / The Conquest (8:19) / 'Audiodurg' (5:29) / Stars Fell On Fertile Lands (3:38) / Wear It In The Morning (7:53) / Beneath The Skin: i) Get Going! (1:12) / The Meeting Of The Majorminors (5:53) / Beneath The Skin: ii) Arrival & Panic - iii)Peace (5:32) / The End - Headturn's Release (5:36)
Aigars Cervinskis - electric and acoustic guitars, vocals, whistle, one note on a keyboard
Juris Rats - keyboards, vocals
Uldis Elerts - electric and acoustic guitars, vocals
Ugis Zemitis - bass, vocals
Mikus Rullis - drums, percussion, tubular bells, vocals.
Ieva Pudane. (Flute)
Love To Eat (demo) (1992)
Bite In The Dust (1996)
Salt Of The Earth (1999)
Beneath The Skin: (A Transgressive Rock Tale) (2002)
Genre: Symphonic Prog