Cairo - Conflict And Dreams

Year of Release: 1998
Label: Magna Carta
Catalog Number: MA-9012-2
Format: CD
Total Time: 64:29:00

Let me state right off the bat, if you don't like keyboard-driven music, you will not like this disc or this band. I personally love keyboards in my prog metal, and I am an avid fan of prog rock and neo-prog music as well. I am no stranger to keyboarded metal either, and most of my favorite prog metal discs have some sort of keyboarded sound to them. However, for some reason, I am having a hard time adjusting to the sound and feel of this new Cairo disc. In all reality, I liked the first Cairo disc, and I was anticipating something big from the Cairo camp this time out.

The first problem I am having with this band is how to describe them within a specific genre. Most musicians do not like their bands to be placed into a particular genre, and this is understandable due to the number of people they are actually trying to reach. In reality, most music fans NEED and WANT bands to be placed into a genre, if not for comparison or classification of sound or style due to the limitations of text. When bands come along like Soundscape, Heaven's Cry, Ice Age, Cairo and others, it becomes even more difficult to describe the music even with placing them in a genre, because some bands, including the ones mentioned, just don't fit a particular genre or at least they don't resemble the common grounds that put all other bands into their respective categories. This is the case with Cairo.

If I said that Cairo was prog metal, I would be way off base. Cairo is NOT metal, nor do they pretend to be. If I said that Cairo was Progressive Rock, you would immediately try to think of such bands as King Crimson, Yes, and the like. This would also be wrong, Cairo does not fit that mold either. So, what we now have, is something I would have to classify as a "modern" progressive rock, meaning that it's definitely lighter than metal, but not molded in the same manner as the standard 70's prog rock that we sometimes base our metal roots on. For the sake of argument, Cairo is definitely progressive, but it's only about as heavy as rock, so therefore please keep an open mind when I use these terms.


This is pretty much keyboard-driven, progressive rock, and if I could be so bold, I would like to say that Cairo resembles something of a melodic version of Emerson, Lake & Palmer. I say this for the simple reason that the keyboard player has the same style and approach that Keith Emerson had back in the 70s, but obviously with a more, modern 90's sound. Mark Robertson, responsible for all of this keyboarded madness, is ultra-talented. There is no mistaking whose sound drives this band, and I re-emphasize that you must love a keyboard-driven sound to like this band. There are plenty of surprises on this disc, in terms of style and progression, and rarely, if ever, does the band stay put long enough to play a song that will leave you humming an hour later. As a matter of fact, I dare anyone to try to hum even a couple of bars of this music right after listening to it, it is that complicated at times. For some reason, through all of the complexities, the band manages to maintain a warm sound, only sometimes venturing into the coldness of unemotion on a few parts of their long songs. Which leads me to my next point; there are 6 songs on the disc, each averaging around 10 minutes plus in length. The shortest song clocks in at 8:25, after that the songs range from 10:23 all the way up to 17:08. I don't have a problem normally with song lengths be them short or long. However, a lot of the songs contain long, drawn out instrumentals, and lots of the time I get bored about halfway through the song. Also, it is almost difficult to figure out which song is which, because the songs change within themselves so often, it sounds like they've started a new song. The patience to sit through these long instrumentals is a must. My final point, is that the band uses quite a bit of speed in their songs, and it can be amazing to hear this band playing some of their complexities at the speed in which they do. There is no denying the talent of this band.


A typical Magna Carta production. While clean and pretty, sometimes you get the feeling that something is being held back in the recording, be it the bass, the guitar, or the drums. In this case, and rightly so, the keyboards and the vocals stand way out in front of the sound. However, something feels lost here. Maybe the bottom end, maybe a bit more poundage on the drum kit would have been nice. All in all, it is a very good sound, and the band's many highlights are certainly showcased on this disc soundwise. It almost seems like there is no need for a guitar in this band, and the instrument is either used minimally, or the recording has it put back in the mix some. During the long instrumentals, the guitar sound comes through, but not with any sense of urgency or having the need to make a statement.


I won't say too much about the band as individuals, because music played in this manner certainly requires a great deal of talent, but to be honest, it is hard to really pick apart any of the musicians on this band, as the focus is certainly on the keyboard player, but suffice it to say that each of these individuals is a master craftsman. To be playing songs this complex, for the amount of time in each song, takes a special person to keep up, and this band is as tight musically as it gets. I've already mentioned some similarities of the keyboard player's approach with Keith Emerson's approach, so you can appreciate through my words here what type of player he is.


The singer, Bret Douglas, has a very pleasant sounding voice. He is a mid-range singer, and never strays from within his range. He fits the music well, and he doesn't overpower the music nor does he get overpowered by the music. My only complaint with him is that he sounds like he is holding back at times. There are parts of songs that I feel he should be a bit more forceful with his voice, but he remains pretty much in one range throughout the music. A minor complaint to an otherwise capable singer. Who does he should like ? If you remember the 80's soft rock band called TOTO, you will remember that they had 2 singers, one higher pitched and one lower pitched. Bret resembles the higher pitched singer for those of you that can remember back that far in time.


Overall, this is a very competent disc. While not as heavy as I would like it, I wasn't expecting too much in the way of heaviness when I bought it. I also wasn't expecting such long, drawn out instrumentals on the disc either, and this is where I am getting turned off. Ironically, the shortest song on the disc, called "Then You Were Gone," which clocks in at 8:25, is my favorite on the disc. Not because of the short length, but because it is the most melodic and passionate. This is where the singer really shines and the band's feeling can be heard. Sure there are obligatory solos throughout the song, but the singer has equal time on this one and everything balances out well. The bottom line, it takes a lot of patience to appreciate what the band is doing on this disc. Musically they shine, but it feels that when they went shopping in the emotion dept, they didn't spend too much time browsing for the goods. If you like somewhat complex instrumental passages, and like to hear a lot of Hammond organ, then this disc is for you. While a good disc by any standard, it is certainly not for everyone, and can be a tedious journey to undertake from beginning to end.

Angels And Rage (10:23) / Corridors (11:56) / Western Desert (17:08) / Image (1:25) / Then You Were Gone (8:25) / Valley Of The Shadow (15:52)

Mark Robertson - synthesizers, Hammond organ, grand piano, vocals
Jeff Brockman - drums
Alec Fuhrman - guitars, gocals
Bret Douglas - lead vocals
Jamie Browne - bass

Cairo (1994)
Conflict And Dreams (1998)
Time Of Legends (2001)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin US

Added: July 25th 1999
Reviewer: Larry "LarryD" Daglieri

Artist website:
Hits: 1161
Language: english


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