Machiavel - Welcome To Paradise

Year of Release: 2003
Label: CNR Music
Catalog Number: 22 208242
Format: CD
Total Time: 50:46:00

When the double album Anthology was released two years ago it was amazing to hear what great music Belgium's number one prog band had delivered during its career. Ever since they returned with the powerful album Virtual Sun the band has remained one of the better rock bands Belgium has ever produced. For sure they tried their hand at delivering some very commercial material once, but this hasn't stopped their fans from appreciating their music. The days of the pure, lush, symphonic epics are long gone. Instead Machiavel delivers a selection of original compositions that are based on strong melodies and/or an authentic rocking beat. With accomplished musicians such as guitarist Thierry Plas and Hervé Borbé on keyboards (he used to be with the band Now, the Belgian Yes!) and of course the unique voice of Mario Guccio, the band becomes better as they grow older. Gone are the days of unnecessary arrangements, so what you get is the perfect balance between the instruments, between accessibility and finesse, between clean honest rock'n roll and vintage sounds.

On Virtual Sun we could already detect some Led Zeppelin references so I was rather curious to hear whether at all the band would continue where they left off five years ago. Opener "Time Is Like A River" offers a rather different sound by introducing some nice slide guitar next to a catchy chorus, delivering a classic FM radio hit if ever I heard one! The nice thing about Machiavel has always been the diversity of material to be found on one single album. If that's the definition of progressive rock so be it! "Wild As The Wind" is another fantastic, melodic beauty that goes back to the early days of Paul McCartney's Wings. Think of "Maybe I'm Amazed" and you get close to the feel of this song with nice strings courtesy of Hervé and once again sparse yet very effective guitar licks from Thierry. No wonder this was the first single pulled from this new album! The years of experience (they've been around more than 25 years) automatically results in this band knowing what to put on an album. They certainly would be able to deliver an album filled with incredible ballads but instead they deliver a perfect balance between soft and hard material. In fact "Dreams And Fascination" kind of contains both all clenched into one with the rhythm being rather slow, yet getting extra fuel due to Hervé's simple but effective synth sounds and Thierry's heavy riffs. Here Mario's voice is also given the vocoder treatment!

The sheer class of a band is often illustrated by using as little arrangement as possible. Remember the "unplugged" rage when classics were stripped to the bare necessity in order to still deliver a fantastic song. The same can be said of "Breathe," which is built around a simple but effective piano lead supplemented by Mario's incredible vocals. This is what genius is made of! The keyboards in the intro for "Killing Life" are like a fusion of vintage Genesis and Supertramp, especially the clean sound of the piano comes across ever so well. This is one of the more pure progressive tracks on the album as it contains a lot of instrumental highlights combined with vocal acrobatics that grow and grow both where power and emotion are concerned. Sung by Steve Wilson this could well be genuine Porcupine Tree material. One of the advantages of Machiavel is also the fact that in addition to singer Mario Guccio, drummer Marc Ysaye takes over the lead at times. You can hear him during the soft ballad "Save My Soul" which sounds like a soft breeze with mellow strings fusing with acoustic guitar before introducing some mellotron towards the end. And finally we come to the song that could easily be lifted from an authentic Led Zeppelin album. "Out Of You" is the perfect Zeppelin reunion without one single member of the original band! Once again it's Thierry delivering the main goods, turning this one in an absolute live favourite! The small part where Hervé introduces some strings gets damned close to "Kashmir," a Zeppelin classic which Hervé used to cover during his Now period!

A very good friend of the band, Pierre Rapsat, passed away last year. With the closing song "So Long" the band pays tribute to their great friend and musical spirit. Whilst an edited version has just been released as the second single of this album, here you get the full 7:28 treatment. Again strongly driven by the force of acoustic piano, the song builds and builds on the strength of Mario's unique voice. There's also a section where piano and guitar kind of complement each other in a bluesy kind of way. It's a daring experience when the piano is left all by itself to change towards experimental jazz, illustrating what an underestimated talent Hervé Borbé really is! It kind of sketches the life of their friend Pierre Rapsat, whom in the end was left all by himself, losing the final battle to cancer, and it's that very final airbubble that ebbs away with the final piano chord. It's breathtaking and no doubt the most emotional part of the entire album.

Throughout the album you also find some mediocre tracks such as the semi-acoustic "The Real Show" which could easily be an outtake from Belgian rockers The Scabs. "Clowns" is an uptempo rocker which contains some Aerosmith adrenalin and a rousing Rudess-like organ solo. With "You're The Woman" you get your ordinary rock song with a chorus line that is repeated way too often. In the end, however, the quality of the remaining songs is so strong that this entire album can easily be seen as one of the all-time highlights out of the impressive Machiavel career. Also from a production point of view this album sounds superb. No doubt they will include a decent amount of new songs in their live shows, turning these concerts into pure revelations. If this is paradise then everyone should be looking forward to dying!

Time Is Like A River (2:50) / Wild As The Wnid (3:43) / You're The Woman (4:37) / Dreams And Fascination (4:15) / Breathe (3:44) / Take All The Moments (3:14) / Killing Life (7:06) / The Real Show (3:25) / Save My Soul (4:00) / Out Of You (2:50) / Clowns (3:10) / So Long (To Piere Rapsat) (7:28)

Roland De Greef - bass
Marc Ysaye - drums, vocals
Mario Guccio - vocals
Thierry Plas - guitar
Hervé Borbé - keyboards

Machiavel (1976)*
Jester (1977)*
Mechanical Moonbeams (1978)*
Urban Games (1979)*
New Lines (1980)*
Break Out (1981)*
Valentine's Day (1982)*
The Cry Of Pleasure (1987)*
The Best of Machiavel (1991)
Machiavel (1993) (enhanced reissue)
Jester (1993) (enhanced reissue)
Mechanical Moonbeams (1993) (enhanced reissue)
Urban Games (1993) (enhanced reissue)
New Lines (1993) (enhanced reissue)
20th Anniversary Machiavel - The Very Best Of (1996)
Virtual Sun (1999)
Machiavel Live (1999)
Break Out (2000)
Original Hits (2000)
'Heaven's Rules'
Anthology (2001)
Welcome To Paradise (2003)


Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin BE

Added: June 1st 2003
Reviewer: John "Bobo" Bollenberg

Artist website:
Hits: 812
Language: english


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