Arabesque - The Union

Year of Release: 2002
Label: Lion Music
Catalog Number: LMC 2216 2
Format: CD
Total Time: 76:15:00

Arabesque's sound is equal measure crunchy metal, progressive rock, and melodic pop. An example is "Haunted", where you can imagine a harder edged Pat Benatar, who vocalist Katja Salemi sounds a bit like (though perhaps a little more earthy). In fact, what I kept thinking was that, but for the "metal" drums, percussion and distorted guitar, we could just as easily be listening to Shakira or the like. It is this kind blending of styles that I really associate with music on the Lion Music label, as we get the same kind of thing from A.C.T. and Cyril Achard, to name two. We get lyrical piano coming off of the chuggingist riff. This piece includes a bit of rap from the other vocalist Nicole de Seriere du Bizournet as well, which will either appeal to you or not. The main riff sounds familiar as well... "Inner Voice" mixes in growling male vocals to a not entirely pleasing affect. I do like the vocal melody from Katja here, which is decidedly Middle-Eastern in structure. Well, what else would you expect from a band named Arabesque?

It is the vocals of Nicole and Katja that make Arabesque truly distinctive, as there aren't many women in metal - though more and more are entering the field. But, not only that, their dark honeyed voices - Nicole deeper than Katja's - are quite unusual in metal. Most of the voices we hear are lilting and ethereal, here we get something much more gutsy. I can't help but think of Eartha Kitt... and of Marilyn McCoo, this especially during "Naked," which makes me think a bit of ... ahem ... "Age Of Aquarius" with a few of the vocals phrases...musically, there are a few hints at classic Rush, the way the bass churns underneath. Rush comes to mind again with the very next track, "Captured."

Different is the mellow, jangly "Heal Me," where we get lilting dual vocals and an easy rhythm. This is more akin to White Willow or Renaissance, which wouldn't expect to find on this album based on the other, heavier material. This is actually quite nice - not that the other material isn't, but this is especially nice.

This is very busy music, in that there is something always going on... which does give it an often busy feeling. There is no empty space, for if it isn't the guitars chugging, it's the drums snapping crisply, a throbbing bass, what have you -- though there are exceptions, such as the spacier (not spacy) bridge to "Inner Voice," and the above mentioned "Heal Me." Nice piano intros "Last Attempt," but this gives way to more chugging guitars and bass. Arabesque do better when they leave the chugga-chugga behind and branch out into creating metallic soundscapes. The music becomes more interesting at these points, as the chugga chugga thing is a little overdone now. Leaving it behind means that the bassist Frank De Groot gets to play interesting and twisting patterns, Joop Wolters' guitar can play shimmering, glisting guitar riffs, René Ubachs can do interesting, swirly atmospheric things with the keys, while Marc van Mierlo gets use more of his drum kit. All of which makes "Captured" an interesting track. The vocal delivery is sometimes a little monotone, but both ladies have such strong voices here and through out, we can easily forgive this.

The Union is an album that excites on the first few listens, mainly down to the earthy vocals, but when one digs a little deeper, one finds that they want a little more from the supporting players, a little more than "see how well we chug?" They try, as there are some very nice moments, but they need to up the progressive quotient and lessen the "expected" metal elements. Actually, I think they are more suited to the progressive rock material than the metal material. Having said that, though, but for there being too much of it, they do do the chugga well.

Freaking (7:35) / Haunted (7:23) / Inner Voice (6:28) / Last Attempt (7:33) / Naked (6:15) / Captured (8:25) / Instant Daydream (8:20) / Heal Me (6:20) / The Union (7:11) / Emotions (4:48) / Afraid To Fly (6:07)

Joop Wolters - guitar
Rene Ubachs -keyboards
Marc van Mierlo -drums
Frank de Groot - bass
Nicole de Seriere -vocals
Katja Salemi - vocals

Beyond The Veil (1994)
The Union (2002)

Genre: Progressive-Power Metal

Origin NL

Added: November 17th 2002
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website:
Hits: 839
Language: english


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