Artension - Forces Of Nature

Year of Release: 1999
Label: Shrapnel
Catalog Number: SH1124
Format: CD
Total Time: 57:09:00

Artension are, in some respects, a more typical metal band. There is a hint of Dream Theater here, but really any prog metal band that has come down the pike since say, 1991, is going to be compared to DT, whether the comparision is apt or not. Even I've fallen into that trap, as a shorthand to give a clue to a band's sound. But really, DT isn't really apt, except from a stylistic perspective. Really, they are a harder edged Kansas...a shriller Kansas.

There are occasional classical influences...most apparant towards the end of "The Truth," with guitarist Roger Staffelbach guitar solo.

Vitalij Kuprij's keys are mostly very sharp and cold - piercing runs, very shrill. When he plays piano, there is a total change - warmth, pleasant without sounding weak. The examples for both extremes are the title track and "Tall Ships," respectively. In fact, this latter may be my favourite track on the disk. He plays keys well, but the tone would sound better with less shreek.

Track six, "Shape Shifter" is sludgy and plodding compared to the rest of the album, though it begins with atmospherics and what sound like strings...James Murphy (Testament) plays guest intro guitar solo on this track. This may be their most Dream Theater-like moment; however, in trying for dark and mysterious, it comes across as...well, sludgy. Actually...comes across as Soundgarden, really. Sludgy Soundgarden.

"Wild Trip" made me think of that harder-edged Kansas - circa Point of Know Return (which/whom seem(s) to be cropping up a lot lately for me - see my Angra review). Though I do like the brief solo here - an arpeggio about 1 1/2 minutes in or so. And, okay, I'll say it, the keys here remind me of early Marillion, though a bit...yes...shriller than Mark Kelly's.

I detect a certain tinniness with the drums...with the symbols at least. Maybe they're just more up front than they should be. The only time I could really hear John Onder's bass work was during this instrumental, where he gets a few moments in the sun.

Actually, his bass and West's vocals were the only unshrill instruments here (though West veered awfully close on occassion, no more so than on the ending to "The Truth"). Of course, Onder also starts out "Guardian of The Hunt" on the right note...this has the true darkness that "Shape Shifter" was lacking without seeming plodding.

I kept trying to place who West sounds like, but try as I might, I couldn't really come up with a name...though James LaBrie would come the closest I guess, and that's only really true for his dynamics rather than than tone (Larry compares him to Joe Lynn Turner (Rainbow) and Graham Bonnet...). Okay, I did find a comparison for one track - "Guardian"'s the comparison that I'm sure Mr. West will hate...and I make my thought public cautiously, in case there's a vicious lot out there to send the wolves after me...I thought of...Jeffery Osbourne. Yes, yes that MOR crooner. Not all the time, mind you, but when West is singing in a lower register.

Okay, I think it's Jeffery Osbourne that I'm thinking of...whoever sang "One Hundred Ways"...

Re-pen the wolves, please. It was just a thought - a thought brought out into the light of day for this reason: West has a very warm, inviting voice; comfortable and very easy on the ears. Which is good. Personally, I prefer vocalists who can sing, whether they are 100% on key all the time or not. Never more appropriate than on the "You Are My Heart" ballad. In fact, keyboardist Kuprij is better on piano than least he sounds better. Here his playing is smooth and...warm and rich.

It comes recommended, with the caveat that I'd enjoy this a whole lot more but for the shrillness.

The Forces of Nature (6:29) / Ride Like The Wind (5:10) / Behind Your Eyes (7:24) / The Truth (5:00) / Tall Ships (6:07) / Shape Shifter (6:16) / Wild Trip (3:42) / Guardian of the Hunt (7:05) / Lost Horizon (7:09) / You Are My Heart (Ode to Autumn) (2:47)

Vitalij Kuprij - keyboards
Roger Staffelbach - guitar
John West - vocals
Kevin Chown - bass
Mike Terrana - drums

Into The Eye Of The Storm (1996)
Phoenix Rising (1997)
Forces of Nature (1999)
Machine (2000)
Sacred Pathways (2001)
New Discovery (2002)
Future World (2004)

Genre: Progressive-Power Metal

Origin VA

Added: August 10th 1999
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website:
Hits: 901
Language: english


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