Aztec Jade - Paradise Lost

Year of Release: 2000
Label: Adrenaline
Catalog Number: ADR 011
Format: CD
Total Time: 70:37:00

Ever since I first read LarryD's review of Frame Of Mind, I have been meaning to check Aztec Jade out, but was unable to find their disk anywhere. Strange, and yet typically, it takes an import version to get it into my hands, and in this case, in the form of a compilation of both that album and their debut release, Modern Prophet. The first few tracks didn't hold my interest at first, but by the time "Mad Not Crazy" kicked in, my ears had perked up. I think the later material is stronger overall, but I like what they've done with "Regatta Fugue Part II." And I couldn't help but think of Kansas' "Sparks Of The Tempest" with "Indian Summer." It takes aspects of the vocal pattern of that track and then takes it in divergent angles, at times a bit like so called Modern Rock, though it begins with a very country-like intro.

Paradise Lost is bookended with the 1994 demo "Regatta Fugue Part I" at the beginning and the previously unreleased track "Odyssey," which is, like the rest of the material here, a very fine track.* Contrary to expectation, the material of Frame precedes the material from Modern Prophet, and unless you are able to compare to the original releases (or perhaps it in the booklet of the full version), you can't tell. The music is of the same great quality, and I suppose a nitpicking examination would reveal that the latter material is stronger than the earlier. The band do seem to have a more distinct and unique voice on Frame (tracks 2 - 11). The material Modern Prophet seems closer to more generic hard rock, the type so popular in the 80s (no, not of the Warrant or Winger style, it's much more substantial than that). I guess we'd have to point to Queensryche here.

There are so many textures in their music, but I'll start with the one that will be most immediate to listeners - the vocals. Vocalist Leon Ozug has one of the best voices I've heard from any band, prog or otherwise. And he doesn't sound like anyone I can immediately name, and yet there is that sense of familiarity to his voice - and not just cause I've been playing this over and over again. It is warm and draws you into the rest of the instrumentation rather than being so dominant that it overpowers the rest.

"Regatta Fugue Part I" is somewhat apart from the rest of their material, as I find it is more routine prog metal. It is Ozug's vocal delivery that separates it out from the pack. And the keyboards by Tim Becker add a different colour to the sound; throughout, his washes fill in, without crowding, the open spaces. But you can tell how much stronger the later material is in comparison. While others mention Dream Theater, Queensryche and other prog metal bands (or previously prog metal, as the case may be), I hear a lot of Kansas in their sound. Maybe with a harder edge to the sound, and not just because of "Indian Summer," though it is that track that made go back and listen again (like I needed an excuse) to see if this was pervasive. Well, it doesn't hit you immediately - though having said so, if you follow my suggestion will at least think about it - but there is something in the arrangements, the structure, that you could imagine hearing on a Kansas album. That isn't to suggest there aren't traces of a Dream Theater influence (in whom I also hear a slight Kansas influence) as one can hear that during the brief guitar (Matt Howenstein) and keys solo section of "Desperate Land." Each (as Bobo likes to say) sprints down the fretboard or keys, respectively. "Regatta Fugue Part II" takes a page out of the ELP "rock up a classic" book and come across with it very well.

If Ozug's voice is the most striking aspect of the music, at least to me, it is also the vocal melodies that he creates, perhaps most memorable on "Mad Not Crazy." But the percussion of Rick Miller that emphasizes the beats in Ozug's delivery underscores this. It is on "Desperate Land" where Bryan Kowalski's bass work is first clearly felt, but it isn't until "Nosferatu" when his deep, rich, ominous tones lend just the right atmosphere. In fact, except for that is has a more laid-back arrangement, this could easily be an Iron Maiden song. Howenstein gets to play one "those kind" of solos - crying notes dripping with emotion.

I dig "Requiem" which is as heavy as all-get-out without being heavy-handed. Surely one of the highlights of the album, a track of epic proportions, wrapped in a package four and half minutes long. Yet, you don't feel cheated at all. Aztec Jade play it tight, leaving nothing extraneous; all muscle, no fat.

I urge all of you to check this band out, either via this compilation from Adrenaline Records or on the original pressings. This is really terrific stuff, and as Larry said more than a year ago (almost two), this bands shows the promise for US progressive metal.

[The promo materials from Adrenaline refer to "Regatta Fugue Part I" as being the bonus track rather than "Odyssey," but I based my info on Bobo' one of is inaccurate.]

Regatta Fugue Part I (4:02) / The Calling (4:18) / To Believe (5:12) / Mad Not Crazy (4:15) / Desperate Land (2:57) / Nosferatu (4:37) / Atlantis (4:24) / Regatta Fugue Part II (3:24) / Stained (4:19) / Gates Of Babylon (4:14) / Requiem (4:30) / Modern Prophet (4:20) / Dirty Secrets (3:35) / Soul Inside Of Me (5:10) / The Creator (3:14) / Indian Summer (3:35) / Odyssey (6:31)

Bryan Kowalski - bass
Tim Becker - keyboards
Leon Ozug - vocals
Matt Howenstein - guitars
Rick Miller - drums

Aztec Jade (1994)
Modern Prophet (1995)
Primitive Traxx (1997)
Frame Of Mind (1997)
Paradise Lost (2000)
Concrete Eden (2001)

Genre: Progressive-Power Metal

Origin US

Added: December 1st 2000
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website:
Hits: 855
Language: english


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