Little Atlas - Wanderlust

Year of Release: 2005
Label: ProgRock Records
Catalog Number:
Format: CD
Total Time: 52:13:00

I really liked their first album, Surface Serene. When I came across this little unknown commodity, I wasn't expecting much, but what I got instantly grasped me. The music was odd, unique, and pleasant all at the same time. The songwriting was thought out and technical. The songs themselves were spontaneous and full of spirit. The music worked on many different levels.

Now the band has the experience of a major festival under their belt (that would be ROSfest 2004) as well as a guest appearance by the band's lead singer and keyboardist (Steve Katsikas) in the festival's following year. This not only makes them less unknown, but also dramatically raises expectations for anything that would be subsequently supplied from their studio.

So, the question then becomes? Can they meet this new demand?

It's with great pleasure that I can say there will be plenty of material on this new album to satisfy the needs of their newly-acquired admirers.

As much as I liked the previous album, this one comes together in a much more cohesive fashion. You can tell this band has tightened all the nuts and bolts and tapered all the loose ends. They've obviously worked closer with one another in order to produce an astounding sophomore release. When they went to write the material, they must have accidentally lost the keys and gotten locked inside with one another for a very long time.

Due to this collaborative approach, every component gets installed in a completely unified manner. It all functions without friction. There isn't a cog in this machine that isn't oiled and lubed profusely.

Steve Katsikas is the founder of the band and the sole songwriter who fueled Surface Serene. He says he couldn't have come up with all the ideas on this new album if he wrote it all by himself. It's obvious that everyone in the band had equal say in the songwriting. The fact that one individual isn't acting alone and no single person is highlighted exclusively here turns out to be the album's greatest strength.

Here are the seven wondrous stories Little Atlas shares with us in Wanderlust:

"The Ballad of Eddie Wanderlust" - The opening is ominous as alien invaders plot an offensive on the unsuspecting inhabitants of our planet. This has the aura of Orsen Welles' War of the Worlds and its anthem is something that's straight out of Ayreon. Just when it seems the end is near, a new hope is born. At this point in time, the keyboards and drums rally the forces and strike back against these unwelcome intruders. The bass and lead guitars turn on their amps, fire up the afterburners, and take us on an ambitiously adventurous flight against enemy aircraft. Minstrel-inspired instrumentals thwart this hostile takeover. Somehow, I don't think we're in Kansas anymore as this all this looks much too extraterrestrial for Little Atlas. Not until the voice of Steve Katsikas enters into the equation does it finally become obvious that this really is a Little Atlas tune. There are a number of references to Yes and neo-prog scattered throughout this tale. It manages to hit each side of the spectrum. Its expressions are really quite over-the-top and moody. The instruments are more furious than ever with a conduct that can certainly be classified as disorderly. Roy Strattman should be proud of his signature style on the guitars. He's the closest I've seen any guitarist come to Steve Howe and yet he manages to incorporate his own originality. If anything, his motions are less like the swinging of an axe and more like the strumming of a harp. He deserves a merit badge for his advanced development. Aside from Roy's guitar, the songwriting is another area that deserves much accreditation. Songs like these will deem this band the highest designation among the most hard-to-please fans.

"Higher" - This is the most likeable and listenable track, but the transportation is awfully shaky (this is meant entirely in a good way). We go through many different landscapes and themes buckled into a rickety funhouse ride as we coast upon wobbly wheels. It takes us through many corridors that meet us with sparks and flashing lights. You never know what will pop up and greet us in the next room. There is even one of those dreamy Pink Floyd passages shellacked somewhere into the scenery during one of these wacky experiences. It's like an obstacle course where the target's in sight, but detours, hurdles, and obstructions take us often off the beaten path. We go through the highest levels of inspiration and then spiral downward into the lowest, darkest tunnels. We eventually make our way into a Shakespearian dream. Trekking down this path, we witness a wayward creature playing a melancholy melody on its wood-carved flute. Ultimately, we stay the course and make it to where we originally intended to go. This could be an attraction at Disneyworld, but then again, this is no small world we're traversing.

"Weariness Rides" - This is like one of the shadowy sequences found on The Tangent's World That We Drive Through. Steve shows emphasis and empathy in the vocal verses. His voice is soft as silk and smooth to the touch. However, the hectic harmonies and intense instrumentals pull this delicate fabric apart. There are several times where the guitars and keyboards go off unattended. When this happens, they create much havoc before the returning chorus reconnects the leash back to their collars. Like mischievous mongrels, they're sedate at times, stimulated at others, but always unpredictable. The bite from their canine teeth rips this squishy chew toy up into a number of tattered pieces.

"The Prisoner" - To be honest, portions of this song actually sound similar to what can be found on Dream Theater's Images Aand Words. Multiple other premises such as hard rock, pop, and jazz are also incorporated into this multiplex of music. If that's not all, ELP is even hard-wired into the wafer of this integrated circuit. With all these influences stitched seamlessly throughout, the songwriting coming out of it is outright outrageous. The keyboards splish n' splash while the guitars are wet n' wild. Fortunately, this song is wearing its psychedelically-stained swimsuit. Unlike the exhausting experience in the last track, this one only features upbeat undulations and it's soaked from head to toe in some of the moistest melodies.

"Home" - Here we get spacey keyboards ala Tangerine Dream. These folks sure studied their symphonic classics. As for the singing, it lies somewhere over the rainbow in a world with witches, wizards, glitz, and glamour. Once their adversaries are held at bay, a celebration is underway to rejoice in their newfound freedom. It's happy at times but totally unfamiliar. As our darling daughter clicks her heals together, she wishes her way back to a place that's recognizable, a location that's, well, closer to home.

"On And On" - Strangely enough, this starts like Symphony X, but the tone is only temporary. The song takes aim at a moving target. It begins by revisiting the styles found in Surface Serene before it finally reverts to jazz fusion. This is the most progressive piece I've ever heard from this band yet. This song shows them taking their progressive nuances to the next level and the results are remarkable. However, it's got a ton of scope creep. There is much growth between their albums and this song attempts to reach the highest peak. Its trunk is firmly rooted in their past, but reaches up into the great open sky. From the treetops of The Flower Kings, Spock's Beard, and other giant Redwoods, Little Atlas' branches can be seen piercing through the rest of the forest's forage. While it's strong instrumentally, the lyrics more than adequately complement this extraordinary music. As an added bonus, the disc contains a music video of this particular track. With the extra amenity, one wouldn't be lying if they told you it was double the pleasure, double the fun.

"Mirror Of Life" - The last song is a cleverly-written ballad. The evil aliens catch nothing more than a common cold, but it quickly leads to their demise. This foreign body wipes out the threat completely. It turns out what's tame to us is treacherous to them. As a result, the end of the story is sudden and it leaves you wanting more. That's the sign of a good album I guess.

If you've wandered about and have wondered if Little Atlas could top Surface Serene, go ahead and breathe a sigh of relief. Wanderlust is sure to satisfy your worries.

The Ballad of Eddie Wanderlust / Higher / Weariness Rides / The Prisoner / Home / On and On / Mirror of Life

Steve Katsikas - lead vocals, keyboards, rhythm guitar, sax
Roy Strattman - guitar
Rik Bigai - bass
Diego Pocov? - drums


Bill Ayasse - violin
Claudia Sarmiento - cuatro

Neverworldly (1998)
Surface Serene (2003)
Wanderlust (2005)
Hollow (2007)
Automatic Day (2013)

Live In Louisville 18-Nov-2011 (DVD) (2012)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin US

Added: July 25th 2005
Reviewer: Joshua "Prawg Dawg" Turner
Artist website:
Hits: 1018
Language: english


[ Back to Reviews Index | Post Comment ]