GB Arts - Return To Forever


Year of Release: 1998
Label: Point Music / B.Mind Records
Catalog Number: / ISS 693200
Format: CD
Total Time: 63:28:00

Well - where to begin with this disc. There is some history to dig up briefly before going into the review, such as this disc turned out to be one of the sleeper discs for me in 1999, meaning that while all the buzz was going on with other major releases, and everyone was fighting over the PM Awards, this disc was quietly blowing me away alongwith a small handful of others. Reason being - it was impossible to get at a decent price and from 1-2 vendors who were willing to sell this disc here in the USA. I can now proudly state that there are plenty more vendors now carrying this at a decent price.

While it?s true that there are now tons of prog metal available worldwide to satisfy our hunger, many people don?t have the luxury of buying up every single prog metal disc that comes their way (does anyone?), or they hold out for the best prog metal discs to emerge throughout the year - sometimes a safer bet than plunking down money on just anything that gets praise, which just happens to be tons of discs based on your taste. So, based on MY personal taste in prog metal, which happens to be melodic, crunchy, epic, symphonic, well produced, keyboard laden, or any combination therein, I can safely say that GB Arts is definitely a winner.

Hailing from Germany (where else can you find prog this good), the band is on the B.Mind label, the same label that brings us Mind Odyssey. In fact, some of the Mind Odyssey players are found on this disc, and Victor Smolski even produced it, giving you an idea of where the sound style lies in terms of quality. In addition, Mario LeMole, the singer for Mind Odyssey, designed the super artwork on the disc, in which you might see some MO similarities in that dept.

THE STYLE

As luck would have it, GB Arts happens to play melodic, semi-crunchy, keyboard laden prog metal just the way I like it with an emphasis on melodic. You can pick any song on this 64:00 disc and you will get tons of melody and catchiness every time. As a matter of fact, its actually melodic metal based song structures with tons of progressive elements strewn in about the music - bands that come to mind are Ivory Tower, Avalon, Atmosfear, Aztec Jade, etc. Bands that rely and thrive on their melodic writing prowess to get your interest and then inject the music with enough progressiveness to satisfy that need that drives us all to listen to this music on a repeated basis.

GB Arts takes their cues from those listed bands and then injects their own sound and style into it, making it somewhat difficult to pinpoint just one band to exemplify the sound. With long songs, ranging in time from 4:42 all the way up to 11:30 and in between, this band is obviously not trying to cater to any popularity or radio crowd, but doing their own thing and writing as it fits their particular need. Sure, the catchiness of the songs and the ballads will have some crying out for more heaviness, but the guitar sound here does not emphasize power as much as it does melody and beauty. The sound is spilt between the layered guitars and the heavy keyboard usage throughout the disc - and I do mean lots of keyboards (much to my pleasure).

Throw in some super intelligent, totally abstract lyrics (try relating any of these songs to real life), a great production, a very aggressive singer, tons of melody and class, and it all adds up to one hell of a disc.

THE BAND:

Achim Reichert / Vocals
Andre Rasfeld / Guitars
Thomas Senff / Bass
Jorg Nazarow / Drums
Andreas Beckman / Keyboards

Andre Rasfeld is half of the standout here in this band - with his totally committed approach to melody, he takes us through the music with a nice balance between power and beauty, with an emphasis on beauty. His use of acoustic interludes and intros, in contrast with the laid back electric sounds that swing from heavy to soft really give the music its basis for beauty and melody. If you are familiar with Mind Odyssey, you know Victor Smolski to use the same approach only with a little emphasis on the metal sound. Andre carries the bulk of the sound and his solos are complete and never showy. As a matter of fact, it's hard to find too many solos on the disc given the quantity of lyrics provided - he doesn't seem to have time to take up space with solos with the emphasis on songs, but you will find him pleasing in all aspects of his instrument, making him a complete player.

Thomas Senff keeps up with Andre in total sync, and can be heard doing his own thing in many parts of the disc, but never straying far from the "team" concept. The bass / drums / guitar sync is what drives this music, and the progressive elements focus on that combination to drive the music forward.

Jorg Nazarow does a great job of keeping time and providing a nice added bonus to the music - choosing to inject tons of twists and turns instead of trying to overpower the music with his playing. The interesting aspect here is that there is no question to the progressive elements of this music, but that Jorg somehow manages to keep more of a straight time beat and mixes in tempo changes here and there to make it stand out rather than lose sight of the song structure and play in a more complex manner.

Andreas Beckman is not only a superb keyboard player, but I'm glad to see his instruments being used AS instruments, rather than backing up just the sound of the others. While the keyboards are used for background, his playing is more than just that, and his use of many types of sounds completes this music, not just accent it like many choose to. Without the keyboards, the sound would get lost as just another "metal" disc in my opinion. He is found throughout the disc either providing piano and strings, or providing some nice synth sounds to play along side of the guitar which is definitely more appealing. His use of choir and chorus sounds really give this music a dark and eerie presence despite the melodic catchiness of the music overall. Hey, he even uses organ throughout the disc, a dying sound and a most welcome one.

THE VOCALS:

You're probably expecting me to say what a great high pitched, operatic singer Achim Reichert is, or how classically trained he is based on my praise of the music. Instead, I'm going to tell you that Achim is an aggressive, mid-range singer with a thick German accent. In addition, I'm going to compare his tone and style to Stephan Zoerner (Lanfear), who uses his voice more to tell a story than he does to "sing" with it. Achim employs the same approach, using his voice to tell a story rather than sing the lyrics, thus bringing the songs more to life in my opinion. Sure - he goes from his mid-range style to a soft whisper, all the way up to a shriek, but his vocal limitations can be easily heard when this happens, but again, I believe the emphasis is on the telling of the song stories rather than the "singing" of words. There are even a few of those real aggressive grunts here and there as used by Stephan in Lanfear, but not as angry sounding. Achim's voice has a natural aggression to it, and you'll hear this quality at every turn. If you like that "all over" approach of Stephan in Lanfear, or praise the variety of Daniel Gildenlow's approach in Pain of Salvation, you should be able to enjoy Achim's vocals as well. Admittedly, his voice is in total contrast to what the music is all about, but as in all great bands, they've found a way to blend in that aggressiveness with the melodic beauty of the music and make it work. His thick German accent does make it difficult to understand lots of the words, but the lyrics are so in depth and long that you'll need the booklet just to follow the storylines of the songs.

THE PRODUCTION:

If you've heard any Mind Odyssey discs, you know that they are well prepared and sonically excellent. With Victor Smolski involved in the sound for GB Arts, there is no difference, and the sound shines for them as well.

Every instrument is precisely placed in the mix, so that each and every one not only stands out and can be heard, but none of them outshine the other, and even the vocals are placed superbly in the mix. The guitars and keyboards will immediately catch your ear, as they are the driving forces behind the music - with the guitars layered and textured so that you can hear the overdubs clearly while the many layered keyboards carry on along side of it. With such layers, you might think some other aspect of the music might suffer, but this is not the case. Even the guitar solos can be heard clearly over the heavy mixture. The guitars do have some nice effects thrown in for total enjoyment, and the keyboards are thick and rich.

The bass can be heard and felt at the same time. My subwoofer gets plenty of juice here, and my ears get a nice treat to exactly what Thomas is playing. It's a tight bass sound, rather than the usual "boomy" sound that muddies up your listening room, extra applaud and bravo in this area.

The drums are clean, heavy, and again precise. To note, the kick drums are full and heavy, and even the snare drum sounds distinguished and natural without that cardboard sound that many engineers seem to like for some reason. Bravo once again for making the drums part of the program, not the problem.

The vocals are extremely clean and crisp. While Achim's thick accent prevents total distinction between words, there isn't a time on the disc when you can't hear what he is trying to say. Where do I complain? I can't. Perfect levels folks - excellent job in the sound dept.

THE VERDICT:

Double thumbs up for this disc. Now that it's available and the price has been lowered, I'm hoping that more people at least get to hear this disc and provide them with the chance to purchase it - it's a shame when discs like this get held up in traffic due to non-availability, but with a little shouting and writing, I'm beginning to believe that anything is possible in the music world.

While the prog metal world has found that the genre is becoming more and more popular, and discs are becoming easily within reach to hear or grasp, it's a shame that some of the lesser known bands don't get their fair shake to at least be heard by the masses, and I'm hoping that this very thing happens here for this band.

Don't let the name fool you - GB Arts certainly doesn't fit the commonly used monikers that make it obvious the band is a prog metal band, but inside is a melodic, progressive metal that needs to be heard. The fun part of watching this genre grow is discovering all kinds of bands from all over the world, and GB Arts should be able to at least make a statement as the years go by. I'm not quite sure if this their debut, as it was released in 1998, but if so, then this band can only create quite a stir in the future; this is a stunning debut disc as far as I'm concerned. It took a whole year for this band to be heard on the far shores, but it's better late than never, and I highly suggest you at least get to hear it even you don't buy it; I'm betting that most will not be disappointed.


Tracklisting:
City Of Light (5:23) / Prophecy (5.41) / Return To Forever (5:55) / The Storm (5:30) / Falling Rain (4:42) / Behind The Mirror (6:34) / Strange World (4:30) / Through The Centuries (6:29) / Time To Go (6:56) / Parade Of The Innocence (11:30)

Musicians:
Achim Reichert - vocals
Andre Rasfeld - guitars
Thomas Senff - bass
Jorg Nazarow - drums
Andreas Beckman - keyboards

Discography:
Return To Forever (1998)
The Lake (2000)

Genre: Progressive-Power Metal

Origin DE

Added: January 1st 2000
Reviewer: Larry "LarryD" Daglieri

Artist website: www.gbarts.de
Hits: 987
Language: english

  

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