Various - Kalevala - A Finnish Progressive Rock Epic

Year of Release: 2003
Label: Musea
Catalog Number: FGBG 4463.AR
Format: CD
Total Time: 238:06:00

The Finnish prog quarterly Colossus does its fair share to protect and promote the heritage of Finnish culture. Kalevala is probably the country's most important epic made of old Finnish ballads and lyrical songs which inspired Tolkien and Sibelius alike. To make sure Kalevala can live it's own life in the 21st century, Colossus cut the entire Kalevala epic into thirty parts and asked as many bands to deliver their musical view of these poems. All of the bands had to agree only to use vintage instruments from the seventies in order to get as close to the feel of the story as possible. In the end almost four hours of brand new symphonic rock have been delivered, often taking the bands outisde of their own creative territory and sometimes giving birth to their best composition ever!

With thirty bands on offer, it is not my intention to dissect every single second here, but I most certainly have to mention the opening track as created by Finnish band Haikara. Especially the sound of the drums is magnificent, and I advise everyone to listen to this track with headphones. It certainly is an unforgettable experience with a major role reserved for the cello! This, by the way, is the creation of the world, and boy what a power must have been involved! By using the limited range of the authentic seventies instrumentation, of course, you get pure symphonic rock, yet recorded in a fashion that was unheard of during the seventies. So you get the feel of the heydays of prog yet with the technical advantages of today. Sweden's Simon Says fully explores the possibilities as given by Colossus and decides to sing in Swedish, which extra underlines the folky feel of the subject. This track also includes some stunning Hammond organ as well as superb synthwork. No doubt Sinkadus delivers one of its very best compositions ever, incorporating powerful sections and intimate folky climates backed by seas of mellotron and flute.

Pity the contribution from Moongarden sounds a little overmodulated, as especially in the vocal section there is a slight ressemblance to the band White Buffalo, delivering a lot of originality. One of my current favourites is also present here. It concerns Magenta whose lead singer Christina once again comes ever so close to the feel and charm of the legendary Annie Haslam, whilst Rob Reed proves to be one of the most underrated composers of the current prog revival. For sure another highlight on this impressive 3CD set. The first disc ends with what is probably the biggest Genesis clone of them all. Cyrille Verdeaux leads his band Clearlight towards an atmosphere that is 200% Genesis, including vocals which hold the middle between Gabriel and Collins. A perfect ending to an otherwise entertaining and diverse album.

Flute plays a very important role in the driving track by the Norwegian band Orchard and immediately puts the necessary energy back into this project. The contribution by Greenwall is a rather complex piece containing various atmospheres. Amongst others it contains some beautiful orchestral sections, but I have to admit that I'm not very partial to the female singer's voice, which is more something for the San Remo festival. With the band Revelation it's like listening to early Marillion with all attention going towards the Italian Fish, Pierfransesco Drago. Mad Crayon delivers kind of a South American flavour by introducing a lot of flute into their composition. It's a nice and joyful track that forms a nice contrast to the more dramatic delivery of Museo Rosenbach who deliver the typical Italian school. Also Italian, yet more contemporary, is Leviathan, whose singer Paolo Antinori reaches rather high notes here. It's really a feast for Italian bands on this second disc as Malibran is also on the cards. Their "Strani Colori" sounds a lot like the material on the first Camel album with Jerry Litrico's guitar getting rather close to the intimacy of Andy Latimer. Following right behind all of these Italian prog icons, when you listen to the instrumental track offered by Elegant Simplicity, one would immediately say they are Italian, too. However this band hails from England and maybe the dash of jazz towards the end slightly gives it away. Nice use of mellotron by the way, and again a wonderful ending to yet another superb disc.

The final disc starts with a daring experiment by young British progsters Qadesh. They deliver by far the longest vocal track containing tons of lyrics and weird changes with certain passages reminding me of seventies band Khan featuring Steve Hillage. Probably the strongest track on this 3CD set comes from Grand Stand, and if this song is a taster of what to expect on their second album, then no doubt it's going to be a winner. The guitar contains a fair amount of blues elements that makes it ever so original. Based around Hammond organ and piano, the Swiss entry by Thonk also is a very promising result, sounding like a cross between The Nice and Atomic Rooster with soft passages and loud interventions alternating throughout. In its footsteps follows yet another highlight made in Finland. This time the band is Groovector who already released two full albums on the Italian Mellow label. "Tuletta" is a wonderful composition if not the best they have ever written! Great to have such high quality material from Finnish bands on this pure Finnish concept. The final chapter has been composed by French band Cafeine who with "Way Is Open" kind of mingle symphonic rock with fusion, resulting in a true masterpiece full of emotion. In fact singer Cyril Grimaud's input kind of swims between Placebo and Ken's Novel adding an extra touch to the otherwise magical music.

Thirty different bands. Thirty different kinds of emotions. Thirty poems from the Kalevala epic. It's a lot to digest but once you get your teeth into this project you really enjoy it. Of course there are a couple of mediocre tracks on display but let's be honest and say that surely 80% what's on offer here is an absolute must for lovers of the seventies feel of prog. Some bands really shine and deliver material that sounds better here than on their proper album(s). A wonderful idea from the people at Colossus HQ and a big thumbs up to all the bands involved. Colossus is already planning another extravaganza for which six different bands will each deliver a 20-minute epic. More of that later after we have digested Kalevala! Cheers.

The contributions per country:

- Finland (6): Haikara, Overhead, Scarlet Thread, Aardvark, Groovector, Whobodies
- Norway (1): Orchard
- Sweden (3): Simon Says, Sinkadus, Grand Stand
- Italy (13): Moongarden, Il Castello di Atlante, Submarine Silence, Museo Rosenbach, Greenwall, Revelation, Mad Crayon, Leviathan, Malibran, Sofia Baccini, Cantina Sociale, Germinale, Randone & Tempore
- UK (3): Magenta, Elegant Simplicity, Qadesh
- USA (2): Metaphor, Clearlight
- France (1): Cafe?ne
- Switzerland (1): Thonk

Disc One: The Creation/The Sowing (Haikara) (11:28) / Wainamoinen and Youkahainen/ The Fate Of Aino (Overhead) (8:02) / Som Floden Flyter (Simon Says) (7:04) / Trubadurens Kval (Sinkadus) (5:41) / Maiden Of The Bow (Moongarden) (10:19) / Ilmarinen Forges The Sampo (Il Castello Di Atlante) (7:03) / Lemminkainen's Lament (Magenta) (6:56) / The Three Battles (Submarine Silence) (7:32) / Raking The Bones (Metaphor) (7:41) / The Boat Builder/Searching For The Last Word (Clearlight) (10:27)

Disc Two: 3 (Orchard) (7:30) / The Wedding (Greenwall) (14:27) / Uninvited Guests (Revelation) (10:06) / Pimeästa Pohjolasta (Scarlet Thread) (5:02) / Il Suono Dei Ricordi (Mad Crayon) (6:19) / Fiore Di Vendetta (Museo Rosenbach) (6:41) / Filo Di Lama (Leviathan) (10:35) / Strani Colori (Malibran) (7:31) / Malvagio Per Le Stelle (Sofia Baccini) (5:24) / Ilmarinen's Bride Of Gold (Elegant Simplicity) (5:00) /

Disc Three: Ilmarinen's Fruitless Wooing (Qadesh) (11:33) / Kantele (Cantina Sociale) (5:47) / Stormen (Grand Stand) (7:02) / La Battaglia Per Il Sampo (Germinale) (8:14) / Uusi Kantele (Aardvark) (5:52) / Kapitu 45/46 (Thonk) (6:39) / Tuletta (Groovector) (5:19) / Pine (Whobodies) (5:37) / Runo 49 (Randone & Tempore) (8:58) / Way Is Open (Cafeine) (11:42)


Various - Kalevala - A Finnish Progressive Rock Epic (2003)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin VA

Added: December 14th 2003
Reviewer: John "Bobo" Bollenberg

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Language: english


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