Tulipe Noire, La - Shattered Image

Year of Release: 2000
Label: Musea Records
Catalog Number: FGBG 4334
Format: CD
Total Time: 63:19:00

If you have been longing for the classic days of Marillion, hoping that they'll produce another Script For A Jester's Tear, then long no longer, because it's here. Sort of, but not quite. Now, I have to start out by telling you that I like this CD from a sonic and production perspective. They aren't as tight as they could be, but they do have a very good sense of melody. Keyboards are the lead instrument after vocals, and the band's playing is quite good. This is a perfect example of what neo-prog is.

From the outset, just looking at the all-too-familiar typography, one would suspect that La Tulipe Noire are heavily Marillion influenced. Once you hear the music, there is no doubt that that is the case. But not just Marillion influenced, as you'll hear more than a little IQ in there and a dash of Pendragon.

If I had never heard of either of those bands, I'd be quite excited by this music - extended arrangements, beautiful keyboards, good vocals, occasionally interesting percussion, some nice guitar. As it is, I know those bands, and Marillion quite well, so I'm rather disappointed that this is more than just Marillion influenced, especially since the performance is good.

If you could imagine Jon Anderson fronting a neo-prog supergroup consisting of members of Marillion and IQ reworking Marillion tracks circa 1983 then this is what you'd have. Vocalist Ima has a high, but rich, voice, not unlike Anderson. The press notes from Musea say "a brilliant female vocalist" ? but since they refer to Shattered Image as their first album (it's their second) I think the press info refers to In The Gates Of Dream, their first album. But whether Ima is a gal or a guy, s/he does have a pleasant voice, and it doesn't really much matter (though it sounds more masculine than feminine). There are moments however that stray way too close to Marillion, as Ima delivers lines in "Empty Streets" with the same phrasing as Fish in "Tux On," the similar musical arrangement reinforces that. At no point does s/he actually sound like Fish, though doing so would moot the gender question, I would imagine. The picture on the website shows us a very young and fresh faced person with delicate enough features that ? well, I can't tell.

Anyway, Le Tulipe Noire are a neo-progressive band from Greece; their name taken from, or is at least the same as, an Alexander Dumas novel. According to Alix, the (female) keyboardist, the name came about because "All the groups of the genre have either English or Ancient Greek names. Since I like France and flowers, I thought that La Tulipe Noire would be a good idea."*

The album opens with a very ornamental keyboard piece called "Image I (A Glimpse On The Mirror)" that starts out with dark organ-like tones. The phrase is then repeated by the guitars - the band has two guitarists: S Kontakis and Y Barkoulas. And then is repeated again on keys. The segue to "Shattered Ego" contains some quite nice, light keyboard accents which are overlaid upon an atmospheric bed. There are parts of this track that mirror a slightly slowed down "Forgotten Sons" (specifically the section where Fish sings "You're just another coffin?") and "Script For A Jester's Tear" simultaneously.

This is a concept album - a man has reached the end of his rope, and as he contemplates suicide, we flash back to the things that lead him to this moment. His life started with such promise - he had such dreams. Meets a woman whom he loves, but is soon shipped off to war. "Through The Snake's Eye" tells this chapter in his life, and it starts off quite good, and mostly original; percussion retorts like guns firing to great effect, but then for the closing passages, it returns to the "Forgotten Sons" arrangement. "Empty Streets" picks up his story after the war, returning home to find his girlfriend isn't the woman he knew anymore. This one is mostly the "Tux On" arrangement with swirling keys replacing Mosley's cymbal accents, though the chorus references a different track (and lyrically Queensryche) with it's "Eyes Of A stranger" refrain. Oh, and there are some plucked-string sounds that remind me of some new wave track that I can't recall the name of at the moment.

"Driving In The Rain" is "Cinderella Search," though in a higher pitch, and not throughout. Oddly, perhaps, it's here where the protagonist revisits familiar haunts - searching for those things he lost? "The Haze" begins very subtle, just tinkling keys and voice, before a dark guitar cum violin interlude (a la Deep Purple's "Perfect Strangers"), a bit of acoustic guitar thrown in, too. Here they flirt with prog metal, not quite reaching that kind of crunch, though drummer Nick Kassavetis has got the rhythm down. Here our protagonist turns to the "dark side" "A Scent Of Spring" which follows hints at "Childhood's End?" but it seems strange that is it so optimistic coming on the heels of the previous track, or am I just missing something?

The guitar parts are Marillion inspired, as you might have surmised; the keys make me think more of Clive Nolan than of Mark Kelly, but both are certainly there. The percussion doesn't really come close to Mosley's at all, or to Mick Pointer's either (who handle percussion duties on Script). (And yes, I find it no small irony that Marillion were accused of being Genesis copyists when they first arrived).

Essentially La Tulipe Noire have patched together melodies from their influences, wrote new lyrics based on imagery from the source material, and added a few bits and bobs here and there. If you are looking for more of the same of that early neo-prog style, then La Tulipe Noire are going to fit that niche.

Image I (A Glimpse On The Mirror) (4:00) / Shattered Ego (8:10) / In The Gardens of Eden (7:36) / A November's Night (4:49) / Image II (Black Star Rising) (2:16) / Through The Snake's Eyes (7:28) / Empty Streets (5:20) / Driving In The Rain (5:41) / The Haze (9:59) / A Scent Of Spring (5:46) / Image III (Looking At The Sunrise) (2:13)

Ima - vocals
Alix - keyboards
Hyde - bass
S Kontakis - guitars
Y Barkoulas - guitars
Nick Kassavetis - drums
Chris Tabouratzis - guest guitar
George Fotopoulos - drums (1, 3)

In The Gates Of Dream (1997)
Shattered Image (2000)
Faded Leaves (2002)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin GR

Added: May 11th 2000
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website: www.latulipenoire.gr
Hits: 2279
Language: english


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