X-Religion - Dances On Gobelins

Year of Release: 2003
Label: Mellow Records
Catalog Number: MMP 440
Format: CD
Total Time: 00:00:58

Some of you might know Vitaly Menshikov from his own Uzbekistan based progressive music review site Progressor, but here it is in the role of bassist and guitarist for his very classically influenced project X-Religion the we find him. Dances On Gobelins is the band's first album, though this same trio collaborated on keyboardist Albert "Al-Bird" Khalmurzayv's Sodom And Gomorrah XXI album. The other part of the trio is drummer Valery Vorobjov.

I don't mention the word classical lightly, as much of the music you will find here is closer to that style than rock, and yet rock clearly forms a component. What results is a dark and macabre sound full of angles. You don't get waltzes here, but rather spindly and spiny dances in some cold and often dark places. And yet, too look at the artwork (which we will in a moment), things aren't quite as gloomy as the music would have you believe. It's gloomy, but not as. Keyboards are the main instrument here, playing many of the lead parts whether sounding like an organ or a piano. Ptero's kit is electronic, and this does draw away some of the warm one would hope to find here, especially as the rest of the instrumentation does have that warmth. Even while creating chilly and chilling atmospheres.

The album opens with the initially slow, funeral-procession paced "Agnostic Eparchy" - one layer of keyboards creating an atmospheric bed over which a crisp percussion bites at the warming throbs of bass. At various points, too, one will briefly think of Keith Emerson, and at other times (and again in the second track "Waiting For The Sign Of Eternity") of ELP in general. Of course, when keyboards are out front, or often out front, at least in this genre, it's easy to make that comparison.

We find sharper angles in "Transformation Of Mentality," and a deepening sense of the macabre? something about dark bass tones and high-toned keyboards, each plunking in unison brings forth images of dancing skeletons. By contrast, we get the more upbeat - and dare I say, danceable -- "Religion Of The Dead," which puts for a time acoustic guitar up front. It, too, has its dark moments (listen carefully and you will hear bells tolling? and that tone can suggest nothing but death). The track ends with a trumpeting fanfare that sounded, to me, vaguely familiar (other than because I've been listening to this) - Edgon Heath used a similar phrase in their "The Killing Silence" track (The Killing Silence). But things aren't all angular and bombastic, as there are moments of subtlety, too. The subsequent track, "A.L.I.V.E. - Epitaph," opens with some very warm and brassy horns for example, leading into a sparse, plucked-strings passage. This piece, unlike the first track, is a mellow and slow paced (there is the same marching rhythm) but now it isn't so heavy hearted.

Things are not perfect, however, as on more than one occasion, a note sequence seems hurried - whether by design or flaw, I don't know. But these are mere hiccups in what are interestingly arranged pieces. But, there are also some very fine moments, and most of them come when X-Religion are in their more classical mode. One such moment comes at the beginning of "Yesterday's Tomorrow" where we get softly undulating keys before the piece kicks in proper, with driving percussion and the assured but restrainted hammering of the bass. This later leading into a string-like section that itself leads to something that reminded me a bit of Camel's "Nude's Return," due to the brief fanfare. You'll hear shades of Tarkus is this piece's strident and dark tones as well.

I must mention the packaging because it is worth mentioning. There is a 16-page booklet, half-filled with excellent artwork from Vladimir Finkilstein - some of the pieces reminiscent of Michael Whelen in subject matter, such as that that accompanies "Transformation?", another piece that recalls Roger Dean on the appropriately titled "Yesterday's Tomorrow." The other half (the facing pages) contain poetic lyrics - mainly ruminating on where one stands in life? or death. The music itself is all instrumental, however.

While minor flaws are to be found in places, Dances On Gobelins is a very good release. I'd love to hear acoustic drums in place of the electronic, or at least a warmer tone given to the electronic. Otherwise, despite the themes, the sound of the album is warm.

Agnostic Eparchy (10:39) / Waiting For The Sign of Eternity (4:33) / Transformation Of Mentality (8:45) / Yesterday's Tomorrow (9:54) / Religion Of The Dead (6:07) / A. L. I. V. E. - Epitaph (9:02) / Dances On Gobelins (9:18)

Albert 'Al-Bird' Khalmurzayev - various Yamaha, Korg, & Ensoniq keyboards; Yamaha acoustic & electric guitars
Vitaly 'Progressor' Menshikov - Yamaha fretless bass (via Digitech sound processor), Yamaha electric & acoustic guitars
Valery 'Ptero' Vorobjov - Yamaha electric drum set (with Sabian cymbals); Additional Yamaha keyboards

Dances On Gobelins (2003)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin UZ

Added: December 14th 2003
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website: www.progressor.net/xreligion
Hits: 1301
Language: english


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