(All Album Reviews by jlneudorf)
I know its early to talk about best releases of the year but Seventh Story, the latest release from Uzbekistan band From.uz and follow up to their 2008 release Overlook, warrants such discussion. This is an outstanding album and will be on people's best of lists come the end of the year. While the core of the band remains the same with Vitaly Popeloff (electric, acoustic, synth and fretless guitars, voice) and Albert Khalmurzaev (keyboards, synths, MIDI, programming, 12 string guitar, vibraphone, voice), there are three new members including Ali Izmailov (drums, percussion, marimba, tubular bells), Igor Elizov (keyboards, synths, MIDI, grand piano, voice) and Sur'at Kasimov (bass guitar, double bass).
The band creates challenging progressive rock loaded with complex and intricate song structures but with many beautiful melodies breaking the surface. The musicians play an abundance of instruments which leads to some incredibly varied and multifaceted music, but always with a great melody lurking around the next corner. What makes this such an adventuresome ride is the listener never knows where the band will take them next. This is classic progressive rock infused with elements of heavy prog, space rock, progressive metal, fusion, jazz, blues and symphonic rock. This may sound like a hodge podge of styles but trust me, it all works beautifully.
While it is clear From.uz are an ultra talented band, the music they create never seems overly indulgent or unnecessarily complex with all the parts essential to the whole. The guitar is an essential ingredient here, whether in the form of progressive metal riffage, soaring solos, blues and jazz based leads or acoustic strumming and picking. Keyboards and synths add orchestral touches all over the album creating a classic symphonic sound. I would be remiss if I did not mention the rhythm section where complex drumming and fluid bass lines hold it all together beautifully.
With four of the seven tracks of the epic variety and a total running time of almost eighty minutes, there is a lot of music to absorb beginning with "Perfect Place" where ominous synths, sound effects, sampled voices and spacey guitars and keys lead to Floyd-like acoustic rhythms and the distinct vocals of Popeloff which I really like. The first epic of the album is the stunning "Parallels" combining ambient sounding keys and synths with intense prog metal riffage. Soaring lead guitar and acoustic strumming with sound effects recalling Floyd's Animals, complex drum patterns and more prog metal riffs complete the package.
This brings us to the third track "Desert Circle", another epic in every sense of the word. An intense lead guitar solo quickly ensues with subtle synths brushing the background. This one takes the listener on a journey through blues, Russian style folk music, progressive metal and symphonic rock.
"Bell of the Earth", not to be confused with the Manfred Mann song of the same name, features melodic tubular bells and a sweeping yet subtle orchestral arrangement, offering a reprieve from the intense music up to this point. This is a good time to take a deep breath and prepare yourself for the last two epic tracks which are again of high quality. The album ends with the peaceful "Perfect Love", featuring mellow synths lined with acoustic guitar.
From.uz are a special band and have released an album that should take the progressive music world by storm. This band is not afraid to take some risks and the results are breathtaking, painting a musical palette that only few artists are able to achieve. In a word, sublime!