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It is not often that one comes across obscure terms such as ephemeral, which is an adjective denoting anything that is short lived or lacking in permanence. The application of this word can describe the most mundane of subjects such as the life of an insect adrift in this endless sea that we call existence, or it could be something quite a bit larger, as is the case with Patrick Rondat’s latest creation in “Ephemeral World”. The ramifications of such a title are quite broad, equally as broad as the musical influences that are tapped on this LP, which are quite many and seem to come and go at as quickly as the span of a single breath. But at the center of it all is something that contradicts the theme of fleeting ideas, and that is Rondat’s consistent melodic voice, transferred to the ear of the listener through his six stringed vocal chords.
The opening track “Welcome to the Donkey’s Island” features a carnival like theme superimposed over a canvass of random voices in a crowd, possibly symbolizing the capricious nature of day to day life in a big city. The narration provided by the raucous voice of what is assumed to be a salesman of some sort hints of a theme park mentality amongst society, inviting the patrons to do as they please without thought or care, and then tells them after the fact that there is a price for their pleasure. Although these are the only words uttered on this album, they provide a clue as to the reason that is articulated through the countless themes, sections, and musical ideas that follow. Rondat explains himself in the insert of this album that the Donkey’s Island is as it was in Pinnochio, a place of childish frenzy where action comes without consideration, and is put forth as a metaphor to describe the world that we find ourselves in today.
The bulk of the music on here is highly progressive, refusing to nail itself down into one particular discipline, and instead seeming to evolve in a straight line from a beginning point to an end point. “Donkey’s Island” is a perfect reflection musically of the place it depicts, loaded with fast moving melodic ideas that beat up against each other like careless children. Sectional changes are the normal order from start to finish, dancing between some mixed metered grooves, a couple of rapid speed riffs, and quieted piano sections. The title track is a bit more subdued and controlled, starting off with a simple melody over a beautiful keyboard section, and then gradually building up into a faster and more exciting bustle of melodies and textures. The overall pleasantness of this song seems to articulate the illusion of perfection that people see in front of the true monstrosity that is the Ephemeral World.
“Born to Buy” dispenses with any quiet intros and kicks right in with the distorted guitars blaring out, shortly followed by a good balance of technical flair and refined melodic work. Out of all the works present on here this is probably the most catchy and upbeat of the lot. “Tethys” is the name of a Titan in Greek Mythology associated with the ocean, and the song reflects the regal and colossal nature of the deity it depicts. The melodies are loaded with pomp, the surrounding sections move continuously like the waves of an ocean, and the duration of the entire song sees several moments of technical prowess on all fronts that are too many to get into in a detailed manner. “Twilight” is the shortest, the most simplistic, and the most subdued of the compositions found on here. It is mostly driven forth by the bass, with the piano occasionally opining, all the while Rondat’s guitar keeps it basic and relies on the rule of less being more.
“Avalonia” is my favorite of the collection found here, kicking off with a brilliant neo-classical prelude for about 1 minutes, and then kicking in some heavy guitar riffing and scale running that would make John Petrucci’s eyes bulge. “Ispahan” is probably the heaviest track on here, taking a good deal of influence from Persian music, which is fitting as the song’s title is a variant on “Isfahan”, which was the name of the city that was Persia’s capital from the 16th to 18th century. “The Circle” is another upbeat riff monster like “Donkey’s Island”, although perhaps a bit more focused on technical display rather than sectional manipulation. “614 HSO” is among the more double bass happy of the bunch, although the occasional music box interludes and tempo changes prevent it from being a pure speed metal track. The album closes with a Bach violin solo rearranged for Rondat’s guitar, not all that different from what Olaf Lenk does on every At Vance album, which fits as I believe Rondat was one of his biggest influences.
While clearly a large scale work with a keen eye for scholarship and contemplation, one should not forget the simplicity of the overall message, which is something that has been touched on before but not with this much detail. Today’s world is built upon impermanence, the belief that there is nothing absolute in this existence and that acts do not in turn reap consequences. Most that bring evil into the world do not do it intentionally. In fact, most of the fools that bring misery upon the world are caught up in this idealistic mission to save the world from itself. What is truly absent in it all is logic, a concept whose funeral seems a celebration amongst many people as they toast their own greatness with champagne while the world continues to go to hell. Like any good and active artist, Rondat’s purpose is simple, expose and identify the problem in a way so that it reaches an audience that may act as a force of change.
Most of the music I listen to is an uneven split between art and entertainment, in favor of the latter. This album is one of a sizable minority of exceptions, but unlike many others the songs can be listened to one by one without loosing the effect of the message, a flaw that most concept albums carry. It comes highly recommended to fans of Symphony X, Ayreon, Dream Theater, Yngwie Malmsteen, Pagan’s Mind, and anyone else who pushes the bounds of progressive metal music and all its philosophical possibilities.