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A bit fruity after all - 60%

chaxster, November 21st, 2007

The plight of a keyboard player in a metal band seems to be an unenviable one - always standing in a dark corner while the rest of the troupe are grandstanding, always the first one to be criticised in a review, and always the last one to get laid. You know you're at the bottom of the food chain when a groupie prefers to nail the bassist before you.

But every so often, one can squirm into a position where they're actually able to dictate terms and have their names recognised. Look at Jordan Rudess for example - he gets a fancy revolving keyboard and free reign to make a whole range of funny sounds and faces onstage. Vitalij Kuprij is another one of that breed, and gets further brownie points for being the founder of neoclassical wankers Artension.

I'm not entirely sure why it's the common trend for band members to release solo albums that aren't a huge leap away from their regular leanings. Maybe it's just a way of showing the middle finger to the rest of the group, going, "See, Ma! No band!" Anyway, thankfully there is a band, and with Arch Rival axeslinger Michael Harris and Ark alumni Randy Coven and John Macaluso riding shotgun, it's by no means a shaky one.

The problem is something called the 'Chick Corea syndrome'. While I totally dig all the other members of the band, I just can't devote that kind of unreserved admiration for the band leader. It's not really possible to be faulting Kuprij's chops or trashing his compositional skills, but for me, when the music rises above (very pleasant) background music is when the rest of the band starts firing on their terms, Harris' half-jazzy half-classical leads cutting through while the rhythm section locks down on a groove, instead of the usual neoclassical checkpoint race. Giving credit where its due, Kuprij doesn't hog the show all the time and lets the other guys take their shots, which is the primary reason this album redeems itself somewhat for me.

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