Register Forgot login?

© 2002-2020
Encyclopaedia Metallum

Best viewed
without Internet Explorer,
in 1280 x 960 resolution
or higher.

Privacy Policy

Trying hard in every way - 69%

AdNoctum, January 14th, 2020
Written based on this version: 2000, CD, Rising Sun Productions

Around the turn of the millennium, the "supergroup" Ark made two records and earned somewhat of a name for themselves in the progressive rock community. Their self-titled debut album is the more challenging of the two, with the musicians weaving elements from jazz and, as we Europeans call it, "world music" into the long and complex songs. Unfortunately, the album's production is rather poor: it's unbalanced and lacks dynamics and color. Obviously this doesn’t do the music any good.

From beginning to end, "Ark" is unmistakably a drummer’s record - not that surprising, since drummer John Macaluso was also the band's founder. His playing is placed front-and-center in the mix, but the drums sound flat-out horrible, with the spotlight on one of the ugliest ride cymbals you’ll ever hear in your life. Guitarist Tore Østby is often pushed to the background, his riffing sometimes barely distinguishable. Further more, only one of the songs features a bass guitarist, which partially (but not completely) explains the lack of low-end on the album.

Singer Jorn Lande was in his prime in the late 1990s and early 2000s, but his performance here is not very convincing. Although he sounds powerful and warm as always, his phrasing is just way off. Many sentences begin and end more or less in mid-air, while his timing is either "free" or tremendously behind the beat. This may have been a conscious choice (perhaps an attempt to add a "human touch" to the complicated music?), but it makes Lande sound as if he was unaware of what’s happening around him and/or struggled to fit the lyrics to the music. It kills the flow of the songs, especially since Lande’s band members are also (intentionally) playing around the beat. On the occasion that the vocals do lock in with the instrumental parts (like in "Singers At The World’s Dawn"), the songs immediately feel more grounded.

Composition-wise, the band clearly wasn’t short of ideas. With an average song length of 7 minutes, the album is a musical rollercoaster ride with many surprising twists and turns, animated drumming and innovative guitar work. But however adventurous they may be, most songs lack suspense and the piled-up ideas makes them feel more like a collection of great finds than real compositions. Also, the more jazzy sections sound unfittingly rigid, almost boorish - it's obvious that we're still listening to a rock band. Add the aforementioned lousy production and it becomes pretty hard to not fast-forward every once in a while.

"Ark" does have its moments, and is at times fascinating to listen to. Had the songs been more streamlined and the overall sound less demo-ish, it could have turned into an interesting jazz-influenced prog album, perhaps somewhat comparable to Transatlantic or Fates Warning. Now it strongly smells like a do-it-yourself-after-hours project by musicians whose recording skills are far less developed than their musical talents. It would take a second album ("Burn The Sun", released in 2001) for the band to both embrace the noble art of to-the-point songwriting and have their music recorded properly. Their first one basically shows a bunch of talented people trying and, ultimately, failing to make a convincing prog record with whatever limited means they have available.