Hungary's After Crying are back with a new studio album after releasing consecutive live albums over the last few years. Show is somewhat of a departure for the band, as the overall sound of the group is moving away from their trademark "acoustic chamber rock" style of the earlier albums, to a keyboard oriented symphonic sound featuring lots more vocals that one would associate with the group in the past. Regardless of the subtle changes, the band has lost none of their penchant for bombastic melodies and sweeping instrumental passages.
"NWC-New World Coming" is as commercial as After Crying have ever gotten, as this sing along anthem features the strong vocals of Batky "BZ" Zoltan, who tells the tale of an individual who is hesitant to move forward in an ever changing world, and yearns for the past. The band roars into explosive symphonic fury on the instrumental "Invisible Legion", with raging horns, strings, and walls of keyboards. Guitarist Torma Ferenc takes the lead on the brief "Face to Face", a mysterious little number with layers of keyboards and melodic trumpet lines. Female vocalist Andrejszki Judit turns in a wispy performance on "Welcome on Board", an ethereal piece that is a real departure for the band. Cellist Pejtsik Peter puts on a show on the gorgeous "Paradise Lost", a sensuous instrumental that harkens back to the style of the bands earlier efforts. Sadly, at just under three minutes long it's a tad too short. "Remote Control" is a rocking neo-prog number, another real departure for the band, with aggressive guitars, bubbling synths, and symphonic horns, to go along with the melodic vocals of Zoltan. He has a fine voice, but I wonder if it would have been better for him to sing in his native tongue rather than struggle through some of the English pronunciations? At just over nine minutes, this is one of the longer pieces on the CD, and it really worked for me, showing a side to the band that we have never seen before. The contrast between the chunky guitars, funky horns, and wild keyboards is quite intriguing. Next up is the futuristic "Technopolis", complete with spoken word narration from Gorgenyi Tamas, eerie sythnesizer chips, and yearning guitar lines. Mid-way through this one the band shifts gears, as it becomes an almost ELP styled romp with classical piano excursions and blazing synths. After the short piano-lounge instrumental "Globevillage At Night", comes the raging menace of "Bone Squad", with full horn section and distorted guitars, ultimately ruined by annoying, gravely vocals (they were trying to have the vocals fit the mood of the lyrics, but it really doesn't work in my opinion.)
"Wanna Be a Member" starts of with some great lead synth lines, but then turns into a techno-rap mess with Latin horns. Not sure what they were thinking here. The requisite epic on the album is the 15-minute "Secret Service", a real enjoyable piece that ties in many styles and manages to remain intoxicating all the way through. Lots of cello, piano, electric guitar, trumpet, and melodic vocals on this one, which all combine for quite the alluring listening experience. The last two numbers are real keyboard workouts; the Yes flavored "Farewell" and the Latin tinged "Life Must Go On", both excellent songs that showcase the instrumental talents of keyboard players Lengyel Zoltan and Winkler Balazs.
In summary, it's obvious that After Crying has tried to modern their sound and truly progress their style. How the majority of their fans take to it is another issue, but I think they have created a varied platter of music here, not all of which works, but you have to give them credit for taking some risks. It will be interesting to see where they go from here.