Quartus Artifactus is a musical collection of From.uz's songs spanning their catalog of music including tracks from the albums, Audio Diplomacy, Overlook, and Seventh Story. They have also included a DVD copy of all of the songs on the two CDs played live. You have the choice to either listen to or watch this music unfold before you. How neat is that? Wish more bands would do this, hope it is a trend.
I was fortunate enough to review From.uz's last release, The Seventh Story and the DVD Inside the Seventh Story when they came out last year. So I was happy to receive Quartus Artifactus for review this year. This band knows how to make epic music. Only one of the tracks is shorter than 7:45 minutes. Most are over ten minutes in length. It seems like a long time for an instrumental, but this band knows how to keep it dynamic. These artists are at the top of their game and the fact that they are willing to record video for each of these tracks is proof they want you to witness this magical time with both your ears and eyes.
The band is made up of Igor Elizov on keyboards and grand piano; Al Khalmurzaev, on keyboards, synths, 12 string guitar and flute; Vitaly Popeloff on vocals, acoustic steel and nylon guitars; Ali Izmailov on drums and percussion; and Sur'at Kasimov on fretless bass.
The artwork from Ken Westphal has to be seen to be fully appreciated. The three – fold inside gatefold picture is just amazing. Each of the CDs and the DVDs include the artwork as well. No details were left out of this amazing package. Definitely a future collector's item and something every prog lover will want to display with their best music.
"Stone Salad" is also the first track on the Overlook album of 2008. That acoustic guitar and those fantastic drums open this song full of power and a spinning rhythm that just raps around your ears until you plunge over the top with those keys. The guitar work, drums and keys are original and full of dynamic sound. The sound and video production on this album, as with Seventh Story, is top notch. The piano and flute add volumes to the sound as the song progresses, before a very cool rhythm, set by drums, acoustic guitar and string like keys take you down a whole new path. The quicker paced, almost Middle Eastern rhythm, grabs your attention and picks up the live performance when you're watching the video. The slow piano and chime moments, deeper within the track are wonderful. The moments of dream therapy that ensue with keys, soft drums and acoustic guitar are wonderful. The pace picks up again, this time with all sorts of cool percussion and bass. The acoustic guitar and bass moments are also very memorable. Seeing all of this unfold live on video was a wonderful idea. The 'Bolero' excerpt takes this song over the top! Over 13 minutes without a dull moment. One of the best songs on the album.
Solid drums kick off "Familiarization Results", from the album Audio Diplomacy. The piano and bass join in along with the lead electric to build a cool jazz like progression that just moves and sways in a liquid motion. A mini keyboard/guitar duel ensues before slow methodological progression takes over with bells, smashing drums and that awesome piano. Then the bass takes over along with the taping of the drums and a very cool guitar and flute match. To close out the song, dreamy rhythms and melodies surround some fantastic launching guitar solos and those wonderful keys.
"Harry Heller Theater" opens with string like orchestration. A regal entrance for this masterful piece of music. The guitar, drums and keys weave intricate and interesting instrumental patterns throughout this epic. The guitar solos are well worth the price of admission, especially when you get to see them live on the DVD. The chimes and percussion are wonderful throughout this song.
"Perfect Place", the opening track off Seventh Story, is still my second favorite From.uz song. It is one of the few songs on this double disc set that includes lyrics and vocals. One wonders why there are not more From.uz songs with vocals, because Vitaly Popeloff has a great voice. This one starts off with Vitaly's acoustic guitar and the lyrics, "This star upon the road it has reflections in my eyes. Like every breath I've made. Like words I've ever said. I'm faithful. I'm standing alone under the new born sun". Wonderful, only it is over in a minute and 37 seconds.
"Parallels", the big 20 minute epic off Seventh Story, starts off with keys and drums slowly building a 'Rush' like rhythm with heavy bass. The video of this track off the DVD from last year was great, but I think this performance is even better. This song is full of every strength the band has to offer. Great keys, power drums, heavy bass, magnificent guitars and special effects. There are so many highlights and moments that it would take a full page to detail it. Just sit back and enjoy everything the band can bring to you within an over 20 minute timespan. The tempo and pace changes often as beautiful keys are mixed well with soft chimes and exquisite guitar solos.
At the 12 minute mark, Vitaly enters with vocals from a near dream state to provide, "Cycle is closed and thoughts hide from the light all what's around us. The chameleon world on the other side, but we need to go there to find the parallel that will be right". This section is the best part of the song, as bell like chimes pick up shortly after mixed with guitar and that 'Rush' like drum rhythm. This track concludes CD one, but there is another whole CD yet to enjoy in this package.
"Influence of Time" is off Seventh Story. It starts with train sounds, followed by Morse Code, and other street sounds intermingled with fantastic jazzy piano, bass and lead guitar. This song has great patted drums, whistles, percussion, and shredding guitar. It is fantastic to watch live from the DVD. The band is definitely inspired and you can see it in the momentum and pace of the rhythm. They add in some familiar banjo - like rhythms before things slow down to take in the calm cool Hackett – like lead electric moments that begin with shimmering chimes. Did I say dynamic.
"Crashmind" is off Overlook. This song opens with that rushed bass rhythm and power drums. The keys and lead electric guitar joins in later to add the dynamic shifts and swings we've become familiar with. The flute on this one also adds to the jazzy feeling of the song. The acoustic guitar solos are also a highlight.
"Desert Circle" is another excellent song, with vocals from Seventh Story. The flute opening to this actually makes you feel like you are out on the sand, enveloped in a beautiful sunrise. Then, Vitaly's acoustic guitar takes it up another notch. This is by far their best song ever in my opinion. The acoustic guitar work is simply amazing and will just take your breath away. The bouncing jazz rhythm of the bass and drums kick in to give the melody momentum and you just close your eyes and dream you're there. Later a flamenco like guitar blast takes off and helps rivet this as one of their best masterpieces.
"Babylon Dreams" is the epic closer off Audio Diplomacy, and it fills the same roll on this set. This song is full of great piano, bass, and drums right from the opening. Then Vitaly joins in on lead to add to the symphonic sound. The soft patted drums and flute change the tenor of the sound and give it an African feel. But don't get too comfortable, we're in for another shift as a harpsichord like key solo takes over. It's followed closely by a bass and lead guitar solo that will again take your breath away. Then the punching drums and keys are back keeping the mix exciting and full of change. There is a spectacular ending on this one, enough said.
5 out of 5 stars for a mostly instrumental double epic slice of From.uz's best work.
1. Stone Salad 13:26
2. Familiarization Results 7:45
3. Harry Heller Theater 12:11
4. Perfect Place 1:37
5. Parallels 20:01
6. Influence Of Time 10:22
7. Crashmind 9:57
8. Desert Circle 15:51
9. Babylon Dreams 9:38