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ES Posthumus: Unearthed

It goes without saying that symphonic/cinematic music and progressive rock/metal are genres which compliment each other very well. There is always a feeling of majesty hearing a full blown orchestra incorporated in a metal piece that gives your heart a reason to rise a little. In the 1980's, Manowar and Rainbow experimented with choirs and full blown orchestras. In the 90's, the late Micheal Kamen, worked his magic with artists like Queensryche and Metallica to the tune of millions of albums sold. Current rockers like Symphony X, are experimenting with the most current advances in music technology. Using samples to record orchestral pieces in places where it was never before possible... a basement studio.

To begin this review, I'll let you know Unearthed is not a progressive metal album at all. It is in it's own category infusing many different types of music; world/ambient/classical/electronic/cinematic. So why is it being reviewed on a site dedicated to progressive music? Because it shares the same sense of power and passion you'll feel listening to your favorite symphonic metal albums. Even though you may have never heard of the name ES Posthumus, you may have heard their music. A two minute clip of their song (Pompeii-Track10) was used in the teaser trailer for the 2002 blockbuster 'Spider-Man'. Other tracks were also used in trailers for 'Minority Report' and Tim Burton's remake of "Planet of the Apes'.

Unearthed is primarily an instrumental album that a mixture of synthesizers, loops and samples, with a real choir and 40 piece orchestra. Any vocals consist of chants and vocal scats. Think of it as if Micheal Kamen was hired to score the soundtrack to Lord of The Rings using the Trans-Siberian Orchestra without the heavy guitar work. The result is a brilliant blend of rock, pop, and orchestral movements. If you dig big, powerful, thematic music this disc will sit in the back of your CD changer for months on end. Comprised of David Spillane (Uliean pipes); Efrain Toro (Percussion); Pedro Eustache (Woodwinds & Reeds); Michael Landau (Guitars); Matt Lang (Drum Loops); Lance Morrison (Bass Guitar), and a little help from the Seattle Choir Company, ES Posthumus is more of a project than a group. The brainchild's behind the project are the producers Helmut and Franz Vonlichten. As I understand, they are responsible for all of the composing and arrangements. I say this with trepidation because there is very little information available about the brothers or the album on the web or from their indie label Wingshop records.

Which seems strange, given the grand scale these tracks are presented. The album opens with the Antissa (1), a synthy/electronica fused track that is a reminder of Engima/Deep Forest with it's single vocalist singing in Latin over a vocoder effect. Track 2-'Tikal' beefs up with a heavy percussion groove, forceful vocals and an Arabic/Middle Eastern flavor. Ulaid (2) is a slower, celtic styled track that is definitely comfortable in a new age category. Others more romantic tracks like "Cuzco" (7), Isfahan (8), Nara (6) make up the weaker songs on the disc, although they are worth listening to. "Elba" (5), Lepcia Magna (9), and Menouthis (10) and Pompeii (12-the standout) are all 'heavier' tracks. Heavier meaning in mood and emotion, not loud guitars, or crazy synth leads. Although at points, my progressively trained ear may have searched for a Micheal Romeo-type guitar lead or Eric Norlander-type synth run, but as it stands, the music is perfect as is. Landau's guitar playing is very subdued and fix nicely in the mix. Synthesizers, when present, are there to compliment the music, not to overtake it. This is a near perfect mixture of all elements- classical, modern and traditional.

Clearly this album is not for all progressive metal fans. In fact, I'll be inclined to say it may not be for most of you. However the few of you who may have the soundtrack to Blade Runner, Danny Elfman's Music for a Darkened Theater Vol 1 & 2 and Peter Gabriel's Passion in your CD collection you will surely have something to enjoy and listen to with Unearthed. The greatest compliment I can give it is that it is GDM-great driving music. And if you travel in a car as much as I do then you'll know that you could easily listen to this disc nearly every day.

Track Listing:

  1. Antissa (3:33)
  2. Tikal ( 4:15)
  3. Harappa ( 4:37)
  4. Uliad ( 3:26)
  5. Elba( 6:53)
  6. Nara ( 4:58)
  7. Cuzco ( 4:43)
  8. Nineveh ( 6:16)
  9. Lepcis Magna ( 7:17)
  10. Menouthis ( 7:58)
  11. Estemos( 4:43)
  12. Pompeii ( 6:16)
  13. Isfahan ( 5:17)

Added: January 30th 2004
Reviewer: Grant Kikkert
Related Link: ES Posthumus
Hits: 3849
Language: english

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