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Lalu: Atomic Ark

Lalu is the progressive creation of French composer/keyboardist Vivien Lalu, Atomic Ark is the second release under the Lalu name the first being Onrin Metal a great progressive metal recording from the year 2005. When I think of that album and the epic track "Potboy: The Final Fantasy" I always wondered if this one featuring a wacky alien at the start provided some inspiration for Ziltoid The Omniscient.

The line-up on Atomic Ark is an endearing combination including vocalist Martin LeMar (Mekong Delta, Tomorrow's Eve), bassist Mike LePond (SymphonyX), drummer Virgil Donati (PlanetX) and guitarist Simone Mularoni (DGM, Empyrios). Simone has already released two great albums this year with DGM and Empyrios showing his diversity which he does here again on Atomic Ark.

Track nine and it's' a lively one "Slaughtered" has solos provided by the likes of keyboardist Jordan Rudess (Dream Theater, Liquid Tension Experiment) and guitarist Marco Sfogli (James LaBrie). But that's not all also contributing to this album is another keyboard master Jens Johansson (Malmsteen, Stratovarius) along with guitarist Joop Wolters (Shadrane), drummer Peter Wildoer (Darkane, James LaBrie) and vocalist Mike Andersson (Cloudscape).

So with such a positive impressive impression that Onrin Metal had left me with how then could Vivien Lalu possibly go wrong with Atomic Ark? Well he sure hasn't Atomic Ark contains more prime progressive metal that's quite heavy at times and with plenty of emphasis on the technical side, and the drumming of maestro Virgil Donati sure adds to that. Like the way he introduces heavy opener "Greed" and it sounds so cool how he duplicate's that guitar groove and again on the potent track "War On Animals". The guy is just so good I've been a Virgil fan since i first witnessed his talents back in the eighties and he still blows me away. "Bast" is so addictive the mixture of intensity and styles works so well, there is a lot of catchy grooving on this album such as that on "Momento" where the bass,drums and guitar work together so well while the keys add that extra touch.

Just like on Lalu's debut Atomic Ark also concludes with a gripping extended track, one that opens with a rather enchanting atmospheric feel before the keys take centre stage "Revelations" is the title of this song and it is a fine example of adventurous progressive metal. Onrin Metal has so much going for it the performances on this album are just stellar be it the vocals or instruments as is the musical variety, there are so many cool touches that just lift this album above so many others.

Besides a multitude of quality songs another positive about Atomic Ark is it gave me inspiration to revisit Onrin Metal, therefore I have spent time with two great Lalu albums and so should any progressive music fan for that matter. I haven't awarded an album 5 out of 5 stars in some time Atomic Ark deserves no less, this is a serious contender for best progressive metal album of 2013.

Track Listing
1. Greed
2. War On Animals
3. Tatonka
4. Mirror Prison
5. Deep Blue
6. Bast
7. Momento
8. Follow The Line
9. Slaughtered
10. Revelations

Added: October 13th 2013
Reviewer: Scott Jessup
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» SoT Staff Roundtable Reviews:

Lalu: Atomic Ark
Posted by Pete Pardo, SoT Staff Writer on 2013-10-13 09:17:35
My Score:

Pretty much an all-star cast of some of progressive metal's elite players, Atomic Ark is the much anticipated follow-up to keyboard player Vivien Lalu's 2005 release Onrin Metal. With the likes of Virgil Donati (drums), Martin LeMar (vocals), Mike LePond (bass), and Simone Mularoni (guitar) on board, not to mention additional guests Jordan Rudess, Jens Johansson, Marco Sfogli, Joop Wolters, Peter Wildoer, and Mike Andersson contributing solo spots, this really is a feast for progressive metal fans. What better place for Lalu to find themselves on than Sensory Records, a label that's also hit recent home runs with new release from Prospekt & Withem, and you can add Atomic Ark to that short list of absolute winners.

With all these hotshot players, you'd expect this CD to loaded with chops galore, and while that is indeed the case, there are some memorable, killer songs to back that all up. "Tatonka" just soars, with LeMars' vocals really hitting their stride, and the powerful "Greed" lays on some heavy hooks as well as guitar firepower from Mularoni & Sfogli. Who can resist the alluring melodies and wonderful keyboard tapestries of "Deep Blue", and "Bast" just crushes with progressive metal majesty. The animal lover in me can really connect with the lyrics to "War on Animals" and "Slaughtered", and the multi-part epic "Revelations" is a perfectly crafted slice of progressive metal, both lyrically & musically, with LeMars' vocals a real standout.

This is great stuff; powerful, melodic, and with no shortage of virtuoso musicianship. It all adds up to another MUST HEAR progressive metal album here in 2013.

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