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Arlekin: The Secret Garden

A project brought into being with the express desire to relive the early days of neo-prog (this album even has a jester on its cover..), Arlekin is the brainchild of Stoned Jesus fulcrum Igor Sydorenko. With drummer Yurii Kononov adding his undoubted skills throughout, the other appearances on the band’s second album, The Secret Garden, appear to be reserved for occasional guests - a flute solo on “In Possession Of The Moon” by Eugene Manko and piano on the same song and also “Night Of Two Knights” by Vadym Lazariev - so I’m guessing that everything else comes from the hand and mouth of Sydorenko, which it has to be said is impressive indeed. Musically this talented chap based in Kyiv, Ukraine, is the real deal, with some scintillating guitar interplay woven through excellent keyboard work and bass lines that add colour and interest as they underpin the more readily buoyant aspects. Vocally, however, I’m not so sure and while it would be fair to suggest that early neo-prog bands were littered with some great frontmen who weren’t quite the best singers ever, here I find the ragged vocal edges that appear across all of the six songs on show to be a little off putting. And I’d suggest that if a top notch singer could be introduced for future exploits from this otherwise impressive outfit, they really could be on to something special.

It’s a real shame, because musically this album is, if early 80s prog is your bag, the real deal. Combining beguiling atmospheres to huge melodies and dazzling instrumental sections, there’s not a single song where the standard slips below thoroughly excellent and while that doesn’t quite overcome my own personal problems with the vocals, if you can simply wallow in the silky synths of the aforementioned “Night Of Two Knights”, the more soft rock tinged attack of “It Wouldn’t Last” and it’s dreamy guitar solo, or thoroughly Script/Fugazi era Marillion like “Old Mother Europe”, you’ll find it easy to become fully lost in their worlds.

Fans of the embryonic neo-prog scene from back in the day will absolutely delight at the authenticity with which Arlekin go about their business, as they whisk us back in time and no mistake. If they could add to that concoction a truly captivating voice, for me, they could also move right to the head of the retro neo-prog pack.

Track Listing
1. Old Mother Europe
2. Night Of Two Knights
3. In Possession Of The Moon
4. It Wouldn’t Last
5. Mirror Of Shadows
6. Adult’s Responsibilities

Added: January 3rd 2022
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Arlekin on bandcamp
Hits: 468
Language: english

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