If you appreciate classical music as the highest form of the art, you'll love
Richard Andersson's new Space Odyssey record The Astral Episode.
Andersson makes no secret of the fact that he has often used Paganini and
Bach themes in his songs, and there's no escaping the pure classical overtones
on this record. The Bach influences are all over this one - listen to the flying
keyboard arpeggios interlaced with intricate guitar work and you'll quickly be
drawn into the melodic brilliance of this music. There are dozens of excellent
keyboard players and guitarists out there who can play just as fast as Andersson
and Magnus Nilsson - but few manage to impart the pure melodic quality these two
achieve. Percussion is by 17 year-old prodigy Andreas Brobjer who delivers a
remarkably mature performance.
One puzzling element is what the difference is between Andersson's Space
Odyssey and Time Requiem projects. They have different singers and Space Odyssey
seems to focus on sci-fi themes, but the style of the music is essentially the
same and - as memory serves - at least two songs on this CD pick up directly
from those on Time Requiem's brilliant Inner Circle Of Reality.
Nils Patrik Johansson, on loan from Danish power metal band Wuthering
Heights, delivers a wonderful vocal performance with his gutsy high-pitched but
never-falsetto style of singing that suits the music well. There are some deeply
emotional sounding pieces - although we can't say how the lyrics suit this
delivery since we did not receive the CD inserts or cover art. Johansson's
singing lends the record a dark, powerful atmosphere, yet it doesn't dominate.
There are long high-energy instrumental sections that seem to develop endlessly
yet never stray from the original theme. The complexity is in the
instrumentation, and the vocal sections are essentially straightforward. For
example "Lord Of The Winds" is fairly simplistic with a vocal melody reminiscent
of a simpler era of hard rock - but when the long instrumental solos break in,
we're back in prog heaven. The guitar solos in "Dazzle The Devil" will dazzle
you too, and listen to the instrumental interplay on the title track. "The
Seventh Star Fantasy" sounds as if it could have been lifted from a Star One or
an Ayreon CD - and is somewhat different from the rest of the songs on the
album. Simpler, less flashy, with stronger and simpler melodies sung in a duet a
la the Electric Castle.
File this one in the Symphony X, Uli John Roth, Royal Hunt and Yngwie
Malmsteen section of your collection. You know - those bombastic neo-classical
pieces that are music-for-musicians and for the intelligecia in the progressive
metal fanbase. And regardless of whether you consider yourself a musician or an
intellect, you will both and hate this CD because after it stops playing those
melodies, the ballsy singing and especially the virtuoso trills and arpeggios
will play on in your mind for hours and hours.