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Blind Ego: Mirror

RPWL is one of the better progressive rock outfits to emerge from Europe in the last decade, and their brand of Floyd-inspired soft prog has won them a big following. And like Pink Floyd, the guitar work in RPWL is one of the band's strongest features - but it seldom really stands out, leaving you hankering for more. See the band live, though, and you'll be deeply impressed by their guitarist's Gilmour-esque skills. The bluesy tones emanating from his Telecaster positively wailed their way into every heart in the audience, and left many wondering why guitarist Wallner wasn't more prominently featured in the recordings.

So the next logical step, of course, was for Wallner (the "W" in RPWL) to step outside the bounds of his alma mater band and record something of his own. And for this solo trip, Kalle Wallner surrounded himself with some of modern neo-progressive rock's best practitioners: John Mitchell on vocals - famous for his work on It Bites, Kino, The Urbane, Arena, and recent sensation, Frost*. The irrepressible John Jowitt on bass (IQ, Arena, Jadis, Frost*). Outstanding vocalist Paul Wrightson - the original singer for Arena. And less known to prog fans, Tommy Eberhardt on drums (Legazy, Beatfreaks). Rounding out that lineup were guest appearances and production assistance from Yogi Lang (the "L" in RPWL), and Clive Nolan (Arena, Pendeagon, Shadowland, Strangers on a Train, Tracy Hitchings, Nolan and Wakeman - and many others.) Or - in summary - a who's who of modern progressive music of the RPWL / Arena genres.

And from that lineup, you might imagine what the music sounds like - fitting somewhere in the middle of the Frost* / Kino / Arena / RPWL quadrilateral. Wallner's guitar work is prominent - but thankfully, it does not dominate as much as you might have expected. The compositions are sophisticated, the overall tone is a bit muted, and it falls shy of Frost*'s levels of complexity or Arena's power - settling closer to the broader appeal of a Kino-styled approachability. All performances are out of the top drawer and adding an extra dimension to the music, Mirror is strongly themed, reflecting Wallner's recent experiences. As Kalle puts it - the "songs derive from different phases [of my life] in the last three years ... a result of different emotions: anger, hate, grief...". John Mitchell is probably a better guitarist than singer, but his delivery is clear and perfectly controlled here. Wrightson's singing is in the same intense vein as the earlier Arena records, and adds the emotion Wallner was looking for.

The standout track is the 10-minute, rather complex "Forbidden To Remain", which was originally slated for inclusion in RPWL's Trying To Kiss The Sun. Listen for Wrightson's singing and Wallner's truly excellent guitar work, and the odd 13/8 time signature. "Moon And Sun" has Mitchell singing some unusual, angular melody lines, but the song develops into a AOR-styled piece. Kalle describes "Black Despair" as "Probably the saddest song I ever wrote". It is a simple piece starting with vocals over acoustic guitar, in a mournful tune that tugs at the heartstrings. Electric guitar eases its way into the mix, and half way through it becomes all-instrumental, and you could be listening to Gilmour at his best - with a long, slow, moving guitar solo. And title track "Mirror" describes someone looking look into a mirror but not recognizing himself or the things he's doing. The angry tones, the combined 4/4 and 5/4 time signatures and the guitar solo played over a solid riff add a great deal of interest. There are three vocalists on the 11 songs, and three songs are all-instrumental, so there's enough variety to keep your interest throughout.

So is it Kino Mark-II? Or Frost* Mark-II? Or RPWL Mark-II, or perhaps Violet District Mark-III?

Yes.

And no.

The similarities are inevitable, but this record has a character of its own and should be heard.

 

Track Listing:
1. Obsession
2. Moon and Sun
3. Break You
4. Black Despair
5. Open Sore
6. Hollowed
7. Mirror
8. Don't ask me why
9. Moorland
10. Forbidden to remain
12. Artist Manqué (Bonus track - originally by Violet District)

Added: March 12th 2007
Reviewer: Duncan Glenday
Score:
Related Link: The Artist's Website
Hits: 2286
Language: english

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» SoT Staff Roundtable Reviews:

Blind Ego: Mirror
Posted by Richard Barnes, SoT Staff Writer on 2007-03-12 15:35:51
My Score:

Combine RPWL with Arena and what would you expect to get? At a guess, something not far from what you hear on this debut from RPWL guitarist Kalle Wallner's project, Blind Ego. Wallner set himself the task of reflecting on his personal life and creating a set of songs which mirror different emotions or times of life of importance to him.

Paul Wrightson, hero of probably Arena's best album, The Visitor, teams up with former colleague John Mitchell on vocals, backed by a veritable powerhouse in John Jowitt and German drummer Tommy Eberhardt.

The blistering opener, "Obsession" sets the predominant tone with Mitchell on lead voice over a driving rock rhythm supported by fine guitar work. This is followed by the Mostly Autumn-like "Moon and Sea" with its lush multi-tracked guitars and powerful vocals delivered by Wrightson. This pattern establishes itself throughout the album with Wrightson tending to get the more laid back or formal bombastic vocal tasks and Mitchell taking on the rockier numbers.

The third piece, "Break You", opens with a short weeping guitar from Wallner which then picks up a danceable pulsating rhythm and a damped vocal effect. The menacing middle section builds back up agreeably to return to the opening theme before Wallner lets rip with a wild guitar solo. As you might expect guitar solos are not infrequent but Kalle never indulges himself more than the song itself will take naturally. Another languorous and luxuriant one follows at the end of the melancholic acoustic guitar ballad "Black Despair".

"Open Sore" is a roaring instrumental metal vamp with grinding bass and searing guitar fretwork and is followed by the brief and eerie "Hollowed". This pastiche of sounds sets the mood for the title track, perhaps the most 'progressive' on the album with its switching meters; Wrightson's vocals add to the impression that the song could easily have escaped from the cutting room floor of The Visitor.

Two of the longest songs are saved for the home run. "In Don't Ask Me Why", a Gilmour like guitar tone is employed reminding us of the writer's roots in this typically RPWL Floydian piece. A beautiful triple guitar drenched symphonic arrangement is the highlight of the track. Moorland visits many variations on the rock guitar sound and has an intriguing ping-pong rhythm juxtaposed with a metal grind and soaring guitar solo.

Wrightson is given the job of handling the epic finale, "Forbidden to Remain". A slow build and controlled development gives room for greater use of keyboards which have been largely absent or used for basic texture until now. Overall very reminiscent of later Pink Floyd ala Division Bell.

A fine, quality album which, whilst operating comfortably within the sonic boundaries of Kalle's main band, presents a wide variety of guitar sounds and an enjoyable mix of tempos with melody and song structure always strongly to the fore. The album's bonus track is a re-recorded version of "Artist Manque", originally recorded by RPWL's ancestors in Violet District.






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