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Little Atlas: Hollow

It's truly a wonderful thing when a modern progressive rock band knows how to execute and deliver memorable vocal melodies, and mix that up with vintage 70's sounds as well aggressive passages found in modern hard rock and metal. Miami's Little Atlas have done all these things and more on their third CD Hollow, their first for up and coming label 10T Records. Although their first two releases were strong, you could say that three times a charm here on Hollow, a musical document that envelopes everything that we love about prog. Soaring vocals, nimble, at times aggressive guitar work, loads of vintage sounding keys, tight rhythms, thought provoking lyrics, and just the right amount of drama, whimsical humor, and grandeur.

Although you can hear references to such bands as Gentle Giant, Echolyn, Spock's Beard, The Flower Kings, Yes, and Marillion, the songs here on Hollow are not really derivative in any way. The lead vocals of Steve Katsikas are both mysterious and powerful on the stunning "Paranoiac", and he's supported by his own intricate keyboard lines, Rik Bigai's nimble bass grooves, and the sinewy guitar work from Roy Strattman. Bigai's incredible work on this one seems to come from a fusion perspective, and adds the perfect amount of pizzaz to this symphonic rocker. Other highlights include the epic "Silence", complete with some nice hooks and robust instrumentation, the melodic Flower Kings influenced sing-along "Contumacious", the charming acoustic tinged "Hiding", and the rollicking "Stage", a song that has its fair share of bouncy rhythms, funky electric piano lines, ripping gutiar leads, and effective vocals from Katsikas. However, it's the hard rocking & grandiose prog of "Symbiosis" that might be the CD's most accomplished track, as the band almost does for US prog what Kansas perfected in the late 70's. All the players are locked in on this one, with drummer Diego Pocovi really laying down some complex grooves along with Bigai's bass licks, allowing Katsikas and Strattman to really work overtime delivering some catchy riffs and solos. Check out Strattman's wild solo on this one, as he explodes with some fiery prog metal fury before toning it back for a delicate Steve Howe flavored run. If all this weren't enough, the album closer "Special" is just a gorgeous number with fantastic vocal melodies, rich backing vocals, lush acoustic guitars, and a neat retro synth solo from Katsikas.

If you haven't already been sold on Little Atlas, chances are this epic and cohesive recording known as Hollow is going to reel you in, hook, line, and sinker. Modern prog with a sophisticated edge, littered with plenty of pop, hard rock, and 70's elements-what more can you ask for? Bravo guys, keep up the good work!

Track Listing
1) Hollow
2) Silence
3) Paranoiac
4) Contumacious
5) Preying
6) Orderly
7) Hiding
8) Stage
9) Symbiosis
10) Special

Added: November 5th 2007
Reviewer: Pete Pardo
Related Link: Little Atlas Website
Hits: 5630
Language: english

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» SoT Staff Roundtable Reviews:

Little Atlas: Hollow
Posted by Duncan Glenday, SoT Staff Writer on 2007-11-05 20:18:04
My Score:

The press kit says that Hollow is "easily the band's most mature and accomplished work to date" ... and that's a perfect summary.  It's was the first reaction, and the impression lasted through numerous end-to-end replays.

The band's prior release Wanderlust was very good, yet every aspect of Hollow is an improvement - the classic keyboard sounds to the increased use of Steve Katsikas's excellent sax work, the intelligent songwriting with tighter arrangements and wonderful melodies, the high standards of production ...  this fourth album is a world class piece that stands shoulder to shoulder with today's leading third wave progressive and art rock practitioners.

The lineup remains unchanged - still two Venezuelans and two Americans, and as she did on Surface Serene, Joanna Katsikas adds rare but rich feminine textures with backing vocals.  Since their last CD Little Atlas has been writing songs as a group, but Katsikas's hand is still firmly on the wheel - and the ten songs are united in that each is a character study conveyed in the first person, many lifted from his professional experiences.  His singing blends into the mix better now and doesn't dominate as it did before, and voice is applied to song with subtlety and sensitivity.

"Silence" is the album's standout piece, and one of the best moments on the CD is its three minute intro. Over its 11 minutes it runs from lullaby-soft  to anguish and anger and back again - and listen for the percussion that shifts from soft-Latin to hard-rocking around 6 minutes in, and heralds a tempo shift to one of the song's big walls of sound. Guitarist Roy Strattman has always featured prominently, and his contributions here are very strong - yet don't dominate. In the intro to "Contumacious" a light bass / percussion provide a staccato bottom end, with Katsikas's vocals floating softly over the top accompanied by the softest strummed guitar. An interesting sound, somewhat linear, but very appealing.  Closing track "Special" is another favorite, soft and particularly melodic, warm, and with a simple piano line, a Latin sounding rhythm, and very appealing guitar work.

Several songs end somewhat abruptly, and interrupt what is otherwise a nice flow - but that's a small quibble.

Little Atlas ain't so little any more - it's all-growed-up now. Strongly recommended.


Little Atlas: Hollow
Posted by Michael Popke, SoT Staff Writer on 2007-09-28 11:30:43
My Score:

Since it appears that modern progressive rock is the new alternative rock, the time is now for an unheralded band like Little Atlas to make its move. The Miami quartet takes several steps in the right direction with Hollow, its most cohesive collection of songs yet, and an album that tightens its grip on the listener with each spin. Its title, however, rings false. To the contrary, Hollow confidently swells with tight and muscular arrangements, and the songwriting (both lyrically and musically) proves much more effective than on the band's last album, Wanderlust.

Little Atlas needed to refocus in order to successfully pull off the 10 ambitious songs on Hollow, each presented as a distinct character study told from a first-person perspective. Lyrically, some songs work better than others, and musically, a mid-tempo tendency remains. But the overall result enhanced with textures, layers and moods that take their cues from titles like "Silence," "Paranoiac," "Preying," "Hiding" and "Special" smacks of intelligent creativity that's neither derivative nor tedious. What's more, each of the four musicians has found his strength and expounds on it, particularly vocalist Steve Katsikas and guitarist Roy Strattman.

With great cross-over potential, Little Atlas now stands ready to conquer the big world.

» Reader Comments:

Little Atlas: Hollow
Posted by Steve Kessler on 2007-09-28 09:15:52
My Score:

This is a masterpiece IMHO! I wrote a review of this that's on Prog Ears, and in different words basically said the same things as the review by Pete P. Little Atlas just may be the best band with not enough exposure out there today!

Little Atlas: Hollow
Posted by Ed Lohrer on 2007-09-26 23:22:14
My Score:

Great review Pete!
I agree whole heartedly with your review of Little Atlas' Hollow.
The only complaint that I have, and it's a minimal one, with how talented these musicians are, I wish that the instrumental breaks and/or solos were longer.
I think that Steve K. has the best voice in "rock" ... not just "prog".
This is my Album of the Year!

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