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Simon Says: Tardigrade

Many of you symphonic prog fans might remember a release called Ceinwen back in 1995 by a little known Swedish band called Simon Says. Ceinwen came out to plenty of positive reactions from those into newer acts who paid homage to the greats of the 70's. However, the band sort of faded from view until 2002, releasing the CD Paradise Square (if you blinked, you missed it), and recently hooked up with ProgRock Records for their latest Tardigrade. If you realized the potential of this band back in 1995, then Tardigrade will certainly give you everything you expected and more, and those new to Simon Says can anticipate a strong progressive rock platter that hints at vintage acts such as Genesis, Yes, IQ, Marillion, and Camel.

The opening, near 15-minute "Suddenly the Rain", is a tour-de-force of symphonic prog bliss, filled with searing synths & Mellotron, tasty lead guitar lines, and the expressive vocals of Daniel Feldt. The title track is a short, bouncy number with a strong Yes as well as Gentle Giant flavor, yet also reminds a little bit of the The Flower Kings, with Jonas Hallberg's biting guitar licks taking charge over complex arrangements, while "The Chosen One" starts off as a lush, pastoral piece that reminds of mid-70's Genesis with plenty of haunting Mellotron and Moog, before jangly Flower Kings' styled guitar and synth passages come roaring into play. The Mellotron again plays an important role in the near 11-minute "As The River Runs", a piece that also has some gorgeous piano, acoustic guitar, and some lean & muscular bass lines from Stefan Renstrom. Truly a wonderful song that keeps building and building to a dramatic conclusion, and kudos must go out to keyboard player Magnus Paulsson and guitarist Hallberg, both of whom put in killer performances on this one.

The short instrumental "Strawberry Jam" is a hot fusion rocker, with Hallberg's searing rock guitar licks leading the charge over Paulsson's raging Hammond, Renstrom's wah-wah bass lines, and the busy drum work of Mattias Jarlhed. Feldt sounds a tad like Fish on the dreamy "Circle's End", a folky number littered with acoustic guitars, Mellotron and flutes, and the 26-minute "Brother Where You Bound" is as epic a statement as you can get. Again, Paulsson is the 'man' here, offering up plenty of Moog, Mellotron, Vocodor, and Hammond tones throughout, giving this song a definite 70's feel in every way. Featuring no shortage of bombast, you can also look for some calmer, folky segments, as well as passages for the musicians to stretch out and solo.

In an age where many prog acts try to outdo each other and see who can put together the most epic statement (which doesn't always work by the way) Tardigrade is a pleasant surprise, an album filled with bombast and pomp that doesn't wear out its welcome before the last song has finished. Instead, Simon Says have given us a lot of what we loved about the 70's, and then some. Well done!

Track Listing
1. Suddenly The Rain (14:47)
2. Tardigrade (3:43)
3. The Chosen One (5:44)
4. Moon Mountain (2:33)
5. As The River Runs (10:40)
6. Your Future (0:29)
7. Strawberry Jam (2:32)
8. Circles End (6:19)
9. Brother Where You Bound (26:33)
10. Beautiful New Day (0:43)

Added: April 22nd 2008
Reviewer: Pete Pardo
Related Link: ProgRock Records
Hits: 5502
Language: english

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Simon Says: Tardigrade
Posted by Duncan Glenday, SoT Staff Writer on 2008-04-22 07:47:32
My Score:

Sweden's Simon Says has been in the business since the 1990s, with various concept albums advancing the same story line and plenty of lineup changes, but this is the record that will surely launch them onto the top of many lists of favorites. Tardigrade is classic '70s inspired symphonic progressive rock, with excellent performances and wonderful melodies.

To describe it might sound like a progressive cliche - a concept album, plenty of bombast, synthesizer jams, tons of tempo changes, lots of white space being filled with big Mellotron choirs, soaring melodies, outstanding musicianship, more key and time signature changes than you can count, epic 10, 15 and 26 minute tracks, lots of short instrumental interludes and the obligatory 'Trons and Hammonds, and synths (oh my!) But the music itself is so well constructed and the melodies are so pleasing that the album doesn't come across as a cliche - but rather as an excellent reminder of the best elements of the roots of prog. There are parts that will evoke loose comparisons with Yes, Genesis and King Crimson, yet it retains an identity of its own.

It would be tempting to draw similarities with compatriots The Flower Kings - but that would be misleading. It's more overtly melodic, perhaps more approachable, and more obviously inspired by the 1970s. Magic Pie might be a better comparison.

The bands name "Simon Says" reflects the main character in on ongoing storyline. Previous albums have told the story of Simon, and Tardigrade concludes the story. Seems he's now reinvented as some sort of anti-hero called "Tardigrade", whatever that may be. Unless you're intimate with the story so far, forget about the yarn and listen to the music.

Daniel Fäldt's singing is - unusual. The melodies he delivers are complex, expressive and technically very challenging - and full kudos to him for developing vocals that are so far out of the norm. But in places his delivery is tentative and pitchy. Remember the complex melodies and so-so vocals on Gentle Giant CDs? A more committed vocal style would have been welcome - but like Gentle Giant, if you focus on the unconventional melody lines, you might still be impressed by his performance. The instrumental performances are simply excellent.

"Brother Where're You Bound?" is a restless epic that moves through a sequence of tempo shifts and mood swings for 26-plus minutes. "Chosen One" starts as a pleasing 6-minute ballad sung over dual acoustic guitars and a Mellotron, but quickly builds up to a dense, layered piece underscored by angry staccato Hammond chords. ""Moon Mountain" is a change of pace with a wonderful electric and acoustic guitar duet. Pretty.

Tardigrade is a Galileo/Progrock Records joint venture, which took over 4 years to complete. And it was worth the wait.

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