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Jupiter Society: First Contact//Last Warning

Teasers for the progressive-rock collective Jupiter Society describe the band thusly: "Not meant to show a straight path. Not meant to give a clear view. Not meant to be more than barely understandable."

Mission accomplished.

Obviously meant to take more than a few cues from Arjen Lucassen's Ayreon projects, Sweden's Jupiter Society has created a progressive-music universe populated by Carl Westholm (Carptree and Krux) with members that include Leif Edling (Candlemass, Krux), Mats Levén (Therion, Malmsteen, Krux) and Declan Burke (Darwin's Radio, Frost). Jupiter Society manages to sound different than both Carptree and Krux on First Contact//Last Warning, an epic sci-fi concept album with a thick and heavy symphonic-metal groove, plenty of atmospheric textures, rotating singers and an unmistakable air of self-importance: "This is an album about some important days in a distant future," the teasers declare.

This also is an album stuck in a rut — or, in keeping with its space theme, adrift toward a black hole. Too many of these eight songs sound too similar. Levén's restrained voice is barely recognizable as that of the man who helped lead Therion to wider audiences, and the lyrics of many of the other vocalists are lost in a muddy mix that's no doubt intentional. First Contact//Last Warning nevertheless is an admirable effort, and it's far from unlistenable. (In fact, it improves a little bit with each listen.) Certainly, Carptree fans will want explore Jupiter Society to hear a different side of Westholm's musical personality. But casual fans of the epic-concept genre are advised to seek out other projects that are creating similar but more vibrant and effective works — Ayreon, Avantasia and Therion, to name but three.

Track Listing:
1) The Pilot
2) Bismarck Explorer
3) Cold Rigid and Remote
4) Abduction
5) The Enemy
6) Solitude Unites Us
7) 8511
8) Presumed Dying

Added: September 23rd 2008
Reviewer: Michael Popke
Related Link: Official Jupiter Society Web Site
Hits: 2283
Language: english

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Jupiter Society: First Contact//Last Warning
Posted by Alex Torres, SoT Staff Writer on 2008-09-23 11:56:08
My Score:

Lovers of science-fiction who also enjoy space-rock will find plenty to enjoy in Jupiter Society's First Contact//Last Warning. This is a concept album whose story foretells events in the future and whilst the music is, at times, enjoyable in its own right, the full impact of the album can only be enjoyed by those SF fans who are prepared to give it the time to allow for full absorption into its fictional world, who unquestioningly enter its virtual reality. Then, and only then, will any flaws that more cold-blooded humans can identify be blown away by the knowledge that yes, this is it, this is what happens, this is where I am.

If you buy the CD then you will be rewarded with a 20-page booklet. Judging by the artwork on the band's website, this promises to be a treat for SF fans. However, the promotional material did not include it: one cannot blame record companies for keeping costs down, and I suspect that the booklet probably costs more to produce than the promo CD, but frankly, for a SF concept such as this, it is an integral part of the whole, hence its omission is a big flaw. I can only rate what I have, hence if you guys are thinking of buying the CD, you may want to add half a ranking-star on the basis that the signs are that it will be good. Feel free to add another half-star if you're prepared to enter fully into the role-play, again and again.

Away from the concept, taking the music on its own, the highlight is undoubtedly the synthesizer and keyboards playing. The synthesizers are full of textural sound color, working very effectively within this music, and often taking center-stage. The keyboards too are effective and provide the few moments of rich melody to be found, exceptionally pretty on "Presumed Dying". The playing of the guitars, bass and drums brings a dark, heavy feel to the music, which works well within this context.

The musical drawback is that after a worthy start with "The Pilot" and "Bismarck Explorer" the music's tempo seems to get bogged down, becoming, or feeling, slow and labored. This is accentuated by some unpleasant singing: nothing wrong with the vocalist's voice, mind you, but perhaps because of the story, there are a couple of lengthy sections where each syllable is tiresomely annunciated, "Cold Rigid and Remote" being an example. This may well suit the story but it makes for unpleasant listening away from its concept. Musically, too much of the album is calling out for either a bit of pace or a rich melody. Peculiarly, just as if to show that they can do it, you get both within the same song on "Presumed Dying"!! The problem is that, at that stage, it comes too late within the dynamic musical balance of the album to make a real difference to its overall musical value.

A mixed bag then. Certainly, I would never recommend downloading this album. If you're a big fan of SF and space-rock then I think you could well enjoy it very much - so if you're interested then buy it so that you get the CD booklet.

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