Fans of Van Der Graaf Generator absolutely need to listen up and listen up good-the second album from Norway's Gargamel, titled Descending, sees the band doing their 70's retro-prog thing once again, taking the road down vintage VDGG Avenue even more so than on their 2006 debut Watch for the Umbles. Four tracks in total, with two of them clocking in at over 13 minutes in length, Descending is dark, foreboding, and at times quite menacing.
The opening title track kicks things off in style, and pretty much sets the tone for the rest of the CD. Mounds of Mellotron, Moog, and Hammond sounds crashing into the mix, along with vocals that sound just like a young Peter Hammill, full of 'piss & vinegar' and ready to tear your heart out. This super cut leads right into the downright creepy "Prevail", an epic piece that could have come right off of Pawn Hearts or Still Life, spooky sax lines and dark keyboard effects prevailing through this song that fluctuates between atmospheric menace and more bombastic moments. Gotta love the cool flute sections as well, which add an almost pastoral feel, but it's the closing 5 minutes that really hit the mark here, as the band throw in Mellotron, Hammond, trumpet blasts, and angry vocals for a spectacular finale. "Trap" is the shortest piece on the album, with a sort of 'VDGG meets Genesis' feel, complete with vintage keyboard sounds and some sizzling fuzz-guitar leads, and the CD ends with the other epic "Labyrinth". This is is the real 'tour-de-force' here, a nightmarish vision of dark prog and space rock, like a head on collision between VDGG, early Tangerine Dream, and Eloy. Plenty of Mellotron, Hammond, Moog, and Fender Rhodes flying about the mix on this one, as well as some tricky drum work, pounding bass riffs, and wild electric guitar solos.
As I mentioned earlier, vintage prog lovers, and especially VDGG fans, should be all over this amazing little release. Yeah, Gargamel probably aren't going to get a ton of points for originality, but as far as channeling that 70's feel, and coming up with a batch of epic tunes that just drip with drama, menace, dissonance, and superb musicianship, this ultimately is a winner no matter how you look at it. Well done guys!
1. Descending (9:55)
2. Prevail (13:59)
3. Trap (5:31)
4. Labyrinth (17:40)