Sing to me, Venezuela…. Sorry. That doesn't sound right. Prog-metal groups continue to come out of the woodwork; newer prog-metal (or "heavy-prog") groups from South America and Asia (mainly Japan) aren't very original, at all. Argentina's Angra made waves and enjoyed some intense popularity for a bit (and still do, apparently). The latest subject for intense scrutiny comes courtesy of Musea, that grand bastion of many genres of muzick, mammoth quantities of progressive rock notwithstanding. Venezuela's RC2 (yup, Spanish vox) are a 5tet in the typical vocals/guitars/keyboards/bass/drums cast—Félix Duque, Demian Mejicano, Rafael Paz, Pedro Misle, Eduardo Benatar, respectively. Duque's vocals are described as "high-pitched" in Musea's cover letter, so cringe-inducing examples from the Hall Of Nutless Wonders immediately come to mind. Let us proceed:
RC2 begins with a three-minute "Obertura" (Overture), basically a synthetic orchestral arrangement of the pomp sort that sounds a bit like Miramar-era Tangerine Dream or latter-day Vangelis, of all things. The very energetic "Joroprog" isn't heavy enough to really qualify for prog-metal. Mejicano doesn't ride the crunchwagon throughout the track's entirety (and then, only for rhythm). Duque's Andre Matosesque delivery sounds a tad strained when he reaches for those higher-octave notes (good thing he doesn't make a habit of it). "Nada" (Nothing) is something: Duque croons in 4/4 over a programmed 6/8 backing—full band at 2:34. The tasteful guitar solo isn't too over-the-top and doesn't trash the established vibe (and Duque sticks to midrange, thank goodness!). Paz switches to a great analog lead for "Sombras" (Shadows) and judiciously peppers his line with piano and organ bits. This track has much more in common with Arena than Threshold—the synth intro instantly brings to mind Clive Nolan and his quasi-Banks/Bardens right-hand leads. The mix is silenced midway through and Paz plays a sweet Mellotron strings sample. So far, nothing too formulaic, and definitely not boring.
"RM" is the 2nd of three instrumentals. As Paz has taken much liberty to shine (since he's the primary writer), this is Mejicano's showcase, a delicate finger-picked acoustic guitar number. That respite is perfectly timed, because Paz is back in no time with a crankin' dirty organ lead on "Fria" (Cold), and the other guys burn it up, too—Paz and Mejicano are a great whirlwind pairing. [Misle's bass is a bit buried, sadly…a chronic problem for bass players.] Vocals on "Fria" actually don't come in until after a complete fadeout at six minutes, when Paz fingers his baby grand sample; as this cut runs a whopping fourteen minutes in length, the first 6min. should've been indexed as another instrumental. The vocal portion is a straightahead smooth-rock number and nothing special—save a nice Claptonesque solo—until the very passionate outro. "Gira la Tierra" (The Earth Turns) shifts into an authentically prog-metal scheme; adversely, it turns out to be the most formulaic cut! Paz helps to keep things interesting and then some.
More rabbits are pulled out of the proverbial top hat on the last three tracks: the spacey intro and electronic percussion on "Soledad" (Solitude); Mejicano's 2nd solo spot, "Voz de Tempestad" (Voice of Tempest), consisting of multitracked acoustic arpeggiations and an overdubbed electric lead; and the '70-flavored, epic-length* symphonic closer, "Se Pierde el Sol" (Losing The Sun), with its bluesy shifts owing to Vaughn, Page, and Roeser (and one final scorching synth solo). *No index point required!
Well, surprise, surprise. The comparisons to Shadow Gallery and Dream Theater aren't far off, but aren't exactly on the money (glad I didn't make 'em). No nutless-wonder screeching, no tendencies to overplay, a pair of epics, and about 40% of the disc is instrumental. Hot playing, too. Rafael Paz—who's brought his electronic-music influences to the table—might be lower South America's best keysman since Apocalypse's Eloy Fritsch—RC2 is nowhere near as banal-sounding as that band's albums, either. The band self-produced, so kudos to the guys' sharp arrangements (RC2 rose from the ashes of Radio Clip, who recorded four albums betwee 1988 and 1994, so these guys aren't novices). If RC2 plays its cards properly (and since Musea was impressed enough with their 3-track demo), they could be the next big thing in South America. There's no score for ± 3.75, so I'll round it up to quatro. Fans of Arena, Threshold, Enchant, Angra, Time Machine, even old school Marillion and Genesis: bury your insecurities over non-English vocals and give RC2 a fair shake! I'm impressed.