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I know its early to talk about best releases of the year but Seventh Story, the latest release from Uzbekistan band and follow up to their 2008 release Overlook, warrants such discussion. This is an outstanding album and will be on people's best of lists come the end of the year. While the core of the band remains the same with Vitaly Popeloff (electric, acoustic, synth and fretless guitars, voice) and Albert Khalmurzaev (keyboards, synths, MIDI, programming, 12 string guitar, vibraphone, voice), there are three new members including Ali Izmailov (drums, percussion, marimba, tubular bells), Igor Elizov (keyboards, synths, MIDI, grand piano, voice) and Sur'at Kasimov (bass guitar, double bass).

The band creates challenging progressive rock loaded with complex and intricate song structures but with many beautiful melodies breaking the surface. The musicians play an abundance of instruments which leads to some incredibly varied and multifaceted music, but always with a great melody lurking around the next corner. What makes this such an adventuresome ride is the listener never knows where the band will take them next. This is classic progressive rock infused with elements of heavy prog, space rock, progressive metal, fusion, jazz, blues and symphonic rock. This may sound like a hodge podge of styles but trust me, it all works beautifully.

While it is clear are an ultra talented band, the music they create never seems overly indulgent or unnecessarily complex with all the parts essential to the whole. The guitar is an essential ingredient here, whether in the form of progressive metal riffage, soaring solos, blues and jazz based leads or acoustic strumming and picking. Keyboards and synths add orchestral touches all over the album creating a classic symphonic sound. I would be remiss if I did not mention the rhythm section where complex drumming and fluid bass lines hold it all together beautifully.

With four of the seven tracks of the epic variety and a total running time of almost eighty minutes, there is a lot of music to absorb beginning with "Perfect Place" where ominous synths, sound effects, sampled voices and spacey guitars and keys lead to Floyd-like acoustic rhythms and the distinct vocals of Popeloff which I really like. The first epic of the album is the stunning "Parallels" combining ambient sounding keys and synths with intense prog metal riffage. Soaring lead guitar and acoustic strumming with sound effects recalling Floyd's Animals, complex drum patterns and more prog metal riffs complete the package.

This brings us to the third track "Desert Circle", another epic in every sense of the word. An intense lead guitar solo quickly ensues with subtle synths brushing the background. This one takes the listener on a journey through blues, Russian style folk music, progressive metal and symphonic rock.

"Bell of the Earth", not to be confused with the Manfred Mann song of the same name, features melodic tubular bells and a sweeping yet subtle orchestral arrangement, offering a reprieve from the intense music up to this point. This is a good time to take a deep breath and prepare yourself for the last two epic tracks which are again of high quality. The album ends with the peaceful "Perfect Love", featuring mellow synths lined with acoustic guitar. are a special band and have released an album that should take the progressive music world by storm. This band is not afraid to take some risks and the results are breathtaking, painting a musical palette that only few artists are able to achieve. In a word, sublime!

Track Listing:
1. Perfect Place (4:04)
2. Parallels (20:01)
3. Desert Circle (16:13)
4. Bell of the Earth (3:16)
5. Taken (18:09)
6. Influence of Time (11:50)
7. Perfect Love (4:40)

Added: December 9th 2010
Reviewer: Jon Neudorf
Related Link: Band's Official Site
Hits: 4375
Language: english

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» SoT Staff Roundtable Reviews: Seventh Story
Posted by Mark Johnson, SoT Staff Writer on 2010-12-09 17:11:03
My Score:

the Review:

1. Why did they make this album? What was the passion or message that forced them to produce what they have? Or, simply what was their motivation for the themes they chose for this album?
"FROMUZ was formed in the summer of 2004 in the city of Tashkent" .

"The band's history is very simple. Session guitarist, Vitaly Popeloff, and his buddy, bass player (and novice producer), Andrew Mara-Novik, decided to play music together." "They wanted to compose music that would bring the greatest pleasure to themselves, which could help to splash out emotions, to express their ideas and feelings".

"The first experiments, with just two of them playing, did not suit their expectations." "The band agreed that the music would be instrumental and come from the heart, without aim for commercial viability." "Their goal was to raise the level of quality of instrumental music." "Their first test of playing together live, was a performance of "Sodom and Gomorrah XXI," composed by Albert K. for the Youth Theater of Tashkent".

"There is no individual author or leader in the group." "Each composition is born with common efforts, by the method of attempts and experiments, by the flight of fancy and emotions." "Thus, one idea can "snowball" creatively through collaborative contribution".

"The first (and while, unique) concert of the FROMUZ took place in April, 2005 in a hall of Youth Theatre of Uzbekistan, and was organized with the intent to test the results of their creative work on the public."

"This is the birth of the band." "It was through this experience (and experiment) that Fromuz has gauged their music against an audience in their homeland." "Now, they are ready to share their music with audiences outside Uzbekistan, ready for other stages and the next step" (Source: From.Uz MySpace, 2010).

2. What message are they delivering through their lyrics and music?

1. Perfect Place – Cool sound effects of metal doors banging, piano and people yelling. Since the album is dedicated to Frank Zappa, I think they wanted to pay homage to his style. The people running, sounds of keys and a run to the car, initiate a long intro of sound effects before the music begins. It reminds me of Dream Theater's The Ones Who Help to Set the Sun, with its crazy windshield wipers. But the music does get started after this nearly two minute intro and it's worth the wait, after they switch from what sounds like mono to stereo, at 2:24 seconds into the song. The music hits like a cool trip back to Pink Floyd's best sounds from the mid – 70s. Acoustic guitars and vocals that bring back memories of Wishing You Were Here, along with those echoing bells. "The star upon the road it has reflections in my eyes, like every breath I've made…" Great vocals and we're on to the next song.

2. Parallels – This song enters without a break as they jump into a Rush Moving Pictures sound, filled with grinding guitars, sinister surrounding synth keys, drums, and strong bass. They build a rhythm and prepare to demonstrate their instrumental talents. Then a building rhythm and more sound effects of rewinding tape and voices as we build slowly, like climbing a mountain or to the top of a rollercoaster. Unfortunately there is no fast ride down. Instead we get electric guitar riffs and power bass supported by drums and heavy synths. Bells and an almost choir in the background help take us up one more level. We stall out at the top for some cool guitar licks. Acoustic guitar and some intricate bass picking help get us back down the steep climb. Roaring and soaring guitars fill the air. Now the roaring synths, drums, and guitar help take us rocketing down to a close and finale. Cool soft electric guitars and what sounds like deep ocean whale sounds close this one out. Before an almost Roger Waters vocal jumps through the soundscape. "Parallel line bright while crossing time." Those early Rush rev –up guitars like Cygnus – XI and the surrounding synths really rebuild the power well. They are used effectively to help close out this over 20 minute epic well.

3. Desert Circle – A mother counseling her daughter about the importance of not touching things on her father's desk or table, open this one. Her daughter wrote a poem and she reads the poem before the music begins. A guitar riff opens this one as it grows into a full jam surrounded with synths and effects. Then the drums kick in and we get a more recent version of Pink Floyd's Division Bell sound. Drums, soaring electric guitars, bass and soft keys and synths lay down an almost danceable beat and rhythm. Cool synths and sound effects extend the range and dynamic sound of the presentation, before all slows and we enter a contemplative grinding bass and acoustic blended sound that quickly morphs into a jazz swing. The bass plays a prominent role along midi and synth sounds. Big bass drums kick in and notches the sound up a level before cool acoustic and a dance begins. This is one of the highlights of the album. Wish it could have continued indefinitely. But we're back to the soft plodding of the electric, supported by drums and bass with the occasional keys. Then an exited Yes like run up the scales before a grinding electric solo which closes the song. Another epic over 16 minutes and full of twists and turns.

4. Bell of the Earth – Tubular bells ring out to herald the beginning of this song along with orchestration. A nice soft bell interlude with piano, orchestration for over two and a half minutes and then we drift into the next song.

5. Taken – This song opens with a man and a woman talking. The man has written a poem and reads it to the woman. Soft piano drifts over their voices as the story continues to unfold. Then the voices drift away and we are left with a powerful piano solo that is my favorite part of the album. I wish this could have continued longer. However, the tolling of bells foretells the darker guitar, bass, and drums that kick in to change the song dynamic. Then, like a rocket the rhythm takes off. Back on a wild ride after some soft interludes. There is talking, but the voices are altered and are hard to hear over the power of the building momentum of guitars and cool synths. Reminds me allot of the instrumental part of Rush's Countdown, with almost the same rocket launching effect. The piano and climax really build well as synths kick in to raise the level even further. The drum assault that ensues after is very cool. The song closes with sound effects.

6. Influence of Time – Morse Code and all sorts of sound effects, including a flute, creating a Zappaized sound to say the least. Jazzy and full of effects. Drums, guitar, bass and plenty of stylish synths weaving in and out. Ripping and roaring guitars running rampant as the bass churns along with solid drums in the background. An electronic assault of the senses and one of the better tracks on the album. Then acoustic guitar and synths as we take off on a slowly building trek. The Morse Code sounds take us out again after an over 11 minute epic instrumental plunge.

7. Perfect Love – Chimes and tubular bells, people talking, synth and sound effects surround the opening to this one. More vocals and instrumental magic after the dialing of a phone and some telecommunication. The song and album close with a gong.

3. Does this music improve, change, or add to the genre? What does the listener receive from listening to the music?

The sound effects and noise at the beginning of the album are not the most effective way to open a great album of music. This might have worked better towards the middle or end. But it does help to give this album a unique sound.

There are many similarities to this music and other favorites that I have already mentioned. Enough to maintain my interest in the album. It is a solid instrumental album with some lyrics and vocals thrown in to add variety and effect.

You really need time to concentrate and enjoy this one. If you are a fan of Frank Zappa's more experimental and instrumental side of prog, you will probably like this album allot.

4. Does it have longevity? Is it something a fan will like to play again and again?

Yes, it is a good album of incredible instrumentation. Seventh Story
Posted by Duncan Glenday, SoT Staff Writer on 2010-04-22 22:04:57
My Score:

Hard-edged, adventurous, bold yet widely varied, and ... different.

Seventh Story's flashes of brilliance, powerfully catchy melodies, and recurring themes yield an 80-minute art rock epic that must surely garner an abundance of critical acclaim. It's mostly instrumental though the vocals, which are new to the band on this record, are well executed - if somewhat accented. The music is difficult to pigeonhole - and the closest comparison is probably a more eclectic version of Riverside. The style ranges from progressive metal through fusion, from hair metal to pleasing acoustic guitar work, from Rush to Pink Floyd, and from neo-classical metal to elegantly played grand piano. There are numerous tempo and stylistic shifts, the song structures are unconventional, and the performances are technically superior.

Vitaly Popeloff's influence remains dominant, and his guitar work is consequently prominent, but two keyboardists and a substantially altered lineup give the band a somewhat different profile than their previous releases. It's less jazzy and more rock-oriented than before, and although it isn't as dark or as angular as their excellent studio debut Overlook, it's just as adventurous.

Four of the seven songs run over 10 minutes, with one hitting 20 minutes, lending an epic quality to the piece that is appropriate - since Seventh Story is clearly a concept piece. Exactly how the story hangs together isn't entirely clear despite theatrical voice overlays and clichéic effects that are obviously intended to advance the narrative. There are several recurring musical themes, but the use of recurring prose is also interesting. It's apparently a poem written by the narrator's daughter - and it appears in the lyrics of several songs as well as in the voice-overs.

From the first spin it was apparent that Seventh Story would get 5 stars, and on the second spin, it booked its place in this year's best-of list.

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