• Korsair - Mechopolis (2014) - For patient and sophisticated genre fans only - 60% (01/01/15)

    Korsair - Mechopolis (2014)

    Korsair is a Swedish progressive metal project around mastermind Anders Thonander who's playing bass and keyboards on the debut full length effort and who takes care of the programming and the ambitious lyrics that tell the story of two twins, two friends, two cyborgs and a robot who come together during strange circumstances. Anders Thonander gathered twelve guest musicians from countries such as Canada, Denmark, the Netherlands, Sweden, Turkey and the United States of America around him to give birth to "Mechopolis". This album features sixteen songs and is only digitally available so far as the record has a stunning running time of more than two hours, including six tracks breaking the ten minute mark. Obviously, such an album requests a lot of attention, intellect and patience to unfold but fans of Ayreon should definitely try this record out.

    Apart of the cinematic atmosphere and the gripping lyrics to a fascinating story, the most outstanding element of this challenging release is the use of keyboards and programming. One gets to hear warm and slightly psychedelic organ sounds in the key of old progressive rock bands like Deep Purple, more technically stunning passages that could come from Dream Theater but also a few contemporary electronic sounds that remind me of Transcend for example. All the different instruments have soloing passages and different tunes where they can shine but the keyboards and programming hold the entire record together and give this release a space opera atmosphere. Especially the calm instrumental passages in the epic songs or the shorter tracks featuring narrative vocal samples work extremely well on this cinematic release.

    On the other side, the other instruments fail to stand out despite several soloing parts. The bass guitar is not as dominant as it could be, the drumming varies from promising dynamical patterns in some songs to disappointingly dull and repetitive beats in others but it's especially the guitar play that is a letdown. The harder riffs sound ordinary, the greatest melodies are carried by the keyboards and the overlong solos lack compelling emotions. The numerous guest vocalists deliver a solid routine job as they all sound well and have talent but none of them delivers a remarkable effort that would inspire you to check out the singers' other projects.

    It's difficult to point out any best tracks on such a long record. "Dark Green Skies" is probably the catchiest tune as it comes around with calm, enchanting and grounded androgynous vocals underlayed by mysterious yet peaceful guitar and keyboard melodies in five and a half compact minutes. The quasi-instrumental "The Turn" comes around with a constantly growing apocalyptical and psychedelic atmosphere supported by several elements as the sound gets progressively louder, faster and more epic while hectical narrative vocal samples set in. This cinematic track is probably the most dramatic song on the release and manages to grab the listener for a short rollercoaster ride of four and a half minutes.

    I must admit that the story behind the release has a lot of potential. It would have made a great graphic novel, novel or movie for sure. Anders Thonander could have also created an excellent instrumental record or atmospheric score for a science-fiction blockbuster with a few shorter and more concise tracks and without the guest singers. On the other side, a great conceptual idea is not enough to carry an album far over two hours. As the final result turns out to be, "Mechopolis" has a lack of emotional outbursts, several noticeable lengths and some dull instrumental passages lacking diversity and originality. This is the perfect example where less would have been so much more. In the end, "Mechopolis" is only interesting for very patient progressive rock and metal fans who don't mind overlong conceptual records with a calmer tone in the key of the last Ayreon release and the likes.

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