Release DetailsLABEL Nasoni Records
RELEASED ON 5/19/2004
posted on 7/2004 By:
Qoph is a somewhat new breed of progressive rock. At the same time that their music is plainly rooted in the 70’s, there are often odd moments that couldn’t ever have made their way into prog of that era and can only be described as truly forward thinking. With contributions made by alumns from such bands as Anekdoten and Mats & Morgan, it’s hard not to expect something at the very least unique, and something unique is certainly delivered. The basslines are groovy and the time signatures are more often than not anything but 4/4, which makes lumping the band in with the new wave of King Crimson worship entirely possible, although what sets them apart from much of that scene is the quirky charm. I hate to say it, but towards the end of the first track, I found myself likening them to System of a Down, of all bands, though clearly far more musically talented and easier on the ears. Possibly a kinder sounding comparison with equal accuracy would be to the most recent Ephel Duath album, though far less aggressive. Rarely does a press release give a straightforward and accurate idea of what’s to be found on the album, but I feel I have to quote Qoph’s for Pyrola: “…Qoph combines daring excursions of (such acts of today) as Trans Am and Mars Volta, whilst always keeping lookout in the rearview mirror.” The point is, this isn’t a combination of styles that I’ve ever encountered before, but it works very well.
The songs are relatively large in scope and always compositionally coherent. It never seems like they wrote cool riffs and threw them together into the best fit possible, but instead, as though they came up with a main theme for each song and designed everything around it. Since they’re all stylistically pretty similar, besides the final track, this method of songwriting made certain that each song maintained its own identity and stayed entirely distinguishable from the others. With seven songs spanning just less than 53 minutes, most of the tracks have plenty of time for musical exploration on top of the more song oriented verse/chorus portions and during these moments of exploration, Qoph is at their best. Nearly every song features at least some kind of arrangements that prove quite compelling, most notably the fun and spaced out synth section on “Stand Your Ground.” The final song, a fourteen-minute epic entitled “Fractions,” provides both a nice change of pace from and a suitable ending to the somewhat spastic preceding forty minutes. It’s a mellower and slower paced song with heavy ethnic Middle Eastern influences. The build up over its lengthy duration is completely appropriate and yet not what many listeners would probably expect. More than a drastic change in pace or energy level, “Fractions” features a notable change in tone. It spends ten minutes with a somewhat dark and sorrowful demeanor but progresses into a hopeful sounding instrumental conclusion.
In addition to being musically sound, Pyrola is one of the most cleanly produced records to come out this year. The bass sound is somewhat unusual for this style of music in that it’s always very crisp, but somehow it manages to retain the groove that it evidently requires. The guitars are very dynamic; quiet and soothing when necessary, raunchy and aggressive during the more energetic moments. The most vintage sound to be found on Pyrola comes from the drums. They’re quite warm and expressive, not too dissimilar to those on Opeth’s Damnation, and it’s really nice to hear them used for more than simply to keep time.
I would wholeheartedly recommend this to anyone who’s ever even remotely enjoyed bands like Anekdoten, Landberk, or Paatos but wanted to hear a bit more of a modernization of the sound. This is a true progressive rock record in that takes influences from the past and expands upon them immensely. That alone is not really enough for a successful album, but considering the fact that Pyrola sounds great expanding upon past ideas, it’s entirely successful.
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