Impressive. This is the only adjective that I can find after listening to this megaband project formed by Alex Masi (guitars), Lars Eric Mattsonn (guitars, bass, keyboards), Eddie Sledgehammer (drums), Alexander King (keyboards), Esa Pietilä (sax), Ella Grussner (voice, violin), Torgny Stjärnfelt (voice), Örjan Sjöström (choirs) and the stellar appearance in a couple of solos of the one and only Derek Sherinian.
Those that read my reviews frequently know about my indifference towards progressive metal, a style that has ended up reduced to a continuous repetition of unconscious clichés and cheap samples of academic technique. You will be able to imagine my strength of spirit when beginning to listen to this CD that has suspects such as the Italian Masi or Sherinian. Well, I have been surprised, as this is one of the best CDs published in 2000.
I ignore if the merit is Mattsonns (he already worked with names as Pär Lindh or Erik Norlander) or of the impressive keyboard player Alexander King, but from the beginning, the songs "Calls out my name" (10:28) already shows that this is not another CD of progressive metal. A storm of analogue keyboards loosens in the speakers while Baroque and Arab influences cross in a fusion backdrop. That is the principle, since during the whole piece they continue developing brilliant displays of instrumental and compositive ideas (that is the most important thing), only interrupted by the vocal moments of Torgny (great voice with soul nuances) and Ella (not such as a good voice, but very personal). Shades of Deep Purple (the classic), ELP, Iron Butterfly!!, etc. appear during the whole piece until we arrive to "Judgement Day" (10:31) a delirium of experimental music with jazz fusion patterns. The band shows a great level (spectacular Mattsonn with the bass) and at the end we find Esa a famous Finnish jazz sax player - to dazzle us with a tremendous solo and some rhythms that seem to come out of a dark jazz bar. "Life is now" (8:51) is a more vigorous topic and of simpler vocal melodies. It doesn't matter, the instrumental moments are legendary and all the musicians have moments of original splendor -without unnecessary pyrotechnics -... even Masi (a nervous guitarist of the Malmsteen school) shows a calmer side than in his solo albums. The fourth piece "Bach on the streets again" (5:15) is a guitar exercise of Mr. Masi that takes the chance to promote his new solo album "In the name of Bach". The piece is not very original, as it is another attempt to make Baroque music with the guitar as numerous guitar-heroes have done from Ritchie Blackmore's time. The violin of Ella contributes some UK shades that save the song. "Fly me high" (4:58) is an experiment that mixes strange sounds and musical textures inside a progressive context but with experimentation elements that remind from the crazy Mr. Bungle. The organ solo and acoustic guitar of the middle section of the song remains in your mind for a long time. Many will think that this is the simplest song, but I consider it the most original. "Lighthouse" (8:26) is an instrumental track that has a start a la King Crimson that melts with a mad hammond to end in an arrogant section of experimental avant garde jazz (the sax of Esa, the bass and acoustics of Mattsonn, the violin of Ella) of high quality. "Learning to live" (4:30) is a short piece a la Purple and unequivocal flavor to the 70s. With the calm and atmospheric instrumental "Final Words" (7:41), with big shows of keyboards and guitars, this fantastic album ends.
Platypus?, Erik Norlander?, Planet X?, Shadow Gallery?, Dream Theater?, Liquid Tension Experiment? naaahh believe me and without looking to the cover (the worst in the CD) buy this Condition Red and you will be glad. I do not know what Mattsonn and his partners will have drunk during this tremendous disk, but I would like them to continue drinking the same for many years.
By the way, so you see how things are: the heavy metal media (clever as usual) is saying that Condition Red is a difficult CD of progressive metal. What they really mean is that it is tremendously innovative and for the ears of those that think that Vanden Plas is the best in the progressive metal of the millennium. Of course in progVisions we know what is quality and what is repetition of schemes. Your decision, but I believe that this is another of the CDs that augur a great future for progressive rock.