Coinciding with their performance in the BajaProg 2000 festival, the Panamanian Equinox have released their second studio album, "Spirits of Freedom", a very expected CD after their premiere and the success harvested in the 1998 edition of the BajaProg. Also, this work was expected because of the change of three members of the band, with the presence of a new female singer, the impressively beautiful Dalys Toruño. Therefore, the lineup of the band is currently Dalys to the voices, Alan Pinzón (bass, occasional guitar), Pedro Caicedo (guitars and choirs), Iván Cantón (drums and percussion), and Jorge Pérez (keyboards and choirs). The musical offer of these guys can be included in what we call Neoprogressive (Pendragon, Maryson), taking influences of North American bands such as Iluvatar or Puppet Show, and with the usual references to the classics, mainly Genesis and Camel, and groups based directly on them (Twin Age, Xitizen Caín).
The first impression we get when listening to the instrumental piece that opens the CD, "A message from Epsilon", is very positive: some very spacy atmospheric keyboards that lean on sound effects with a certain dissonance (similar to mellotrons), and in which Jorge Pérez excels in an effective intervention. After this promising introduction we go into the core of the CD with "Escape Mental" (7:24), that begins with some disturbing effects but that decays boisterously when Dalys begins to sing. I am sad to state this, but I don't believe that the singer's voice is the most suitable for a band like this, even more when in the instrumental moments the musicians show an excellent work, with a high level technique when changing rhythms and playing solos. The voice of Dalys has no charisma, it is quite monotonous and would fit better in a more pop-rock band. It seems to be quite stretched in most passages, and it would sound better if she was less aggressive and worked the melodies and vocal games better. It is also necessary to indicate that the lyrics should be more worked, and this fault doesn't influence the vocal work positively. In general the album is quite linear and vulgar, and it doesn't allow the singer to liberate the whole range of vocal registries a progressive rock singer should have.
The following piece is titled "Peligro" (5:34), and suffers exactly from the same disease: the musicians' remarkable instrumental developments (especially Alan Pinzón and Jorge Pérez), but with a vocal work below level. "Searching for Tomorrow" (4:50) is a very pleasant topic with good commercial vision, in which the voice of Dalys sounds original accompanied by that of Jorge Pérez. "El color de tu sangre" (9:34) is a topic a la Marillion-IQ (very effective keyboards solo, measured hardness) very well arranged, and with inclusion of calmer parts and even of small blinks to Hispanic music. Excellent instrumental displays appear again and the piece is nice to listen, although the vocal work of Dalys is really poor. "Sueños irreales" (5:16) is a lively musical composition that has a very catchy chorus, a pop-rock high-octane piece with a good beginning. Another good instrumental moment is "Fall into imaginary world" (9:30), without a doubt the best in the CD, proving the high quality of the band and Jorge and Alan's good technical display. With all type of atmosphere changes and Neoprogressive delights, it is not very original but it is very pleasant to listen from time to time. It can serve as a point of reference for future works. "Expreso Sideral" (6:10) boasts, together with "Love me tender", the most topical lyrics I have listened to in my life. The worst is that the vocal melodies are really very worked and catching, with once again really interesting instrumental moments, with Alan that takes out smoke of his bass and with a Caicedo making the same with his instrument.
"Spirits of freedom" (8:19) deepens in the Neoprogressive roots of the band, in one of the best moments in the CD. This time, Dalys sings really well, giving a counterpoint of sweetness to the power of the composition, with a very melodic middle section with a beautiful "break" (really beautiful). It is the starting point to the instrumental show of the band, especially by Mr. Pérez that shows his control of the keyboards that grow in intensity to conclude in a spectacular way. Another very good song. The last piece (almost) of the CD is "Refugio" (5:24), a minor commercial neoprogressive song in which the lyrics do not fit at all with the music. For the end, the "edit" version of "Escape Mental", completely unremarkable.
If we had to value this CD by pieces, I should say that the musical quality and the technique of the players is very, very good. Our opinion is that Jorge and Alan should stress the really progressive side of Equinox ("Spirits of freedom", "Fall into imaginary world"), not trying to look for a commercial niche with their music, which I don't believe they can achieve in progressive and much less inside the normal market. Here resides the main problem of this work, it is amid everything. It has great instrumentalists but it is not an instrumental disk; it has vocal parts but the singer doesn't develop a good work; it shows classic and neoprog influences, but it is a light version of all of them and it doesn't really show musical progress in the progressive field. Equinox show an amazing instrumental proficiency, and they could satisfy much more if they were centred in the progressive side of their music.
If the desire of the band is to play out commercial progressive rock, then this record only presents the problem of the vocals that are too stretched. For the rest, it fulfills its objectives fully. If, on the contrary, the band considers itself fully progressive, and we are speaking of mentality and ideas, the road can be as long or short as they want it to be. Instrumental quality is given.