I think this is my first acquaintance with progressive rockmusic from Latvia and I must say that I am quite impressed. Holy Lamb is the name of the band I am talking about and in particular their 2002 album “Beneath the Skin” that holds the subtitle A transgressive rock tale. This is true progressive rock: a diversity of styles ranging from rather heavy and theatrical (vocal) rock to beautiful symphonic and atmospheric (instrumental) pieces.
The album is based upon a “very true tale” written by Ieva Dmitricenko, that can be found on the band´s website. It is about the fact that despite an excess of “cheap” music, quality music is on it´s return. We of progVisions couldn´t agree more.
The line-up for this album is as follows: Aigars Cervinskis (electric and acoustic guitars, vocals and whistle), Juris Rats (keyboards and vocals), Uldis Elerts (electric and acoustic guitars and vocals), Ugis Zemitis (bass and vocals), Mikus Rullis (drums, percussion, tubular bells and vocals). The band originated in 1991 and via thrash/speed metal and rock they started writing and playing progressive rock music in 1996. After their international debut “Salt of the Earth” in 1999 “Beneath the skin” is their second international release.
This album starts of with the ambient sounds of “Psychovertureture - In The Beginning” (1:33). After this you get a good impression of the quality of the musicianship and variety of musical styles these guys manage to weave into one another with the second track “The Plan That Failed” (8:32). “Makhtartam & The Low Brotherhood (Parts 1 - 3)” (5:40) is a typical theatrical or rock opera piece, where the lyrics play a dominating role, but are nevertheless supported by good rock music. Even some ska-music comes by and I very much like the organ sounds in this third track. A more than beautiful solo church organ part is the next surprise that features almost three minutes of the opening sequence of “The conquest” (8:19). The rest of this song is also more than good symphonic progressive rock with nice bass and guitar play, and a reprise of the church organ themes joining the rest of the band. The up-tempo finale and synthesizer sounds in this track are continued in the again more theatrical piece “Audiodurg” (5:29). The second instrumental half of this track is rather jazzy, mainly because of the piano play.
I must confess that I am not a great lover of this kind of theatrical stuff, were the different characters if the story are represented using different types of voices and vocals, but in this case this is more than compensated by the excellent music these guys produce, the overall quality of the composition and the arrangements.
Track 6 is a very beautiful and more easy symphonic piece entitled “Stars Fell On Fertile Lands”(3:38), with very nice acoustic guitar play and accompanying keyboard sounds. More dark and mysterious are the organ and guitar themes of “Wear It In The Morning” (7:53) with typical classical opera vocals. This is certainly a progressive piece with its flamingo guitar part and alternation of strange and beautiful themes and sounds. “Beneath The Skin (Part 1)” (1:12) and “Beneath The Skin (Parts 2 & 3)” (5:32) are separated by track 9 “The Meeting Of The Majorminors” (5:53). All three are excellent progressive symphonic rock pieces with much tension. Nice multilayered guitar play in “Beneath The Skin (Parts 2 & 3)” is followed by a very nice atmospheric keyboard piece supported by some electric guitar notes. The albums finishes with “The End - Headturn's Release” (5:36) that after a more solemn introduction has a great jazzrock part with good bass, guitar and piano play. The finale of this song is rather heavy with aggressive guitar chords and vocals.
Almost 60 minutes this very gripping album lasts. A solid production and art work make it a quality product. It found it very hard to find any direct references and I think this fact shows that these guys have a rather unique sound. It certainly is progressive and therefore recommendable to any true progfan.