Xinema is a three piece band from Sweden
and “Different ways” is their
debut album. It has a total running time of almost 58 minutes.
Members are Mikael Askemur (lead vocals, bass, keyboards, guitars & programming), Sven Larsson (Lead guitar & bvox) and Jonas Thurén (drums, lead & bvox).
The album contains twelve fine melodic, nicely arranged and well performed neoprog compositions in the style of Asia, with the guitar sound of Saga¸ arrangements reminiscing of Toto, the vocal harmonies of Barclay James Harvest and the sparkling and lively character of It Bites. Well, okay, this perhaps doesn’t apply to all the compositions, but at least to a great deal of them. Up-tempo and more solid rock songs are alternated by ballads. All songs feature skilful and yet melodic, tasteful and sensitive guitar solos by Sven Larsson. Especially the more fast solos are quite identical to the jazz influenced style of It Bites. Old-fashioned synthesizer solos come by, next to atmospheric keyboard accompaniment and melody lines. Mikael Askemus has a pleasant voice that brings in mind Steve Winwood and John Lees of Barclay James Harvest. Bass play and drums are inconspicuous, but adequate.
It’s hard to distinguish bad or better songs on this album, all have their qualities regarding composition, variation, lyrics and performance. Hereafter follows a short description and, if appropriate, a qualification of each song.
“In the scent of the night”
(5:46): up-tempo rock song with nice floating keyboards and energetic
guitar play, very Toto like (“Hold
the line”). Finishes with a nice guitar-synth duel in the good old
prog tradition. “Over the sea”
(3:51): again a Toto influenced rock song
with a Steve Winwood flavor.
“The last flower” (4:37): atmospheric ballad, again featuring nice floating keyboards and a guitar solo with a Pink Floyd touch, with might have lasted a little longer. It always find it a pity when a song fades out with a nice instrumental part.
“Timing” (4:29): up-tempo rock song with a kind of dance rhythm pleasant keyboards and guitar riffs and chords in the vain of Saga.
“One day” (3:40): mid-tempo ballad with a fine keyboard theme.
“Different ways” (4:50): nice ballad with some piano and strings, nice vocal harmonies and a beautiful and sensitive guitar solo.
“Maybe time” (3:06): very nice melodic up-tempo song with again good guitar play and solos.
“Across the Styx” (4:42): nice smooth and sensitive ballad reminiscent of It Bites.
“Distant lights” (6:02): more up-tempo rock song with nice synthesizer theme and again a very good guitar solo.
“How can I believe” (4:37): easy ballad with a calming piano theme, nice vocal harmonies and smooth guitar play.
“The secret” (5:55): a beautiful rock ballad with a nice theme, a opening vocal part in the first half of the song that sounds like Dutch band Kayak and again a very good guitar solo next to sensitive keyboard parts.
I would encourage this band to explore more on the field of epic works. This could very well give interesting results, as is shown by the beautiful instrumental introduction and outro of the final track “Blind is the light” (7:04). A beautiful theme on keyboards with fabulous guitar play. A petty that the vocal mid-part of the song (with the typical Saga guitar riffs) is rather mainstream. Happily this is compensated by the outro, that begins with some ELO like orchestral sounds, followed by a guitar solo and the opening theme.
Conclusion: a quality album with good compositions and musicianship. A first glance perhaps not too original, but after repeated playing its strength shows more and more. A well deserved 3 ½ stars that I upgrade to 4 because, compared to other albums with the more shorter neoprog songs, this is indeed a good one. I´m looking forward to the next album of this band, where they, I hope, explore even more on their instrumental side.