Andromeda - II=I


Year of Release: 2003
Label: Century Media
Catalog Number: 8082-2
Format: CD
Total Time: 62:20:00

AndromedaAndromeda's II=I is the kind of album that requires successive listens, not only because in the broad view it warrants it ? it is damn good -- but because each member of the band, from guitarist/bassist Johan Reinholdz, to keyboardist Martin Hedin to drummer Thomas Lejon is doing something that requires close attention. Not to forget vocalist David Fremberg, who has a warm voice that made me think of Russell Allen among others. In fact, in describing this band, I'd say you could throw Enchant, early Spock's Beard, Symphony X into a pot stir, add some metallic seasoning and serve. Um, there isn't that "Americana" thing here, it just happens that the bands I name checked are Americans ? Andromeda are Swedish anyway. Andromeda chug melodically and pack at lot into their music ? they're the kind of band that if they weren't on Century Media (which they are) they'd be signed to InsideOut ? actually as all those bands I mentioned are. Some of the phrasing is where I think of Spock's Beard. But I'm not suggesting any kind of influence in either direction, but rather just what kind of colours you need to include in the sonic palette as you try to imagine what this sounds like. This would especially describe the opening track "Encyclopedia."

Anyway, there are 9 songs on this album, and each of them are very good. I haven't really found a favorite among them, since there is so much to like about each of them. This is Reinholdz melodic progressive metal project, and I must say that I like this more than I did his other project, NonExist. Oddly, one of my favourite tracks here, "Reaching Deep Within" has a growly chorus as the song title is repeated. All played with a thunderous chug, it works, because this underscores the otherwise clean vocals. The descending scale of the bass does make me think of the "Phantom Of The Opera" (from the Lloyd Webber production of the same name).

They follow this with the title track "Two Is One," a warm ballad that could easily sneak its way onto mainstream or adult contemporary radio, having much to do with the way Fremberg is singing. 20 years ago, I think girls would be oohing and aahing over Fremberg's dreamy vocals, backed by the swell of keyboard generated strings, making me think of Paul Young, Richard Marx, Corey Hart? Ah but, listening to what Lejon is doing with the drumming and percussion and the guitar work from Reinholdz, it's a ballad such that the guys would be oohing and aahing -- or rather, "cool"ing ? over. And Fremberg's delivery flows easily to match the shift to this power metal heaviness that develops slowly, subtly.

And just to make sure you remember this ain't no pop band, they nearly tear your flesh with the monstrous instrumental "Morphing Into Nothing," which will have you thinking of Planet X, though Hedin's style and tone is sharper, thinner than Derek Sherinian's ? lets say the notes come at you with laser like precision, whereas Sherinian's tones are fatter. And you can hear a classical influence in Hedin's playing in this piece during his solo. They follow this with the nuanced (and, um, classic Marillion-like) "Castaway" where a softer, lyrical keyboard joins with Reinholdz delicate guitar lines creating a beautiful intro, all with hints of piano, too. All backing a calm yet emotive (ahem, like Steve Hogarth) vocal delivery. Again, you can detect a classical influence in Hedin's playing (and reading his bio at the band's website, he acquired an appreciation at an early age).

I really love Reinholdz lead guitar work, as he effortlessly switches from heavy, chugging riffs to leads that sing. Hedin is a great keyboardist, though I find him a little too squeaky during his solo on "Mirages," and places here and there. But his playing is great. Lejon is one of those drummers who makes full use of his kit, adding cymbal accents here and there that just fill out the arrangement. Together, the band is tight, though a bit looser on "Mirages."

"Parasite," "One In My Head," and "This Fragile Surface" are companion pieces, the first two being harsher than anything else on the album. Fremberg's vocals are roughed up a bit, aside from the very light and airy interlude in "Parasite," which makes the ferocity of the rest of the track all that much more?well, ferocious. All of which just shows what dynamic players this quartet (now quintet as Jakob Tanentsaph has been added on bass) are. The concept is a person with a split personality, the dark side committing crimes the light side will the one to pay for ? not a unique concept, admittedly. You have Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde for example; even Star Trek played with this theme in their "Mirror, Mirror" episode (which later spawned the whole "alternate universe" milieu for Deep Space Nine). And the duality of human nature is often a subject anyway, but that doesn't take away from the performance here of Andromeda. And after all, the title of the album is II=I (or "two is one,") and so, one could really make a case that the whole album is a concept album?

Well, I'm liking this CD a great deal and think it might end up on my top 10 list at the end of year? in fact, from the opening track the first time I heard it, I knew I'd like this album, as it has a lot of what I like about progressive (and power) metal. I know as I play it more and more, I'll find more and more to like about it ? it is that textured, and that's something else I love about a good album ? you should discover new things each time you listen.


Tracklisting:
Encyclopedia (7:08) / Mirages (5:42) / Reaching Deep Within (4:50) / Two Is One (9:05) / Morphing Into Nothing (7:35) / Castaway (6:17) / Parasite (6:55) / One In My Head (8:03) / This Fragile Surface (8:05)

Musicians:
Johan Reinholdz - guitar, bass
David Fremberg - vocals
Martin Hedin - keyboards
Thomas Lejon - drums

Discography:
Extension Of The Wish (2001)
II=I (2003)
Final Extension (2004)
Chimera (2006)
The Immunity Zone (2008)

Playing Off The Board (DVD) (2007)

Genre: Progressive-Power Metal

Origin SE

Added: June 23rd 2003
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Score:
Artist website: www.andromedaonline.com
Hits: 648
Language: english

  

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