Opus Symbiosis - Monster

4 songs
17:12 minutes
***** ***
(self released)


Finnish prog rock quartet Opus Symbiosis is definitely one of the busier bands around. Since 2010, I have been reviewing one of their records for every year. Therefore Monster is their fourth release, coming a short year after their groundbreaking second longplayer Natureís Choir. Not that the band was uninteresting before, but it was only with that album that they finally found the exactly right balance between progressive structures and incredibly catchy songwriting.

Monster is unfortunately only a four track EP, and this time Opus Symbiosis do completely without long tracks. My first impression, I have to admit, was a bit of a shock, as the band has made the probably logical evolution towards an even more pop orientation. But spending a couple of mornings driving to work with this new EP, I finally came to appreciate the music in all its vigour. The songs all share a common leitmotif dealing with all kinds of cold. Titles like Icebreaker, Snowfarm and Frost underline this premise.

The opener Icebreaker, for which the band also made a video clip (and who the heck needs MTV in the age of YouTube?), is a prime example of modern progressive rock. Christine Stenís vocals take up a lot of space, but when you have such a charismatic voice, this is absolutely no problem. The music is crisp, with interesting guitar sounds that are not too distorted but still come with a lot of enlightening effects, the keyboards have a certain Eighties pop prog flair (Rush, Yes,... anyone?), while the tight rhythm section is adding enough punch to make this a straight contemporary statement. The songwriting is excellent too, with enough different parts, great melody lines, and all of this delivered in under five minutes. Snowfarm is a darker track with a slower pace that also manages to conjure the chilling atmosphere of the eternal north. On Noolan, Opus Symbiosis has managed to acquire the skilled talents of King Crimson drummer Pat Mastelotto, who was also already present on the bandís last longplayer. This may be the least pop song, with stranger structures and the melodies taking longer to stick. Frost closes this too short EP with another chilly piece of proggy art pop that will leave you with goosebumps and yearning for more.

I really like this time the successful combination of the frosty lyrics with the music that is absolutely able to combine a fitting atmosphere with modern concise songwriting. Monster may not be the quantum jump that Natureís Choir was, but it still a logical evolution that leaves my interest in the band unabated. Fans of cultured prog rock which is unafraid to dwell in the present and possibly even the future should check out these industrious Finns.

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