Itís only been one year since I reviewed Compassionizerís album An Ambassador In Bonds, and the avant chamber prog ensemble from Russia is already back with their third album Narrow Is The Road. The collective, consisting currently of four musicians, is led by the ever-busy Ivan Rozmainsky, although five guest musicians are adding their talents to the setup. Those familiar with Ivan Rozmainsky know him as the head behind progressive rock band Roz Vitalis, although he has also released already quite a few solo albums, focusing on his piano work.

The new album has a more acoustic layout, although there is also room for synth work and electric guitars. The first half of the album is the harder to access. The seven-minute-long opener Only One Road For The Wayward starts with a trumpet, before an acoustic guitar joins in. Bass clarinet and clarinet join in, plus assorted percussion, to create a dense piece that in its second half works with some dissonant moods before ending in a more conciliatory tone. The following The Invasion Of A Crying Shame starts with a similar melody, but its use of electric guitar gives it a certain prog rock edge. Black Sky White has a melancholic violin and an overall more folk approach. I Need You To Help comes with synth bass lines that like last time remind of Peter Hammillís In Camera record from 1974. The title track ends the first half of the album with another folk sounding piece.

The second half begins with the nearly nine minute long In Things Too High For Me, which shows that Compassionizer really do well with longer structures, especially when they add a little more rhythm to the mix, making this a perfect hybrid of avant prog, chamber music and ethic folk. Looking For The Dome is driven by electric guitar, which is rather unusual for this album. The centrepiece of the album is the quarter hour long Kramatorsk, named after the city in Ukraine. And despite this being an instrumental album, the train sounds reveal that this piece is about the April 2022 bombings of the train station which left dozens of people for dead. Itís really an emotive composition with a recurring leitmotif always played a little differently. The album ends with the melancholic Road.

I dare say that Narrow Is The Road is so far Compassionizerís best and most mature album. Of course you should not expect easy listening music. During their bleakest moments, the music reminds me at times of Messiaenís Quartet For The End Of Time, a classical piece which not only was also written during a time of war, but because of its use of clarinet and violin even has occasional sonic parallels, as both Messiaen and Compassionizer have a strong spiritual side to their music. The folk moments rarely pin down to one specific geographic location, but rather evoke a magical place beyond this earthly realm. Friends of angular acoustic prog rock and also fans of Rock In Opposition have something to chew on, but if you prefer daytime pop radio, you better stay away.

9 songs

60:16 minutes

***** ***

Genre: avant prog / chamber music

Label: ArtBeat

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