ARABS IN ASPIC - Madness And Magic

Arabs In Aspic - Madness And Magic

6 songs
46:56 minutes
***** ****


You know the kind of bands that Spotify always suggests you should be listening to. Norwegian progressive rockers Arabs In Aspic are a case in point, and although I sometimes gave them a little of my time, I didnít really stick around, until now that I received the electronic press kit of their seventh longplayer Madness And Magic, which is also their first one on the prestigious Karisma label.

The new album only comes with six songs, most of them having a generous length. Start with the opener and first single I Vow To Thee My Screen, at eight and a half minutes maybe unusually long for a single, but it shows right from the start the bandís mission. Arabs In Aspic are unapologetic vintage proggers, and their proto hard rock sound really doesnít matter that much anymore on this new and mellower album. The opener sounds a lot like Pink Floyd, but strangely the soaring keyboards remind me also of Eloy, who were well known for more or less copying Floyd. The organ sounds at times draw parallels to Van Der Graaf Generatorís Hugh Banton. Itís all good fun, because itís obvious straight away that these guys are more revivalists than straight-faced no-fun prog snobs. The following Lullaby For Modern Kids 1 shows a common theme on the album, which is about how we all grow up with tons of technology surrounding us, and leaving us sometimes powerless and helpless in an ever-growing ocean of facts and opinions that make it hard to distil the truth. This eight-minute song is funkier and reminds me a little of Frank Zappaís trademark humour. Lullaby For Modern Kids 2 is an ultra-mellow mellotron driven two minute ballad with very macabre lyrics, but you canít help loving this song. The first half of the album concludes with High Tech Parent, where the band sounds like Caravan jamming with Steely Dan. There is a funky and highly percussive touch to Arabs In Aspicís music, which is due to the fact of the band having two drummers. This constellation often feels over the top, but in the context of this album, it really works.

The second half of the album begins with the nearly seven-minute-long title track, an archetypical Seventies prog anthem that has more Uriah Heep than Deep Purple within its DNA. Really a great track though, just like the seventeen-minute epic Heaven In Your Eye where the guys pull once more all the registers.

You canít innovate on vintage prog, so the next best thing is to give it a fitting tribute, and you canít do that much better than Arabs In Aspic have done on Madness And Magic. I refrain from giving it a maximum rating, but it is nearly there. Itís entertaining, itís fun, it lacks the pompous seriousness that is often such a turn-off in this genre. Fans of everything vintage Seventies prog should be delighted by this technicolour journey five decades into the past.

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