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Ars Nova (JAP) - Fear & Anxiety CD (album) cover


Ars Nova (JAP)


Symphonic Prog

2.99 | 37 ratings

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Special Collaborator
Rock Progressivo Italiano Team
3 stars `Fear and Anxiety' is the 1992 debut for Japanese all female instrumental band Ars Nova, led by virtuoso keyboard player Keiko Kumagai. Also comprised of Kyoko Kanazawa on bass and Akiko Takahashi on drums, although the band has been through a number of slight line-up changes over the years, including incorporating vocalists (as well as male members!) later on, it's this core trio version that is the most highly regarded by followers of the band. An exhausting, frantic take on symphonic prog, the band also incorporates heavy classical and gothic elements, as well as a surprising amount of the darker Italian Prog/R.P.I traits.

Somber opener `Dark Clouds' recalls RPI legends Antonius Rex and Jacula, a brief introduction built around stark and dank piano notes over rising imperial synths. The oddly titled `[dziha:d]' takes off instantly, a driving up-tempo beat surging the relentless bass ever onwards. The template for the album is set right away, with intimidating church organ, Hammond, Mellotron, whirring Moog and the most sweeping grand piano offering lavish themes. There's symphonic movements, fanfare pomp, and even just a dash of brief regal Genesis flavour as the piece grows more dangerous and deranged as it progresses. The opening of `House of Ben' again calls to mind the Antonio Bartoccetti projects, an ambient passage of eerie voices, scary sound effects and a generally chilly mood. A searing scratchy ancient flavoured Mellotron theme and spectral piano dance in eachothers arms in this ghostly ballroom waltz with a booming stabbing crescendo. Fans of Italian horror soundtrack band Goblin will find an almost cinematic quality here.

Although parts of `Prominence' are modeled very much on Emerson, Lake and Palmer due to it's racing beat and victorious synth themes, there's also plenty of jazzy and playful soloing from all the girls. The frequently piano driven two-part finale `Fata Morgana' sees the band completely unleash. A wicked, gleeful malevolence pirouettes around attacking smashing bass, destructive drumming and ballistic break-neck synth soloing, the band dashing through a range of tempos and direction changes before ending on a beautiful piano solo, filled with an achingly beautiful loneliness.

Despite running a rather brief 31 minutes (although a recent mini LP release adds two extra live tracks as a bonus), the band rarely slows down for any quieter or more sedate moments, so the shorter length is probably welcome. But although Ars Nova would go on to make superior albums with a richer production sound (`Goddess of Darkness' and `Book of the Dead' instantly come to mind), this album gets the band off to a successful and dynamic start, and lovers of dark gothic music, aggressive keyboard-driven symphonic progressive music and the gloomier, more classical inspired RPI should investigate this talented band and addictive album.

Three stars.

Aussie-Byrd-Brother | 3/5 |


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