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King of Agogik - Exlex Beats CD (album) cover

EXLEX BEATS

King of Agogik

 

Neo-Prog

4.03 | 13 ratings

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tszirmay
Special Collaborator
Crossover Team
4 stars King of Agogik is a project led by drummer/multi-instrumentalist Hans-Jorg Schmitz who already has a nice series of recordings under his belt. Btw, 'Agogik' is according to Wikipedia 'the art of changing the tempo in the context of a musical performance'. To better flesh out this methodology, he has brought on board a slew of talented 'sessionaires' to join him in the quest. This latest release is a prime example of a highly gifted musician who just wants to have some fun, to paraphrase Cindi Lauper.

As befits a true instrumental showcase, the playing is absolutely first-rate, creative in a variety of styles, running the prog gamut of metal, neo, symphonic, jazz, eclectic and cross-over. I nevertheless needed multiple repeat listens to ooze into a comfort zone, as the initial auditions were focused on technique and execution rather than depth. As such, it does prove the mettle of prog-metal (pun), a genre that accentuates the power and the glory of rambunctious guitar phrasings as well as a booming propensity to combine Bonham-like explosions with Cobham-like velocity (aka the Bon to Cob syndrome! LOL). Double bass drumming at blitzkrieg speed is an aural experience to behold. I , as a rule, never liked the 'can you see how good I am' show-off style as espoused by otherwise brilliant musicians such as Stanley Clarke and Keith Emerson but here the focus is not just on chops but also on variety, humor and diversity.

On the opener, 'Bronto's Navel' the lads provide a bruising bass-led piece that combines King Crimson- like bravado, delightfully fluid guitar lines and deft drumming , the ending a straight lift of Owner of a Lonely Heart. This good natured homage continues on the masterful '11th Sense' a 12 minute retrospective of classic prog and non-prog lines, going from ELP, Van Halen, Genesis, Asia, AC/DC, Europe, and a few others'..which then just morphs into something entirely enthralling, synthesized hurricanes with blast of bass thunder and guitar lightning. The German word for fun is 'Spass', a perfect ride, as Schmitz has a little drum solo platform to amuse us and himself with.

The worldly beauty of 'Nomouglea' slithers into the mind with effortless vision, steered by Steve Unruh's seductive violin, amid idyllic acoustic guitar adornments that would make Ant Phillips smile. A thrilling flute also enhances the glorious mood, heightening a drop dead gorgeous melody that caresses the soul, before a wicked Dago Wilms guitar solo slams through the mist.

Change of pace with 'The Chasteness' , another swirly affair that bounces between robust and dreamy, Schmitz handling all the instruments save the lead guitar and the themes expressed are both inspiring and crafty, particularly a brief piano section that confirms the talent at hand. Wilms is a real gun slinger, fondling his guitar with brash abandon. Interesting combination of Genesis inspired instrumentation and a harder more metallic edge.

On the cool but too short 'Musicogenic Epilepsy' , Schmitz offers up a lovely duel between Michael Elzer's Chapman Stick and Pantelis Petrakakis' fluid bass guitar, low-end extravaganza of the highest order, ably decorated by some shining keys and drums. Great stuff, highly entertaining up to now but the best is yet to come, with the arrival of guest Andrew Marshall on Spanish guitar, he of Willowglass fame, ably assisted on electric axe by Arne Schafer of Apogee and Versus X repute. Gary Farmer handles the bass duties but it really is Andrew's show, as he does a truly lovely job, proof that Hackett does have students out there! 'Sheol' is the crowning piece here, a glowing affair of infinite beauty, the word itself being a Jewish term defining a place for the dead.

'Lick Me' is a return to the more extroverted instrumental jamming that Schmitz enjoys, heavy duty riff (a variation on 'Hey Bulldog' from the Beatles?) , essentially a duet with Dago handling the 6 and 4 strings while Hans-Jorg tackles the percussives and the ivories. Throw in some snippets of Aerosmith, Black Sabbath, Nirvana, that Hey Bulldog cream and My Sharona, and well, you can guess the rest. Fun driving music that you can lick!

Pantelis does his best Mick Karn imitation (both Greeks and one a Cypriot to boot) a wobbly resurrection of the fretless wonder on the reptilian 'the Venturous Dream of a Schlabbershirt' (whatever that means). A perfect segue into 'Thin as a Skin' , a parody/homage to Jethro Tull's classic and need I say, a stunning instrumental reworking of this prog classic which is worth hunting this down on its own merits. Schmitz credits Harold (the Barrel?), Gerald (obviously Bostock) and himself for having the inspiration to tackle this 22 minute behemoth. To his credit, this is not a note for note copy but a total deviation from the original with occasional slick winks and nods while remaining stylistically reverential. It's also heavier, brasher and more manic. Unruh does both flute and violin, giving this a mercurial velocity. A child-like xylophone and mellotron duet recalls Hackett's 'Shadow of the Hierophant' blow out. A fun-filled ride this is, unabashed playfulness and gentle reverence. The urgency and power are stimulating, the classic theme given a thorough massage, the rabid flute causing quite some damage. To dare tackle a Barriemore Barlow only proves that Schmitz can beat his drums with great skill.

Nice little solo outro to seal this deal.

I am truly impressed by the amazing sense of adventure and total lack of pomposity, a fun album I intend to revisit many times again. Thanks to Windhawk for sending me a copy, this was way better than I ever thought!

4 Regal Tempos

tszirmay | 4/5 |

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