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Pandora Snail - War and Peace CD (album) cover

WAR AND PEACE

Pandora Snail

 

Eclectic Prog

3.96 | 109 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Aussie-Byrd-Brother
Special Collaborator
Rock Progressivo Italiano Team
5 stars Forming back in 2008, Russian band Pandora Snail released one of 2015's best instrumental albums with their debut `War and Peace', a work greatly received by fans and a wide range of progressive music followers. Comprised of a mix of male and female members, the group deliver an eclectic collection of pieces that cross many prog-related styles including symphonic, jazz- fusion, classical and folk, especially standing out due to the music being constantly driven by violin. Progressive rock has a small but special tradition of artists that prominently feature violin, so Pandora Snail join the ranks of vintage bands like French symphonic romantic group Terpandre and the British female-fronted band Curved Air, and they also fit in nicely alongside modern acts that highlight the instrument such as Japanese fusion band PTF and Italian RPI'ers Progenesi amongst others.

Artem Gareev's sweeping violin weaves a memorable romantic theme in and out of opener `Dilemna', which bristles with Igor Cheridnik's skittering drumming, Kirill Klyushin's percolating bass, Oleg Gorgadze spirited acoustic guitar duels with heavier electric guitar growls, and Ulyana Gor's keyboards moving between ethereal strains and colourful energetic spirals. `By The Mountain River' is predominantly a medieval-flavoured swoon with boisterous bursts of piano and electric guitar leaping out, `To Catch the Wind' a dirty and aggressive up-tempo race with runaway piano, the thickest of puncturing bass and playful ragged electric-guitar (and even the obligatory drum solo!), and the violin throughout the jazzy `Submarine' takes on a classical dramatic stirring elegance not far from Jean-Luc Ponty.

The centrepiece of the album sure enough falls right in the middle of the disc, the almost seventeen-minute (and amusingly and not-so-subtly titled!) `James Pont'. It's a constant musical showcase for the skill of the musicians here, all given plentiful solo showcase moments whilst also revealing just how well they gel together as a group. A range of tempo and time changes smash back and forth throughout the epic, forceful and spiked with danger one moment, reflective and calming the next (and it's also frequently grooving and funky!), but it always retains a sense of flow and cohesion. Never-ending fiery electric guitar runs, buoyant bass that swallows and lunges, cooking Hammond organ and a range of keyboard colour, restrained but effective use of percussion in fleeting moments between the insanely busy drumwork, and there's even a delightful little break in the middle that strips back to just moving cascading piano and careful violin that could have been expanded even further. Perhaps little reigned-in passages that don't dart around in endless directions like this could be looked into further by the band on future albums?

`Mother's Tears' begins as a melancholic piano and violin-led reflection that turns more joyous as the rest of the band carefully joins in, `Red Rivers' is a frantic and furious Curved Air/Ponty-esque short interlude, and `Stone's Names' mixes folk thoughtfulness conveyed by soaring keyboard- driven symphonic themes (and the foot-tapping light reggae-break in the middle is just lovely!), making it one of the highlights of the album. `Dance Under The Bullets' wouldn't have sounded out of place on a Mahavishnu Orchestra album with its nimble-fingered jazz/fusion electric guitar runs, busy percussion/drumming and sprinklings of electric piano, and parts of `After The War' brood with a murky danger due to latter King Crimson-like chiming guitars and electronic drums. `Satori' is a genuinely emotional piece with warm symphonic themes constantly attacked by dominating classical piano, scratchy violin danger, imposing organ blasts, aggressive guitar and bass assaults and truly maddening drumming. The sense of expertly building atmosphere with sudden energetic diversions displayed by all the musicians on this album closer is first rate, revealing a musical maturity far beyond their young years.

If there's one slight problem with the album, it's that it is way too long (sixty-two minutes), which means re-listening to the CD in whole may become difficult. While there's nothing even close to bad on the entire disc, a few spots of sameness creep in, so perhaps a punchier vinyl length product (ie 45-50 minutes) in the future might be preferable? But there is no denying whatsoever the exceptional instrumental skill, sophisticated compositional strength and endlessly melodic ear displayed by the band on `War and Peace', made even fancier by the warm production that allows all the instruments ample room to shine. It's even more staggering to think this is Pandora Snail's first album, and it absolutely ranks as one of the best progressive-rock debut albums of the last several years, an essential purchase for fans of instrumental discs and lovers of violin-led progressive music. Well done to this talented young band with a bright future!

Five stars.

Aussie-Byrd-Brother | 5/5 |

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