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King of Agogik - Exlex Beats CD (album) cover

EXLEX BEATS

King of Agogik

Neo-Prog


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Matti
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars KING OF AGOGIK is a project led by Hans Jörg Schmitz, who's primarily a drummer but plays also guitar, bass and keyboards. On this fifth album he's accompanied by guitarist Dago Wilms, bassist Gary Farmer, Erik Vaxjö on Mellotron, Steve Unruh on flute & violin and several other skillful musicians. The whole 77-minute album is instrumental, and exhaustingly full of ideas in a not-too- serious manner. One comparison is the multinational collective CORVUS STONE.

The opener 'Bronto's Navel' is muscular power rock. The first musical citation that I recognize comes at the seam of this track and the next one (a riff from 'Owner of a Lonely Heart'), and the 12- minute rollercoaster ride '11th Sense' is basically a potpourri of (mostly prog / hard rock related?) little allusions. Or so I presume, for I don't recognize all themes. The leaflet's page for the track says "for amusement only", and amusing it is. Schizoid perhaps, but so well done that it works. 'Nomouglea' is sheer beauty of both acoustically oriented, art music flavoured delicacy and more powerful melodic rock.

'The Chasteness', subtitled "Damsel's Love and King's Wrath", keeps shifting quite restlessly between romantic, adventurous and other moods. One thing is becoming clear by now: you don't get bored or sleepy with this album! Also for the sound it's very eclectic, there are polished Neo Prog, retro-sounding Symphonic, biting Hard Rock, gliding Fusion and delicate Art Music elements on this full buffet table. Andrew Marshall (WILLOWGLASS) guests on wonderful 'Sheol'. 'Lick Me' is an aggressive and slightly metallic rock piece, my least fave. The next track is an intelligent bass & drums study featuring Schmitz and Pantelis Petrakakis.

The nearly 23-minute 'Thin As a Skin' would almost on its own compete victoriously against an average prog release. This is full-blooded, complex prog rock to blow your mind. When Steve Unruh's flute joins in, a certain classic group may enter the listener's mind, but hold on... many other colourful sections to make MIKE OLDFIELD jealous follow each other, before quite exactly in the halfway it's revealed why it has such title: here and there come direct citations from JETHRO TULL's Thick As a Brick. Is this parody? I'd rather see it as an hommage, in addition of being totally impressive monumental prog epic.

On the brief closing track H. J. Schmitz plays all the instruments. Oh my, what an album. There are many moments that whisper "five stars" into my ears, but as it's likely that the WOW! factor wears thinner with repeated listenings, four stars will do. Listen to this and be amused & amazed!

Report this review (#1326169)
Posted Friday, December 19, 2014 | Review Permalink
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

Report this review (#1350278)
Posted Wednesday, January 21, 2015 | Review Permalink
Windhawk
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars German project KING OF AGOGIK is the creative vehicle of veteran drummer and composer Hans Jorg Schmitz. From 2006 and onward he has steadily released material under this moniker in between other assignments and obligations. "Exlex Beats" is the fifth of his quasi-solo albums, and was released through his own label Saustark towards the end of 2014.

While there is a lot of variation and a certain eclectic spirit surrounding just about everything on this CD, "Exlex Beats" comes across as, first and foremost, an affectionate celebration of the spirit of progressive rock. Some inclusions from related styles of music can be found, which can possibly be regarded as minor statements about the influence progressive rock has had on other genres of music, but it is the progressive rock aspect of this production that comes across as the main focus. Which perhaps an impression formed due to the various homages found on certain key compositions, causing an effect on the end listener that hasn't been planned by Schmitz himself. Still, this is an eclectic instrumental album of progressive rock that merits a check by those with a particular fondness for this type of music and keen to hear artists celebrating it.

Report this review (#1544897)
Posted Saturday, March 26, 2016 | Review Permalink
memowakeman
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars An amazing journey through progressive rock!

First of all, I would like to thank Olav Bjornsen for introducing me to the music of Hans Jörg Schmitz, a talented German multi- instrumentist who creates music under the nickname of King of Agogik, a project which started back in 2006 and so far has given us five studio albums, being this one the latest and honestly, the first I knew. Schmitz is a wonderful drummer, we can notice that through the whole album, however, he also has the creativity to compose bombastic and challenging songs that work as an example of what progressive rock is about, and also as a rendition to some rock and prog icons.

The album features 11 songs and a total time of 77 minutes in which Schmitz and a lot of great musicians collaborate to give the listener a vivid musical journey, full of virtuosity and entertainment, in which symphonic prog and heavy rock meet, just as we can notice in the simply stunning "11th Sense", a mini-epic in which the music is fulfilled with energy and different changes, creating a truly progressive rock fiesta in which fragments of old and better known songs/bands are taken as a tribute and as wonderful elements that bring original music. Here you will remember (on purpose) Yes, AC/DC, ELP, Van Halen, Asia, among others.; and you might also associate of King of Agogik's music with other great musicians such as Willowglass. Great track!

Every time I listened to the album I wondered why this project is listed under the neo-prog genre, because the music is truly eclectic in spite of the evident symphonic tendency some tracks share. A great example of eclecticism comes in "Nomouglea" a song that has a beautiful folk-like first part, with a delicious violin included courtesy of Steve Unruh, but later the song changes and offers a terrific guitar solo that will make you have a memorable moment. In fact, there are several wonderful moments throughout the album, pieces of prog rock that any fan could appreciate.

It is incredible to see the different "faces" of King of Agogik from one track to another, however, all of them were composed and recorded with passionate musicians that let us know that progressive rock is alive and kicking asses, despite the low profile of projects like this have, profiles that we (the listeners, reviewers, etc.) should try to elevate. Artists such as the same Willowglass (Andrew Marshall) who collaborates in this album playing spanish guitar in "Sheol", another pretty eclectic track.

The musical journey might be endless here, so the surprises, because after some short tracks such as "Lick Me" which once again shares some renditions to old iconic songs such as My Sharona, Are You Gonna Go My Way or even Smeels Like Teen Spirit, King of Agogik delight us with a prominent 23-minute epic full of sounds, changes, rhythms, a mighty progressive rock rollercoaster that would satisfy any prog fan. I totally love the keyboard work here, it is amazing, and I like how they manage to make infinite changes and keep us enthusiasted listening to the music, so there are not weak moments here, I believe. In this long epic Schmidt makes another tribute, this time to Jethro Tull and the amazing Thick as a Brick.

The only thing I could say that did not make me happy is that the album is quite long, I mean, when the music is great you enjoy it no matter if it lasts 5, 30 or 60 minutes, but for a single record I believe 77 minutes are too much, so the listener could feel a bit tired in moments. But well, after all, I am so happy to see these kind of musicians creating wonderful music and spreading it through the world, because they deserve to be better known, the music speaks for itself.

Enjoy it!

Report this review (#1606501)
Posted Tuesday, September 6, 2016 | Review Permalink

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