Forces Of Nature


Shrapnel Records, 1999

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


One of the benefits this gig has had for me is that I've regained an interest in progressive rock that I hadn't really had since high school. But the more I listen to of modern prog-rock, the more critical I find myself getting of the genre. It always took a lot for me to get really excited about an album in this genre; now, it takes even more for me to hop up on the soapbox and sing a prog-rock group's praise.

But that's a-what I'm gonna do today - and the guest of honor is Artension, whose third album Forces Of Nature should open a lot of people's eyes and ears, and make this genre a popular one again. Showing that progressive rock and metal can be successfully combined without sacrificing any integrity, Artension unleash a ten-song tour-de-force that actually leaves the listener feeling sad when it's over.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The group is centered around keyboardist Vitalij Kuprij, an artist who could well be the Joe Satriani of the ivories. He treats the keyboards like a guitar, whipping off break-neck speed lines that I never thought you could do on a keyboard. On Forces Of Nature, his work is sure to leave more than a few jaws scraping the ground.

But this isn't meant to take away from the contributions of the other four members. Vocalist John West takes each song and, with his own powerful instrument, helps to take these songs into entirely new territories. Guitarist Roger Staffelbach is an incredible talent as well; it's exciting to hear the guitar and keyboards occasionally trade licks on a solo. (Worthy of note: guitarist James Murphy also contributes some lead work on this album, and his solos blend right in.) Bassist John Onder and drummer Shane Gaalaas round out the group, forming the rhythmic backbone that pulls all these forces together.

Enough metaphors, you're saying, how is the music on Forces Of Nature? Think Yngwie Malmsteen without some of the classical influences. Tracks like "The Forces Of Nature," "Lost Horizon" and "The Truth" all highlight a band that, if life were fair, would be revered as superstars for this quality package. Even my wife, who is not tolerant of a lot of the music I listen to, found something to like. While "Guardian Of The Hunt" was playing, she was able to draw comparisons to a song she likes; before she knew it, she had sat down and was listening to the album with me.

What seals the deal is the way Artension closes the album; "You Are My Heart (Ode To Autumn)" is a piano and vocal piece that brings the mood down from all guns blazing to introspective - nice touch!

Forces Of Nature is an outstanding album from a group that, chances are, you have never heard of. One listen to this album, and you'll regret not knowing about them sooner. I know I wish I had found out about Artension when they first hit the market - and something tells me I'll be going out to snag their previous albums soon.

Rating: A-

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© 1999 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Shrapnel Records, and is used for informational purposes only.