Well, this album starts off on the wrong foot, but definitely ends up on the right one. The album opens with some heavy keyboards and drums and then the vocals come in... and you can't understand a damn thing! And he's singing in English! Fortunately, this problem is remedied after a few minutes by some better mixing, and the rest of the album doesn't suffer from this problem. Moonshine is dominated throughout by lots and lots of keyboards and prominent drums, with thoughtful guitar added for good measure. In fact, the drummer wrote or co-wrote five of the eight tracks on the album. That's something you don't see too often, which is really too bad. Drummer Wojtek Szadkowski is certainly a graduate of the Neil Peart Institute, but is not overly derivative of him like so many others. He works the entire drum kit, especially the cymbals. You gotta love lots of cymbals.
The vocalist sounds like a cross between Marillion's Steve Hogarth and Johnnie Dee from Honeymoon Suite (remember them?) and is pretty good. The music, although keyboard and drum heavy, does have many nice acoustic guitar and piano interludes within the songs that provide a nice contrast to the faster parts of the tunes. During the last track, "War Is Over," the band shows some of its Polish heritage by banging out some folksy 3/4 melodies on mandolin, accordion, and acoustic guitar (with cool heavy drums of course.)
All in all, Collage has certainly put out one of the best SI releases of the year. Fans of newer Marillion, Jadis, Citizen Cain, and other neo-prog would do well to check this out. My main gripes about the album are that the bass is mixed way down throughout the entire album, and the engineer should go a little easy on the "gated-snare-with-reverb-for-days" patch on the Lexicon effects processor. Otherwise, this is a nice effort.
(Originally published in Expose #6, p. 40, Edited for Gnosis 8/12/02)
Basnie was the Polish neo-progressive quintet’s debut album and has long been considered one of the better albums in the genre. Squarely in the mold of music that got its roots in Wind and Wuthering period Genesis and came to fruition in the early 80’s British symphonic rock revival, Collage have much more to offer than the hoards of clones that have given the style a bad name. Two aspects are stand-outs. Wojtek Szodkowski is a very competent drummer, providing intricate fills that give the music a hint of Rush and drummer Neil Peart. Also, vocalist Tomek Roczycki, although quite the lead focus, definitely knows when its time to let the band shine. The occasional instrumental moments help keep the balance in what is very lyric-oriented music. What you have in the end still seems pretty close to a fusion of Saga and Marillion, although this is a room where the windows are occasionally open to keep it from stifling. One of the more impressive neo-symphonic styled albums available.
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