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lunes, 6 de abril de 2015

Ars Nova - The Book of the Dead (1998)

Artista: Ars Nova
Álbum: The Book of the Dead
Año: 1998
Género: Hard rock sinfónico
Duración: 44:13
Nacionalidad: Japón


Lista de Temas:
1. Prologue: Re
2. Ankh
3. Interlude 1: Nut
4. The 42 Gods
5. Interlude 2: Anubis
6. Held Of Iaru
7. Interlude 3: Sekhem
8. The Judgement Of Osiris
9. Interlude 4: Nephthys
10. Ani's Heart and Maat's Feather
11. Epilogue: Hapi

Alineación:
- Keiko Kumagai / keyboards
- Akiko Takahasho / drums
- Ken Ishita / bass


Empezamos la semana y que mejor que empezarla con las ELP féminas power del Japón. Nosotros las presentamos y ustedes pidieron más, y acá van a tener algunos disco de estas japonesitas que se las traen... esta vez con motivos egipcios para una obra conceptual basada en el famoso libro que da nombre al título.


Como bien dice esta reseña, no se asusten por la complejidad de la obra de estas chicas, una vez que le agarran la mano les encantará, pero no es música fácil. Cuesta un poco digerirla pero después no las abandonan más:

Un disco más de las Japonesas Ars Nova que ahora son únicamente dos: Keiko Kumagai en teclados y Akiko Takahashi en batería. La bajista Kyoto Kanasawa ha abandonado al grupo. En esta oportunidad Ars Nova continúa con su estilo instrumental frenético y siniestro, lleno de cambios de ritmo y composiciones bastante complejas. Por momentos agregando algunos segmentos de música mas suaves y melódicos.
Siempre que encontremos bandas con este formato, habrá comparaciones con Emerson, Lake and Palmer. En el caso de Ars nova se nota que el sonido deribado de ELP va quedando atrás, pues las composiciones de Keiko se tornan mucho más originales. Hay toques de música clásica en los interludios que dividen a las piezas principales. (Tres de ellos exclusivos de la edición de Musea) Algunos de ellos son bastante breves, pero cumplen su cometido de introducirnos al siguiente instrumental.
Desde el inicio del disco noto una inclinación por melodias muy insuales. Los teclados análogos, tan importantes en este tipo de música están más presentes que nunca..Uno de los temas que más llaman la atención es "Held of Iaru" que resulta ser una gran pieza totalmente sinfónica con toques más melódicos y mucha influencia clásica. Altamente disfrutable. Los segmentos de piano son estupendos y la ejecuciòn llega a rayar en lo virtuoso. Los teclados llenan perfectamente la música y las percusiones agregan bastantes adornos y redobles, en lugar de ser simplemente un acompañamiento. "The judgement of Osiris" es mucho más agresiva y frenética, con ese toque letal característico de Ars Nova. La complejidad de la música exige que la persona no se conforme con un par de escuchas.
Recomiendo adentrarse a esta banda, especialmente para aquellos amantes de la música veloz que disfrutan los sonidos de örgano y sintetizador. No dejes que la gran complejidad de los temas sea un punto en contra. Con un poco de paciencia se puede llegar a disfrutar bastante de este disco. "The book of the dead".
Guillermo

El disco es oscuro, grandilocuente, pomposo, frenético, intrincado, una colección de piezas épicas ejecutadas con gran pasión y maestría, plena de virtuosismo y sofisticación. Y sobre el concepto del disco, me remito a las siguientes palabras:

Japón es un país con una rica tradición sinfónico / progresiva, con una gran cantidad de bandas de excelente calidad: Ars Nova, Deja Vu, Bi Kyo Ran, Gerard y Shingetsu, entre otras, herederas de los héroes de los ‘70s: Stomu Yama’sta, Lacrymosa, East Wind, entre otros, son prueba de ello. Estas bandas vienen a enriquecer con su talento al progresivo internacional desde un país muy poco conocido y más acostumbrado a recibir visitas ilustres que a promover a los artistas propios.
(...) La banda liderada por la magistral tecladista Keiko Kumagai ha demostrado a través de sus cinco discos un crecimiento y una consolidación que la ubica entre las mejores del genero sinfónico. Directa responsable es sin dudas Keiko quien ejecuta los teclados al mejor estilo Wakeman o Emerson, suavidad, calma y por momentos explosión, arranques grandilocuentes, pomposidad.
Compositivamente, sus ideas se basan en películas de terror ("Fear & Anxiety", "Transi", "The Godess of Darkness") y en temas mitológicos ("The Book of the Dead") con un marco musical oscuro y enigmático que nos hace pensar de ellas en artistas torturadas, criaturas demoníacas, pero al verlas esa imagen se diluye y uno se encuentra con tres frágiles y tímidas mujeres. Mujeres que crean una música que es una catarata de virtuosismo y técnica, mezclada con buen gusto y pletórica de creatividad.
"Homenaje a ti, Señor de Verdad y de Justicia, he venido a ti, oh dueño mío, para contemplar tus perfecciones. Conozco tu nombre y el de los 42 jueces que están contigo".
Así comienza "Reu Un Pert Em Hru", El Libro de los Muertos, un papiro con rezos y formulas mágicas que se colocaba junto al difunto y en el que figuraban diversas enseñanzas morales y la forma en que el Ka (alma) debía dirigirse a Osiris, el dios de los muertos.
La obra de Ars Nova nombra entre otros elementos de la antigua religión egipcia al dios Ra (el Sol), a la cruz Ankh, símbolo de la vida, a las diosas Ani, Maat, y Nut (el Cielo). Hapi, dios con cabeza de mandril, y que junto a sus hermanos, todos hijos de Horus, se representaban en los Vasos Cánopes, recipientes en los cuales se ubicaban las vísceras del difunto, en el proceso de embalsamamiento (Hapi: pulmones, Amset: hígado, Duamutef: estómago y Kebsenuf: intestinos).
Anubis, dios con cabeza de chacal, hijo de Osiris y Neftis, guardián de las necrópolis, completa los personajes más destacados de la religión del Sat Et Nerom, el hombre del Egipto místico y mágico, al que Ars Nova le dedican su inspirada obra "The Book of the Dead".
Radio Babel

Sobre más información del disco, no voy a escribir mucho, lo dejo a nuestro columnista involuntario de siempre, quien nos relata de qué va el disco:

Tras la partida de la bajista Kyoko Kanazawa, Ars Nova decidio, tras la infructuosa busqueda de una femina que la reemplazara, seguir trabajando como duo con un varon invitado en el bajo, de tal modo que la banda mantuviera su estructura femenina con todo rigor. El trabajo registrado por el grupo con este formato es “The Book of the Dead”, el cual conserva la dimension epica y conceptual de sus discos anteriores. La esencia musical sigue siendo la misma, centrada en la creacion de un sinfonismo pomposo y aparatoso, llena de mil adornos y florituras; con todo, cabe notar la presencia de secciones melodicas basadas en el manejo de sutilezas etereas de corte exotico, particularmente en lo referente a las breves piezas que conforman el Prologo, Epilogo e Interludios, las mismas que se reparten a traves de motivos de corte arabigo, europeo sur-oriental o asiatico extremo oriental. En todo caso, estos segmentos funcionan como pasajes relajantes en medio de las entusiastas explosiones musicales a las cuales las chicas de Ars Nova son especialmente adeptas. Entre las piezas centrales resultan efectivas ‘Ankh’ y ‘The Judgement of Osiris’ por su despliegue frontal de electrizante energia, aunque la complejidad progresiva se manifiesta de manera mas preciosista y pretenciosa en las piezas mas extensas, o sea, ‘Held of Iaru’ y ‘Ani’s Heart and Maat’s Feather’ - esta ultima exhibe un recorrido muy coherente desde su inicio jugueton hasta su intenso climax.
El sonido de la banda se sostiene sobre el peso de los teclados de Kumagai. A pesar de que ELP suele ser el referente crucial de todo power trio progresivo centrado en los teclados, la cosa es que Kumagai esta mas cercana a la estilizacion sinfonica de Wakeman (en los momentos donde los parametros melodicos estan mas marcadamente definidos) y la agresividad neurotica del lider de Balletto di Bronzo Sergio Leone (en los pasajes mas perturbadores) que a Emerson, aunque se nota que esta chica ha tomado nota de las lecciones incendiarias que Emerson ha ido dictando sobre como hacer del teclado un instrumento de rock pesado. Este disco esta intimamente ligado al precedente (‘Goddess of Darkness’) en cuanto al aspecto estilistico, pero es de notar una mayor elaboracion del rollo compositivo, lo cual, en lo personal, hace que este repertorio no me sature a pesar de su obvio despliegue de potencia. EMHO, “The Book of the Dead” es un deleite progresivo de excelente factura.
Cesar Mendoza


Y nuestra sección de siempre, los comentarios en inglés:

In 1997 I was lucky to witness a concert from Ars Nova during the annual Pul Festival in the Dutch city Uden. I was blown away by these three Japanese women: small size, GREAT SOUND! Especially bass player Kyoko Kanazawa took my attention because of that giant Rickenbacker bass guitar in those tiny hands. Her hotpants evoked yells like "backstage", progrock remains a man's world! Soon after the European tour from Ars Nova bass player Kyoko was replaced by Ken I[&*!#]a because Kyoko was no longer interested in making music with Ars Nova.
On this first CD without her the band had chosen for a concept CD about the Egyptian history. Keyboard player Keiko Kumagai is very omnipresent, she delivers a wonderful and varied sound out of her digital equipment featuring flute, fagot, violins, flageolets and snare instruments like the Japanese koto. But in general Ars Nova their sound keep strong echoes from ELP, UK and Trace (Keiko loves this acclaimed Dutch band from keyboard wizard Rick van der Linden): many bombastic organ waves and sensational synthesizer runs on "Ankh" and "The judgement of Osiris" and beautiful, very sparkling piano work on "Field of Irau" (one of the highlights on this CD).
A STRONG AND PLEASANT KEYBOARD DRIVEN PROGROCK CD!
Erik Neuteboom

For the first time Ars Nova visited Europe to promote the release of ''The goddess of darkness''.I guess Musea Records had something to do with this, as it was the label that decided to take the risk and promote the next album of the band in Europe.However in October 1997 Kyoko Kanazawa left Ars Nova and his replacement was ex-Deja-Vu Ken I[&*!#]a, who played alongside Motoi Sakuraba at the time.The fourth album ''The book of the dead'' was released in 1998 on Musea and Made in Japan with a surprising vinyl issue the following year by Black Widow Records.
Structurally ''The book of the dead'' is a mix of extended Symphonic Rock pieces with some odd, Ethnic-styled interruptions inbetween (propably to come close to the Egyptian roots of the concept as displayed in the cover) and the style was nothing else than monster, keyboard-based music with E.L.P. and RICK WAKEMAN overtones, owning the already familiar pompous keyboard stylings of Japanese bands.To my ears it lacks the composing quality of the previous album, although much of its bombastic sonority and dark atmosphere is present on the album.It appears that Keiko Kumagai has thrown a ton of orchestral moments in the album to produce an unmet grandieur, somewhat trying to avoid too many keyboard cliches and KEITH EMERSON-like organ and synth orgasms.On the other hand her ability on keyboards is what makes the Ars Nova sound so familiar to the prog listener and she won't dissapoint any fan of the band despite the heavy display of powerful orchestrations: Impressive piano isolations, virtuosic organ solos and full-blown symphonic synthesizers all the way with series of dramatic executions and evident Classical orientations.Great instrumental work, which still holds some more romantic moments and melodic hooks among the sea of organ/synth flashes and solos.The album is fairly consistent with impressive twists between moods and climates and a typical Japanese pomposity.
You know what you get with each and every Ars Nova release: Keyboard-dominated Symphonic Rock with references to the vintage trio's of classic Prog Rock.Another nice and strongly recommended work by the Japanese team.
apps79

Japanese trio (at least on this album) Ars Nova present a highly bombastic and aggressive keyboard/organ driven instrumental prog assault, very influenced by both Emerson, Lake and Palmer and Rick Wakeman, but with enough original ideas of their own. Fortunately, they don't do schmaltzy whimsical moments like Mr Wakeman sometimes does, and they certainly don't stoop to goofball `comedy; tracks like ELP often did! A total plus on both counts! Occasional spots remind me a little bit of Goblin too.
There is a strong classical approach to the arrangements, with constant gothic and Egyptian elements thrown in to compliment the concept of the album. Much of the sound is dominated by thick Hammond organ, with occasional Mellotron to add to the atmosphere - it's used to tremendous effect in the finale of my favourite track `Ani's Heart' (which is almost up there with the most evocative Goblin tracks), while I very much dig Ken I[&*!#]a's grumbling bass about 2 minutes in! Lots of moments like this throughout the album, all enhanced greatly by Akiko Takahasho's stomping drums - really gets your foot tapping and head nodding in approval!
Leading lady Keiko Kumagai is a total virtuoso. Well worth checking out one of the band's live DVD's or online footage of them to see her in action. A real talent, backed up superbly by additional top-notch players on this album.
However, on `Book Of The Dead' the band rarely seem to calm down, most of the music being quite heavy and oppressive, fast and crashing. The brief interlude tracks throughout the album are some of my favourite, offering more sedate and reflective passages that I would have loved to see more of throughout. Some of the better musical themes don't hang around long enough, while other parts are very undeveloped and a little forgettable. Again, a few more quieter sections would have stopped much of the album from constantly sounding the same. It can also have quite a cold sound to it, making it difficult to get through the entire album in one sitting. However, I much prefer this line-up of the band, before they added additional players and vocals.
Still, the band are all very talented, and this album really would make a perfectly decent addition to any progressive music collection. Really deserves a 3 and a half star rating! Not a classic, but plenty to enjoy from a highly regarded prog band.
Michael H.

Japanese female (!) trio plays highly energetic keyboard based progressive rock, heavily influenced by Keith Emerson/ELP early works. The music is quite skilled technically (ok, drummer work could be more complex), with drive, and sounds very masculine.
Sound is a bit more modern, than ELP, but generally all played on the same key. There are all pros and cons of this work - from the very first sounds the music will catch you, but after few songs, you just will notice, that under the great sound there is in fact the same long song.
The album is conceptual and contains many short compositions in between some longer. Full instrumental, it still sounds good enough to be capable to attract your attention till the end. But for being really good work, there should be something more (possible vocal, or better composition) added. After listening, I got light feeling that this music is coming from the same place as Vanessa Mai's one. Just, more rock and more progressive.
In all, average progressive album, but with some pleasant moments for ELP fans.
Slava Gliozeris

Nothing really new under the sun of this Japanese band.
Their bombastic and pompous ELP-ish style is 100% present, as usual. There are lots of very short tracks on this effort (six out of eleven tracks! Clocking at six minutes in total). Even if this is a "concept" album about the gods and goddesses of ancient Egypt, such needs for transitional tracks was not really needed IMO.
This is crafted music played by skilled musicians but inspiration is just not on the rendez-vous. This is highly technical for the sake of it ("The 42 Gods").
In this context, a song as "Held Of Jaru" must be considered as the highlight of this album. The first melodic and emotional piece so far during which Keiko Kumagai (Ars Nova's goddess) can fully express her talent. Maybe their best song ever. It is a nice invitation to a travel in time and combines bombastic and almost classical passages. The "Tarkus" spirit is revived at times during this album (but it is not the first time that "Ars Nova" is borrowing ideas from this great track.
The problem with this album (and other ones from the band) is that it repeatedly reworks the same sounds. I admit that ELP fans (to which I do belong) might enjoy this but even if I was charmed during the first listening of Ars Nova work , I do not spin their album frequently. As background music it works fine because I like to be remembered those notes but not when I need to concentrate on it.
I have this feeling during "The Judgement Of Osiris" (especially during the finale which is pretty boring).
"Ani's Heart And Maat's" starts with a Far-East flavour. Almost as if you were attending a temple ceremony, but not in Egypt this time. Lots of different themes, which is good to avoid uniformity. The mix of some native Japanese music with these bombastic keyboards works fine. Another highlight thanks to a brilliant final part. Extremely passionate.
This album is far from being essential and depending how desperate you are in being brought into the "ELP" world you will adore or abhor this release.
Daniel

The same consideration as for the work "Transi", characterized by a strong emulation of "Tarkus" by EMERSON LAKE & PALMER and also the other European "Hammond-oriented" progressive works of the seventies... except on the poor and immature drumming section, the rest is not bad!!
Lorenzo

Having lost the bass player, Ars Nova continued to explore their pompous, explosive keyboard-oriented prog with the seme level of energy and intrincacy exhibited on their previous effort. Kimagai's keyboards even feel more powerful all through its multiple layers, orchestral textures, and wizard-like solos. Tracks 2 and 4 (introduced by its respective introductory segues) start the album in a state of full frontal white heat, handled with immaculate skill and sheer enthusiasm: the supporting role of Takahasho's precise drumming proves effective. Maybe this impression is caused by the more tertical and somber nature of most compositions in this album - actually it shouldn't come as a surprise, since the album's conceptual subject is esoteric, dealing with the dreadful divine forces that intertwine and fight each other in the afterworld. 'Held of Iaru' is the longest track of the album, giving more room to subtle passages that appeal to the mystic side of the subject, though it still comprises a good amount of heavy sounding moments: Kimagai gets at her most Wakeman-esque on this one (I've always thought that her major influences as a writer and performer are Leone from Balletto del Bronzo, and Wakeman, despite the obvious Emersonian shell she uses to encapsulate her keyboard sounds). As you may notice just by reading the tracklist, there's lots of segues, which are the uneven numbers: those segues (one prologhe, one epilogue, and four interludes) display some Far Eastern lines, which serve as exotic brief reliefs in the middle of such amount of pomp and circumstance. 'Ani's Heart and Maat's Feather' works perfectly as the last long track, since its climatic ending is captivating. Nothing else to add, but this would make "an excellent addition to any prog collection".
César Inca

If you are into ELP...into keys de luxe..into prog. (otherwise you wouldnt read this.?) Then you need to hear this...NO..make that..you NEED this !! These chicks from Japan really knows how to play prog music a la ELP...only there are more fire to .... their input....extremely wellplayed keyboardprog!!! GO GET IT !!!!
Tonny Larz


Y por si se quedan con ganas, ahora les dejo algo más. No sé si se darán cuenta, pero este disco no lo encontrarán en ningún otro lado de la red. Y en lossless menos que menos.
Que lo disfruten, ya volvemos con más japonesitas a lo ELP.


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