- 'Quartus Artifactus'

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New album from the Uzbekistani outfit.

Over the past couple of years the likes of Israel's Orphaned Land and Myrath from Tunisia have released albums that have stretched the boundaries of progressive rock and metal into new territories (both physical and musical) and the eagle eyed of you will have noticed that in issue 43 of Fireworks I reviewed the third studio album, 'Seventh Story', from Uzbekistani outfit FROM.UZ. Hot on the heels of that quite wonderful mixture of progressive rock, metal, fusion and Eastern European musical influences comes the album 'Quartus Artifactus', which sees FROM.UZ strip their music back to an almost acoustic setting and perform it live in front of a small audience in the Iosis Studio in Tashkent in Uzbekistan.

As is becoming the fashion these days, this wonderfully packaged release comes as a 2CD/1DVD set in a fold out card sleeve which sports some stunning artwork courtesy of Ken Westphal and represents wonderful value for money, especially when you consider that the DVD is worth purchasing in its own right. The intricate and involving music lends itself beautifully to this stripped back progressive-chamber setting, however don't get the impression that 'QA' is all easy listening, in fact I'll wager that at certain points on this album you've never heard such frantic acoustic based music in any genre. Guitarist and occasional singer Vitaly Popeloff and keyboard player Igor Elizov orchestrate much of what is going on, with surges of melody interspersing a myriad of changes in time signature and tempo to create compelling music that marries Eastern and Western styles with an assured mastery. However it is the simply stunning percussive display from Ali Izmailov that really steals the show, with his manic cymbal crashing and frantic flurries round the kit being both spellbinding and absolutely crucial to the ever altering attack of the songs. Not to be outdone, fretless bass player Sur'at Kasimov lays down a dextrous pulsing rhythm, while Al Khalmurzaev alternates between keyboards, synths, 12 string guitar and flute to add colour and emotion to the glorious musical concoctions. The sound on the discs is absolutely stunning and the end results makes for one of the most convincing live releases that I've listened to in quite some time.

While the music is of the highest standard, I have to say that the DVD is the absolute star of this show with having the opportunity to see how these fantastic musical tapestries are created being an absolute joy. To be fair, the spoken word samples from the songs that come from the 'Seventh Story' album lose impact taken out of the context of that release and the fact that the crowd's applause fades out between songs to allow a caption of the next song title to appear is rather frustrating. However they are the only complaints on an otherwise captivating viewing experience and obviously these factors don't impact on the CD version of this show.

If you are seeking a truly progressive band that still know how to write songs with purpose and melody, then I have no hesitation in pointing you towards 'Quartus Artifactus', you won't be disappointed.

Steven Reid

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