Issue 2010-059: Gazpacho - Missa Atropos - Round Table Review
Round Table Review
Tracklist: Mass For Atropos I (1:43), Defense Mechanism (6:29), I was Never Here (3:12), Snail (3:39), River (6:07), Mass For Atropos II (2:06), Missa Atropos (8:25), She’s Awake (3:41), Vera (7:26), Will To Live (3:06), Mass For Atropos III (1:39), Splendid Isolation (8:33), An Audience (2:52)
John O'Boyle's Review
For me Gazpacho are one of those bands that I have heard of, felt I should have investigated, but never got round to it. So here I am now a humble Gazpacho virgin, reviewing this Norwegian band's latest release Missa Atropos, and what a stunning piece this is, being a hard album to pigeonhole.
My initial feelings are that Gazpacho is a band that seems to be influenced by Marillion, Muse and Radiohead, which aren’t bad references. The other thing that strikes me is how laid back these guys are; they never seem to shift out of first gear, which I would initially be disappointed with. The reason I am not, is that with music of this beauty, there’s no need to up the ante. Irreverent class speaks for its self, eight releases reviewed by DPRP, seven get DPRP recommended. Wow. Well in my book, here’s DPRP recommended number eight. It will be interesting to see the other ratings this album has been given? I can only imagine that the rest of the team will agree with me?
The album is built on atmospherics, almost drifting in a dream world like state, which will appeal to all music lovers; such is the accessibility and beauty of what has been created. Playing this album on a good sound system will only add to the reward, as it stealthily demands your attention, not in a bombastic way, a soundtrack to a film never made, allowing you to build your own visions. I would assimilate it to a fine red wine, the more you ingest the better and more rewarding it becomes.
Missa Atropos is a clever concept taking the idea of Atropos, a Greek Goddess, updating it to the modern world where a man isolated himself from the world in a lighthouse to write a mass for Atropos, tasting true solitude as he does so. The story tells of what happens inside his head, his three attempts to write a mass, with the culmination of Missa Atropos being the final outcome.
Jan Henrik Ohme provides the vocals that are smooth, passionate and commanding; Jon-Arne Vilbo’s guitar work is sultry, moody, powerful whilst Mikael Krømer melodic, evocative rhythm guitar works ingeniously highlighting the sonic interaction of both, creating something truly amazing; layered to perfection with Thomas Andersen’s keyboard and programming, which allows Lars Erik Aspi drums and Kristian Torp’ bass to offer a very solid and commanding back line.
From the opening of the experimental sounding Mass For Atropos I, with its eastern vocal harmonies; the rhythmic and hypnotic Defence Mechanism; the dreamy soundscapes of Snail, or the absolutely stunning Missa Atropos, but to name a few highlights, I just didn’t know which way to turn. Not only has the band hit perfection with the music, but lyrically the band has spent some real time creating emotional, reverential and thought provoking constructs.
Did I carry on with the journey par excellence I was travelling or did I go back and re-witness what I had just heard? Well to be honest I did both, being something even now that I struggle with. There just isn’t one bad track on this resplendent album. Every time I have played it since, which I might have to add is many; I have found something new that has grab my attention.
This is an album that just oozes quality and class as does the level of musicianship that is presented throughout, being what I would imagine, another one of those albums that will vie for a position in the inimitable end of year top five lists of 2010. Gazpacho fans will no doubt buy and rave about this album, for those less familiar with the band you should and will do the same.
Brendan Bowen's Review
The Norwegian band Gazpacho is currently at a place where they have hit their stride and, for me, can do no wrong. They are consistently putting out new and great material and none of it overlaps their previous work. Many good descriptions have been made of the sound of Gazpacho previously here at DPRP that will still apply to a large extent to this latest release.
At first glance this album seems to pick up right where Tick Tock left off with an immediate sense of drama and subtle flair that pulls you in almost immediately. This one, however, is different. It requires more attention to extract the tasty subtleties. If you are a fan of their previous work, especially their latest few albums, then you are already aware of this aspect of Gazpacho music that has come to be their “sound”.
Missa Atropos is a piece about a man who retreats to an abandoned lighthouse to write the final mass for one of the Greek Fates, Atropos – the one who chooses the means and method of death for mortals. The other two Fates’ duties are to spin the thread of life and to measure (or meter) its length. This work focuses on Atropos.
The lyrics start with a visual eloquence that sets the perfect stage for this album with “The holy waters of the blackened sea” and continue with very profound imagery that match the ethereal and poetic nature of the music perfectly.
This album was written as a vessel to this art form. Many prog bands will write music as a means to tidily show some prowess or to force a concept to fit into a specific structure, but I get the distinct impression from Gazpacho that their concept comes first and the prowess to pull it off is merely a means to an end. By the time Gazpacho releases an album, it fits neatly into what we at DPRP know as “prog”. This gives the music a level of purity that speaks to the subconscious in a way that is uncommon and very welcome.
I hesitate to make any comparisons to other bands because I don’t know that any would be fitting. Gazpacho has been able to create with this release a masterpiece awash in detail and emotional connection that is relentless in its passion. It is a continuation of the intensity of Night and the tempo and styling shifts of Tick Tock.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the great production of Missa. The quality is striking when you listen to every detail up close. The expertise in engineering here has created a beautifully balanced finished product that doesn’t favour one instrument or effect over another. When I hear this album I don’t get caught up in individual effort because the whole product is presented so clearly and without bias.
While this album’s greatness stands on it’s own merits, any deficiencies of this one would be quite minor. When compared with Night, Missa tends to have lulls; and where Tick Tock masterfully increased in intensity to a powerful dénouement, this release doesn’t seem to pull it off as adroitly. However, I cannot question the song writing motives and wouldn’t presume it was intended to be any other way.
Overall, this is an incredible mood album that easily places you in that isolated and lonely lighthouse. This band has done an incredible job once again. This style is fresh and intense. This music is very tactile, and for a slightly minimalist sound, it is extremely powerful. If you take some time to interact with it beyond the superficial, you will be pleased and will, like me, become a perennial fan. Of my extensive repertoire, Gazpacho has taken a very high perch.
Gert Hulshof's Review
For Norwegian’s Gazpacho a lot has been going on in the past year or so. They have said goodbye to their drummer and had to find a replacement, which they did in Lars Erik Aspi. Guitar player Jon-Arne recently became a father and could not join his band mates for the start of their tour so for touring a replacement guitar player needed to be found. As anyone who has been to NOTP V Festival on 3rd and 4th September has been able to witness, his tour replacement has fitted in nicely and is certainly up to the job.
Meantime they had been working on this new album Missa Atropos which is again a concept piece, this time about a Greek mythological goddess called "Atropos" who is the goddess of life and death - the one to cut your lifeline when it’s your time.
Now for the CD and I’ll start with my conclusion first. It is up to you if you want to read what I have to say more. OK here it goes, Missa Atropos is a true masterpiece, a giant work of melancholic progressive rock music to which they have a subscription and is absolutely stunning. Right, having said that I will go on to discuss the music on the album.
They start out with a Mass For Atropos I, like you would want to do when you want to have a longer and prosperous life. This is dramatic, melodic, melancholic sounding keyboards mainly, with some sort of prayer being shouted in the background - a good way to start. Of course you want to defend yourself from a goddess like that so you’ll need a defence song, in this case with Defense Mechanism. What is there to be said about this song - it has good lyrics and massive orchestration which makes an instantly appealing song which will probably be attractive to a very wide audience. It just has everything you can wish for in a great song with a strong melody, tempo changes, great vocals and the music is so full of emotion. A truly complete song.
I Was Never Here continues where Defense Mechanism left off, with a strong tune, which is also great lyrically as well as musically. Then along comes Snail, slowly moving forward finding its way through the life and times - melodramatic. The film soundtrack, without the film, continues to use your imagination in this music and you may be picturing yourself crawling toward this gigantic mass of water, gobbling down towards an even more massive bit of water. Starting slow, growing fast, growing bigger, dropping speed almost stops flowing, but a change does come, as the River flows, and shows life. Heavy guitar, great riffs, fantastic music full of emotion carrying you through the film. And then start praying, start a Mass For Atropos II. We want Atropos on our side. Tell the world great song with giant lyrics. Drama, emotion it is almost scary, can it get more emotional than this? Missa Atropos is a massive song for a Goddess we are inevitable to meet. Seldom is there so much emotion in music as I've heard in this album. She’s Awake - now keep her as a friend, don’t do harm - close your eyes with this and let the music and sounds really grab you and get a hold of you, you are bound to be taken away to places you have never been before - not even in your dreams.
All is continued with Vera, you could call it a love song in nature, massively orchestrated again, the afore mentioned melodramatic feeling comes over me again as Jan Ohme has a way of singing that carries you away. The music is splendid once again with great keyboards and a nice guitar solo. The music is so full of emotion that the shivers are running down my spine.
Will To Live is an easy almost soothing tranquil song continuing to Vera, holding a plea to Atropos to let us continue living as we have the will to do so. But before long we need to have another Mass For Atropos III, all these masses seem to be interludes from one step to the other. Bringing......
Splendid Isolation or..... does it. It certainly brings a long journey through the world and music of Gazpacho, and how they picture Atropos the inevitable goddess in Greek mythology. And we are An Audience.
I have tried capturing my journey, this film of Missa Atropos in words, it was not easy I can tell you, but I gave it a shot. I feel music is emotion and best described as emotion. Even though I feel this is one long story in various chapters there are some highlights. We have five songs stretching over 6 minutes, Defense Mechanism, River, Missa Atropos, Vera and Splendid Isolation, these five songs are the strongest of the album and are my highlights. But the complete album would not be what it is without the solid backbone of the other tracks, thus making the album one of the best I’ve heard in 2010.