Artension - Sacred Pathways
Frontiers Records
Progressive Hard Rock
12 songs (58'14)
Release year: 2002
Artension, Frontiers Records
Reviewed by Marty
Artension is no stranger to the world of progressive music. This band's roots date back to 1993 when keyboard wizard Vitalij Kuprij met guitarist Roger Staffelbach and, at the advice of Mike Varney (Shrapnel Records) teamed up with vocalist John West (currently with Royal Hunt). Along with Kevin Chown, bass, and the infamous Mike Terrana, drums, they recorded and released the first 2 Artension albums. Both Kevin Chown and Mike Terrana were unavailable for the next 2 albums, but have returned to the band to record and release this one, Sacred Pathways, their 5th album.

Mike Terrana is one busy guy!!. He is currently a member of Rage who just released their Unity album as well as Artension. He started with all sorts of hair-metal bands in the 80's before teaming up with Tony Macalpine and eventually Yngwie Malmsteen. He even got a chance to do a few gigs with Gamma Ray a few years back, including Wacken, when Dan Zimmerman had to pull out because of an injury. His experience and ability has made him one of the best and most sought after drummers in the business today.

The main player in this band is certainly Vitalij Kuprij. The classsically trained keyboard wizard has toured with symphony orchestras and has studied intensely with some of the true masters in the classical music field. He brings a flash and flair to this band's music that reminds me a lot of the styles of Keith Emerson of E.L.P. and Rick Wakeman of Yes. A real flashback to the 70's when there was such a thing as a keyboard being a lead instrument and not just a backing instrument. He's currently working on a new project called Ring Of Fire with Mark Boals (Yngwie Malmsteen) on vocals

Most of the tracks feature solid bass and drums with many tracks being of a mid tempo nature. Some of the songs have a more metallic edge to them with most falling into the progressive hard rock category. The guitar really takes a back seat to the keyboards and is usually just part of the overall rhythm section. What few guitar leads there are, really are nothing more than very uninspiring speed scale runs which add absolutely nothing to the feel and atmosphere of the tracks (Hey Roger....ever hear of using root notes?). The guitar sound is really muddy and bassy as well and really could've been better produced. John West's voice is really good and strong and at times he sounds stunningly close to Steve Perry of Journey. A few tracks also feature John in a more laid back, power ballad style where his soulful approach really sounds like Glenn Hughes of Deep Purple fame.

The keyboard fills and sudden tempo changes and abrupt stops add some excitement to what are overall, very average songs. The playing of Vitalij Kuprij is simply out of this world! Most of this album seems to be constructed as a showcase for him at the expense of writing really good songs. There are a few good tracks though, The Emperor uses some lightning fast synthesizer and double bass drumming to create a very cool song. The Killing uses some chunky, Dream Theater style riffing and some very fast E.L.P. like organ runs and fills. The one true highlight is the instrumental song, March To Ruin. It's a killer fast song that has many tempo changes and uses piano, harpsichord and synthesizer throughout. A very technically difficult song for all the players involved.

I don't have any major complaints about any of the playing and musicianship on this release (although I have a few problems with some of the guitar solos and the overall guitar sound). The main problem is the lack of any really good hooks or melodies in the songs. Fans of very technically proficient progressive rock will surely like this album. From my point of view, I love progressive rock and have always been a big fan but, there has to be a really solid foundation for a song to build on, to add your fast keyboard / guitar runs and fills to or else it just sounds empty. Technical flash should be used to accent a song, not to try to spice up an otherwise mediocre one. These guys have the talent, a good overall sound and with the strength of John West's voice, could really produce something brilliant. They just seem to be missing the ablilty to write great songs.

Killing Songs :
The Killing, The Emperor and March To Ruin
Marty quoted 75 / 100
Other albums by Artension that we have reviewed:
Artension - New Discovery reviewed by Marty and quoted 78 / 100
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