Here is another example of being inspired by previous PA reviews, aiming at discovering new unknown talent that will rock my prog world. Sanhedrin are from Israel, which may seem strange and exotic but unlike Osiris from Bahrain (!!!!) , this is not really a surprise as any visitor to the Holy Land will attest , the country being an odd mixture of very new and very old. I fondly remember listening to Israeli radio back in the early 80s when there on holiday and it was a very progressive set list. These musicians are absolutely first rate and have put together a sensational all-instrumental album that reeks originality though some will claim (quite lamely) that this is a Camel inspired opus. Well there are camels in the nearby Negev desert but all comparisons to the Andy Latimer crew are based on the mellow flute, lyrical lead guitar, basic rhythm section and frequent organ-synth interventions. The Barness brothers also started out as a Camel cover band. Upon repeated listens, the differences become clearer, the all-instrumental compositions provide a denser kind of symphonic prog , with liberal dashes of flute, sax, bassoon and English horn. Gadi Ben Elisha is a guitarist that has learned his Latimer chops well but not quite as Gilmouresque as you would expect, tossing in slivers of Hackett, Akkerman and Fripp. My first initial spins met with little overt reaction until I decided to ratchet up the volume button and pay attention to the beauty and intricacy of the music. I have been playing it in the car while plowing through snowstorms (searching for the nearest oasis!!!) and it has become a massive favorite. Whilst some reviewers have stated that it's a tad too quiet, I have detected numerous passages that rage convincingly, giving this recording a lot more depth and panorama than originally believed. The concise "Ouverture" sets the tone right from the get go and is a enchanting piece that grows with recurring auditions, looping synth runs conjuring images of galloping dromedaries, windswept mirages and moonmad guitars. Swirling flutes add to the charm. The crew wastes no time in pioneering their master opus (you can listen to on PA's sample tracks) , the redolent and atmospheric "Il Tredici" (the 13), where Ben Elisha's sizzling fretboard carves out some deadly melodies with clashing restraint and passion, aided by Aviv Barness' floating keys. Brother Sagi, drummer Igal Baram and Shem-Tov Levi on flute provide the added padding. At the 5 minute mark, the mood gets hard and furious with a memorable organ interlude married to a spectacular lead guitar solo, starting out pastoral and serene, morphing into the flute led main melody, one of aching beauty (the choir-mellotron backing is awesome) and then exploding into a paroxysm of guitar heaven, aided by braying horses and assorted other effects. "Dark Age" is an outright medieval piece, closer to Vital Duo, Lindh-Johansson or Motis, reminding us where the Crusades occurred (yup, the Holy Land!), the various instruments reeling fast and furious, flute-led into the Middle eastern raindances, layered by church organ motifs and spiraling guitar excursions, rolling bass maneuvers and deft drumming. The finale of this tremendous track gets hot and heavy, Frippian guitar riffs colliding with swirling sandstorm keys. Next up, a little history tour to the French Revolution with "The Guillotine", a somber piece recalling the instrument of terror used by Robespierre and the Commune to behead any resistance to their "virtues", the pace is anguished with organ and guitar both wielding the pain and the blood, the flute fluttering airs of deliverance and hope, while the rhythm section bashes away unmolested. This is harder edged than anything Camel has ever done, almost veering into space ?prog with some fab soloing. It remains a typical classic sympho-prog piece when the bassoon kicks in (such a gorgeous and underused instrument). "Timepiece" suggests a rollicking mechanical pace that plows on undeterred, suddenly shifting into a pastoral mode (darn flute again!) first and then a more reflective romp that seizes your audio jugular , getting heavier before exploding into this massive slide guitar excursion that would make Gilmour proud, screeching, bellowing and raging proudly.
"Sobriety" is an 8 minute+ treat, a secure highlight on this set list, with dancing flutes, rippling mandolins, heady organs all conspiring to form an orchestral piece dominated by another explosive electric guitar melody, bossy organ shoves and marshalling drums. The tone here is spacey, dreamy, reflective and masterful. Classic symphonic prog, performed with ease and dedication. Levi's flute recalls Thijs Van Leer's quietest moments which generates this Focus circa Hamburger Concerto feel. When the sax enters the scene , you know you are in prog heaven. Tantalizing piece of music.
The delicate "Tema" is just a minute of acoustic guitar bliss, setting the stage for the final cut, the aptly named "Steam". This is another up tempo piece that rumbles along convincingly, deft drum work propelling this 9.5 minute epic piece, again reminding us of a Focus feel , guitars , organs and flute ablaze in fiery communion. A spacey mid-section only adds to the pleasure, church organ leading the fire. A gentle piano intervention is dazzling in its simplicity. The finale is a guitar excursion that will flip your baseball lid. The production, the atmosphere and musical talent displayed are above average. Not a weak track or filler to be found hidden under the sand.
This is a definite no-nonsense grower, a undisputable 2011 masterpiece and I thank my PA colleagues for subjugating me with their recommendation. I look forward to their next release with bated breath.
5 shabbat shaloms