Various Artists

Kalevala: A Finnish Progressive Rock Epic

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Ambitious, daring, or downright lunatic? Kalevala, a project created and put together by Colossus magazine editor Marco Bernard, impresses by its breadth and quality. The idea: to put to music the complete cycle of the Finnish epic Kalevala. Bernard split the 50 poems of the Kalevala into 30 chunks, and asked 30 progressive rock groups, mostly from Italy and Scandinavian countries, to work on them. The pieces could be instrumental or include lyrics, but in the latter case, the groups were invited to sing in their native tongues, and provide an English translation. The only other directives were to use vintage (ie. '70s) keyboards as much as possible, and to avoid programmed drums. The resulting music depicts vividly the adventures of the Finnish heroes -- after all, progressive rock is the epic style of choice. The liner notes include background on the Kalevala, a synopsis of each section, English lyrics, and full details on the groups involved. The whole sets comes two minutes short of four hours (Disc One lasts a whooping 82 minutes and 39 seconds!). It's definitely too much to swallow in one gulp, but then again, you would not read the Kalevala in one sitting. All the artists play the same kind of complex prog rock, the bigger traits being the Italian melodiousness, and the dark mood often found in Scandinavian prog. There is enough diversity in the palette (a jazzier band here, a harder-edged one there) to vary the contents without getting lost. Some contributions are weaker than others, but in general, disappointments are very few. Highlights include pieces by Simon Says, Sinkadus, Magenta, Clearlight, Scarlet Thread, Leviathan, Thønk, Tempore, Germinale, and Qadesh. The last two opt for a narrative form, and Qadesh literally steals the set with their "Ilmarinen's Fruitless Wooing," the most inventive and captivating song here. Highly recommended, but you must be willing to commit.

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