Dol Ammad

Star Tales

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Now here's something different: with his Dol Ammad project, Greek synthesizer wiz Thanasis Lightbridge decided to break new ground by enlisting a full-blown choir to augment a typical rock band of guitar, bass and drums for 2004's very ambitious Star Tales. Welding classical music elements with heavy metal by way of stockpiles of synth-generated electronic sounds, the album purports to deliver a prog rock/metal space odyssey of sorts, an undertaking that Lightbridge himself somewhat aptly described as "Electronica Art Metal." And although opinions regarding the correct dosage of these components are bound to vary from listener to listener, one might say he's managed to pull it off -- if for no other reason that no one before him has had the cojones to dive off the deep end like this. For example: mostly electronic intro "Dreamport" gives way to "Eclipse"'s lightning-quick black metal-style assault; only as performed by synthesizers as much as guitars, further enhanced by the ensemble's vaunted 12-piece choir, and -- get this -- what sounds like Star Wars-type laser weapons being fired. Clearly the interstellar battle has begun, but since nothing appears to be out of bounds for this colossal enterprise, Dol Ammad shifts gears right away with a comparatively lightweight, almost jazzy exercise in "Weaver's Dance," which eventually achieves an all-hands-on-deck crescendo, before closing with an electronic spin on northeastern Brazilian percussion. And so it goes, with numerous stylistic twists and turns distinguishing each song (the progressive delights of "Boxed Daylight" ("Part One" and "Part Two"); the colossal expanse of "Mission Butterfly"; the gentle synthesized harps and angelic tones of "Back to the Zone," and the special effects-meet-Phantom of the Opera interlude "Birth of Kruug," etc.) amid the all-binding, synth-driven metallic fury that abounds. Specifically on the last point, one sometimes wishes that the very competent heavy metal band at the group's core could be better heard above the dizzying din of Lightbridge's thousands of layered keyboard tricks, and that the choir's vocals were at all intelligible at any given point rather than seemingly wordless oooh-ing and aaah-ing. But for all intents and purposes, Dol Ammad fulfill their mission of originality here, and also leave one wondering what greater heights of invention may still lie beyond the next galaxy for them.

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