Nord Zodiac (2022)
Updated: Mar 2
“A mix of Gothic hard-rock and New Berlin School that will please Nord's fans”
1 Leo 6:09
2 Taurus 8:42
3 Virgo 12:28
4 Gemini 10:25
5 Scorpio 14:30
(DDL 52:15) (V.F.)
(Prog Rock New Berlin School)
A sequencer movement that rises and falls, an orchestral haze that caresses its astral ascent, Leo develops de facto this electronic music (EM) structure with synth solos, always abundant in Nord's music, singing emotively on an ascending New Berlin School structure. Minimalist and hypnotic, this opening is in the pure Nord tradition when the percussions harpoon its docility to lure it into a big electronic hard rock with curt and jerky riffs in a gothic flavor stimulated by a bass-guitar fusion. The synth solos are still singing, and the orchestral haze tries to chase away this sudden brutality in a finale that takes back the rights of its opening. In the last years I have developed again the taste to rediscover prog music and the so called neo prog music. So, it is no wonder why I started to like a bit more this new Nord orientation since then. Sztakics István Attila has skillfully taken his style to the frontiers of progressive music by incorporating some elements of Scandinavian hard rock. This is very much the essence of this ZODIAC that the musician-keyboardist from Romania divides in 2 parts. Either between the electronic progressive hard-rock and the style of EM which is closer to the New Berlin School and still inspired by the minimalist movements of Klaus Schulze.
Taurus adopts a pulsating rhythm bouncing obediently under good synth solos sounding like in the 70's. There are also big heavy metal riffs that resound a bit before the 5th minute. These short bursts of explosions shake up the music without propelling it towards a sustained rhythm structure. Except at the 7th minute where it gallops in the meshes of this line of spasmodic sequences and under these always enchanting synth solos. In a Scandinavian progressive heavy-rock texture, Virgo opens with the charms of a choir of female voices humming celestial tunes. A sequenced bass line emerges around the 7th minute, structuring a lively circular rhythm with a play of intonations in its musical structure. The rhythm comes and goes under the influence of good ether-filled layers. It is guided by the circular and slightly spasmodic movements of a sequencer from which the tone of the electronic chirps has an organic texture. Surprisingly, the percussions slow down the sequencer's charge, creating one of those heavy and slow rhythms I'm particularly fond of. The choir of cosmic nymphs is always present. And their voices become a powerful element of passion and intensity as heavy and curt riffs bring that heavy gothic rock dimension to the music. The next 2 tracks take us to the more EM territories of Nord.
Very hypnotic with its string of sequences dancing around our ears, Gemini follows with a sequencer structure that makes its jumping arpeggios zigzag in a gyrating Indian file. Astral tinklings, drawing circles like a finger touching the top of water, adds New Age charm to this rhythmic ritornello. Against azure winds, sound effects, synth laments, modular bass hums and the sudden explosion of percussions just before the 7th minute, Gemini continues its long minimalist journey and rivets our ears to its dance of limpid sequences. Scorpio is a little delight that sounds like Klaus Schulze from the 85-90 years. Beforehand, one has to go through an opening where the decibel level and the stridency of certain sound elements can be ear-splitting. Whistling and howling winds, reverberating effects, organic-like percussive clanks and tinkling sounds lost in ghostly vocal layers gradually dissipate to let a keyboard draw an astral ode. It is a bit as if Sztakics István Attila was fighting to hang stars in a turbulent firmament where only astral voices move us like the forbidden songs of their mermaids. This slow opening which favors the effects of sounds and harmonies adopts an intensity curve which shows itself more and more, especially when electronic clappers invite themselves around the 6th minute. Semi-lively, Scorpio reaches all its splendor when energetic and repeated pulsations stick to its evolution some 60 seconds later. One feels the level of accentuation increasing always a little more when the structure, become finely spasmodic, lets float harmonies of a synth which makes coo its solos, there are some very beautiful, on a strange electronic bolero without borders. And the timpani drum rolls make our senses tilt a little after the 11th minute, bringing the track to new standards of emotivity in a finale that respects its evolutionary logic.
Nord doesn't reinvent himself in this ZODIAC and that's okay. Even if the music touches a more gothic hard-rock dimension, the Romanian synthesist doesn't deny his influences by giving us 2 big monuments of the New Berlin School in the second part of this album-download which, as usual, contains some nice little gems. His fans will definitely be satisfied with this ZODIAC.
Sylvain Lupari (March 1st, 2023) *****
Available at Nord Bandcamp
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