MMXVIII is another release from Millenium, the experienced Krakow based neo-prog outfit who have released some dozen studio recordings since the turn of the century. This short album, like the instrumental compilation Notes Without Words (2018, see review) is released as part of the celebrations of the 40th anniversary of Lynx Music. It also serves to introduce new vocalist, Marek Smelkowski, consisting of one new track, Unnamed, a new version of When I Fall from 2013's Ego (see review) album and the title track, if that is what it is, consisting of a 20-minute medley of tracks selected by Smelkowski. Which is, as the band put it, a way of linking the past to what is to come. An ambitious and confident statement from a band who have become increasingly confident and assured especially over the course of recent releases.
So, this release represents something of a gift to the fans from keyboardist and record label owner, Ryszard Kramarski before the next full official release. If Unnnamed is a steady, unassuming rock track, allowing Smelkowski room to demonstrate his expressive vocal range and announce the lifting of clouds which have hung over recent releases, When I Fall is more than a reworking from an idle moment. This is a full blown rewriting of the song, a statement of intent, showcasing not only the vocals, but also adding in a saxophone part for Dariusz Rybka, the other most recent full-time addition. Surprisingly, the 20-minute suite of Millenium songs arranged by the new singer really works. More than a mere introduction to how he intends to take on the back-catalogue, it is a really enjoyable tour showing what is possible and what can happen in the future. I'm not sure what long-term fans will make of this arrangement, but I found it a worthy addition to the canon and more than capable of standing on its own merits. The only thing I missed from this recording was the additional backing vocals which have been provided on previous recordings adding range and warmth, and I hope that their omission here is only temporary.
Although Millenium have been in existence for some 20 years now, this release shows that there is still much to be optimistic about. They continue to develop and get stronger and stronger. While this may not be a typical release, there is enough to interest any listener as a taster for the group and a sense of where they are going. To that extent, I shall certainly be following with interest.
*** Andrew Cottrell
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