AtmOsfear, a German band formed in 1996, has finally made their third album Zenith. Itís probably hard for this five-piece formation to write new songs, because they release a new album every six year. Iím not familiar with their previous albums AtmOsfear (1997) and Inside The Atmosphere (2003) and honestly speaking, Iíve never heard of this band either. However, what a big, big surprise this album is! All seven tracks are creative masterpieces combined with excellent musicianship. Just imagine the best of Dream Theater and Metallica, the emperors of prog metal and metal, and then listen to Zenith.†
Dark sounds, clocks and a piano introduce the first instrumental track Beginning, immediately followed by violins, heavy drums and metal guitar riffs in the vein of John Petrucci (Dream Theater). After a minute, lead singer Oliver Wulff - who even has a better voice than DTís James LaBrie - and the other band members play a kind of prog metal I like very much. Loss of Hope belongs to the best pieces in the genre: up-tempo, varied with guitar and synthesizer solos, a nice chorus and ending with a choir. The fourth track Generations has an interesting approach starting slowly with some vocal tricks by Oliver Wulff. After three minutes, a melodic guitar solo in the vein of Gary Moore played by Boris Stepanow takes over. In the middle-section the rhythm suddenly changes and the music becomes darker and heavier with some grunges and double bass drums. The last part differs again from the rest of the song with emotional vocals and fine guitar riffs. With this song AtmOsfear created a 12-minute prog rock jewel for my collection! Reawakening is a 7-minute instrumental and a perfect piece for headbangers. The technical and musical skills of all band members are excellent with only one exception: drummer Tim Schnabel is even superb! Sometimes heís hitting the drums hard, sometimes soft, but heís always in control. Scum Of Society is not the easiest song to listen to. It starts like a complex Dream Theater song, but at the end thereís an interesting Ďbattleí between the organ of Stephan Kruse and Boris Stepanowís guitar.
Highlight of this album is Spiral Of Pain, the longest track with a duration time of almost half an hour! Itís divided in four parts and shows all elements of modern prog rock: an orchestral opening, heavy guitar breaks, many guitar solos, passionate vocals and several changes of rhythm. After 23 minutes and 46 seconds thereís a one minute silence followed by a beautiful epilogue sung by Oliver Wulff and accompanied by Stephan Kruse on keyboards. After listening to this outstanding album Iím a bit desperate for finding their previous albums as well. Hopefully, I wonít have to wait another six years for AtmOsfearís next release.
†****+ Cor Smeets (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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