When I read the line-up of the Polish band Xanadu in the booklet of their recently released debut album The Last Sunrise it didn't make me happy. Why not? Well, I noticed that the band lacked a keyboard player. In general this means that the music is less prog rock orientated and contains more elements of metal or hard rock. The musicians of Xanadu that were mentioned in the booklet are singer Michał 'Mish' Jarski, drummer-percussionist Hubert Murawski, guitarists Przemysław Betański and Janusz Glon and bassist Adam Biskup. Beside the band members there are three additional guest musicians: Paweł Balcer plays keyboards on Miles Away, Violent Dream, part I and One Moment, Paulina Tomaszewska does the vocals on The Last Sunrise, and Marcin Grzella plays acoustic guitar and keyboards on Piece Of Mind, Dark Shadows, Vicious Circle and The Last Sunrise.
When I played The Last Sunrise for the first time, I was completely surprised by the music I heard since it has been drenched in progressive rock elements. Of course, the guitars mostly have a leading role, but the keyboards are obviously present in the music of Xanadu, but more or less in a supporting role. A real keyboard solo can never be heard, but what struck me most is the sound which is exactly the same as that of their fellow-country men from Riverside. The seven tracks on The Last Sunrise contain a similar kind of atmospheric, melancholic keyboard sound and guitar riffs. Especially the voice of Michał 'Mish' Jarski is quite the same compared to the voice of Mariusz Duda. If you know the history of the band you'll find out that there's a connection with Riverside. During the first incarnation of Xanadu in the nineties, Duda was a member of the band. He left to start Riverside. Drummer Hubert Murawski continued and started the second line-up of Xanadu.
Being a fan of Riverside's music I had no problems at all that the music on The Last Sunrise could as well have been taken from one of their records. As long as the 45 minutes of music had the quality to entertain I just didn't care that the 'progski' sound is present. This expression for Riverside's sound was invented by DJ Joel Graig to describe Poland's musical style. It's difficult to mention any special favourites since the band succeeded in recording a very well-balanced album on which mellow and up-tempo pieces alternate just as on the CDs of Riverside. That's certainly meant as a compliment to the musicians involved. They made sure that the album never has a dull moment or gets bored.
I can only finish this review by saying that The Last Sunrise is highly recommend to all Riverside fans. Maybe this album lacks originality, but still it's very well done!
***+ Henri Strik (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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