Review: Unwritten Pages – Pt 1

Omar Rodriguez-Lopez, of the Mars Volta, said of progressive rock: “We are really tired of those labels and questions. Concept album? How can any huge project that takes up most of your life for a year not have a concept?” and it’s fair to say that Unwritten Pages, too, is lifted straight out of the bedrock of conceptual progressive rock.

The conception of Frederic Epe, a vocalist and instrumentalist of seemingly boundless imagination, who has been able to group together some of the finest musicians working in Europe’s progressive rock scene to create debut album Noah, he has been living and breathing this project for the last 5 years, and true to progressive form, the album is dense, challenging and carries a tense conceptual sci-fi narrative.

Set in a futuristic dystopia, the story is told across two CDs of progressive music rich in genre change-ups and textural interplay. Though the album appears lengthy, the consideration given to the pacing of the narrative storytelling is clear and so the album is necessarily extended. This isn’t an attempt at anything commercial; instead, in the purest form, Noah intends to immerse the listener in its storyline.

While the album jumps between rock, flamenco, metal, acoustic, lightning guitar solos, and time signature change-ups with aplomb, the impressive thing about Noah is its use of ambient music to control the pace of the eclectic music on offer. Heavily influenced by 80s computer games, and by later horror game soundtracks such as Akira Yamaoka’s incredible work on the highly successful Silent Hill series, the haunting ambience that permeates many of the tracks, and which provides necessary interludes throught the album, helps create the retro-spook atmosphere intended. This is prog music written for fans of the Alien films. This is prog music for geeks. And it’s awesome.

It has some prog-rock prestige to call on too. Featuring Damian Wilson (Threshold, Ayreon, Les Misérables), Karl Groom (Threshold, Shadowland), Davy Mickers (Stream of Passion, Ayreon), and Alejandro Millán (Hello Madness, Stream of Passion) among others, this album is unashamedly prog: indulgent, heavy, and bombastic. For the ambition of the project, Frederic Epe should be commended for drawing all these collaborators, influences and ideas together to create such a singular, directed piece of work. The performance of musicians and singers is superb, which was necessary in order to keep ambition that could well have spiralled out of control in real focus. As it is, this is a rollercoaster of progressive rock that threatens to become anarchic and out of control, which is perfectly in-keeping with the albums central concept: chaos.


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James TAE

By James TAE

James TAE is a Music and Tech Journalist, Editor for Spotisfaction, and writer for God Is In The TV and London Tour Dates magazine. Follow him @James_TAE

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