HardReviews 3
by Martin Popoff

Arabesque - The Union
(Lion Music)

Arabesque are a Dutch band that have been recording sporadically, well under the radar, since '89. Only recently configuring as a dual female vocalist outfit (a surprisingly rare concept), the band have their Lion Music debut in the exotic and rhythmic prog metal punch of The Union. Arrangements are quite airy, iced and popped by old school keyboard and synth tones, vibing like jazz or fusion, appropriate, given that the band started as an instrumental jazz outfit. O'ertop, you get the often Eastern music phrasings of Nicole and Katja, one sounding like Sass Jordan, the other almost distractingly nasal, both like rocker chicks rather than classical songbirds. Musically, there's a fresh lack of rulebook moves here, Arabesque sounding more like a string of the heaviest songs on prog albums than songs from prog metal albums (if that makes any sense), recalling heavy '80s Kansas, perhaps hard Steve Vai or Steve Morse, Billy Sheehan (lots of bass riffs here), Cosmosquad, rocky Planet X or other Dream Theater side pontifications.
Rating 7

Amaran - A World Depraved

Occupying a rich and rewarding space between melodic thrash and dangerously accessible power metal, Amaran further tantalize with classy, understated female vocals. The headbanged brew instantly recalls Lullacry, or Dark Tranquillity crossed with Nocturnal Rites, Amaran filtering their passionate, hooky songs through a hardening crunchy production job somewhat akin to Sneap's Nevermore. The riffs on here are almost too good to be true for a debut offering (see the wildly anthemic 'Daffodil', with its crazy, inventive dual lead solo, 'Faith Healer', 'Rusty Horse' and the smacking guitar stomp of 'Received A Kiss'), Amaran injecting a dose of doom and Entombed into their combative sound. Only complaints: a few draggy moments late in the disc and a bit too much cut (i.e. not enough bottom end) on the bass drum.
Rating 8

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