2000 . :
The Hungarian band Solaris was formed in the beginning of the eighties and its first release, "Marsbéli krónikák" (1985), obtained a world-wide progressive critic's recognition. Their music featured very dynamic keyboards, a powerful guitar and a predominant flute that gave great originality to the group. The nearest references were Pink Floyd, Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Camel and Jethro Tull. In 1990, the band recorded a double LP and solo CD (with reduced duration) titled "Solaris 1990" that, in spite of maintaining the level of quality, suffered from the incorporation of programmed drums and percussion, which subtracted spontaneity and freshness to the music. Finally, in 1996 the double CD "Live in Los Angeles" appeared, with a repertoire coming from their first two albums.
December 27th 1998: the founding guitarist Cziglán István died suddenly, and some months later the third studio album by Solaris saw the light, titled "Nostradamus (Book of prophecies)", dedicated to him. The substituting member is Bodgán Csaba (guitars), who is helped here by the rest of the classic line-up of the band, Erdész Róbert (keyboards), Gömör László (drums), Kisszabó Gábor (bass), Kollár Attila (flute and vocals) and Pócs Tamás (bass), and the honorary manager Tereh István. There is also a group of collaborators, among which we should highlight the guitarist Varga János, a former member of the progressive group East."Nostradamus" is a conceptual work dedicated to developing the relationship amongst people and the flow of time. The music follows the co-ordinates of the first phase of the group, although now certain influences from medieval music, blues and jazz can be appreciated. We could add that, in our opinion, the excellent solo album by Kollár Attila, "Musical witchcraft", released two years ago, has influenced the evolution of the Hungarians. The production is very correct, and the booklet artwork is excellent, with detailed information on the theme of the album and the band in general."I. Birth of visions" is the first track of the 3-movement suite titled "Book of prophecies" (20:35). Here the musical patterns of the album are already present: technological keyboards, polyphonic choirs that sing and recite texts in Latin, and flutes closer to Jethro Tull and Focus than to Camel. "II. Book of prophecies", the second movement of the suite, is much longer and develops the initial fragments, with a great presence of choirs, keyboards and powerful guitars. Finally, "III. At the gate of eternity" concludes the suite with acoustic motifs and a more slowed down rhythm."The duel" (7:20) is a dynamic track with many rhythm changes and a great work of the keyboards (with some fragments reminiscent of ELP), the electric guitar and the flute a la Tull. The texts continue to be sung by a choir and are also written in Latin. "The lion's empire" (6:40) is the fifth cut of the album, and contains a repetitive flute fragment directly linked to the fourth track of the aforementioned "Musical witchcraft". The bass work contributes perfectly to the development of the song."Wings of the Phoenix" (5:08) is a powerful cut with a great flute performance that presents medieval influences at some moments. This song is 100% Solaris, with multiple rhythm changes and complex structures from the whole group of instruments, highlighting among them some very progressive keyboards. One of the best tracks of the album. Next, "Ship of darkness" (5:46) carries us into dark atmospheres, due to the choirs, which seem to call for evil. The combination of instruments is excellent again, with an interesting fragment with percussive games towards the end of the song.
Vocals lead "Wargames" (4:28), which also has multitude of effects (machine guns, etc.) and a well done chorus. Tracks 9 and 10 are the suite "The moment of truth" (6:40) which follows the patterns of the album, but with the addition of a saxophone and influences of blues and jazz. The album concludes with the bonus track "Book of prophecies - Radio edit" (3:25), a short version of the central song of the suite that subtitles the album. It is not bad at all, but I do not think it will become a hit single in commercial radios, while if the reason of including it in the album is to be played in progressive radio shows, these will probably prefer to play the complete version of the piece.
"Nostradamus" is a good album which I am sure progressive fans will like, as it contains quality music elaborated by good musicians and a wide range of influences. However, in my opinion, the songs should have been worked out a little more. There are not remarkable differences amongst them and in some moments it seems that the musical discourse gets lost and does not know how to carry on. If you are fans of Solaris, for sure you will like "Nostradamus". In case that you do not know the music of this Hungarian group, I would recommend you to begin with "Marsbéli krónikák".