2001 . :
Solaris' Martian Chronicles is considered one of the classic albums to have come out from behind the Iron Curtain, the band hailing from Hungary, and in hindsight is probably one of the very best progressive rock albums released in the 80s. Solaris plays a style of instrumental symphonic progressive that should be familiar to fans of groups like Camel or Novalis. Flowing, beautiful melodic themes juxtaposed against a definite ability to rock out, without sacrificing either. Each note on the album is pored over and meticulously crafted, creating exquisite melodic themes with little to no improvisation or needless instrumental masturbation. The album also bears significant characteristics indicative of its decade of origin, bordering on the fringe of neo-progressive at points. Rhythmically, the music here is straightforward and uncluttered, sometimes driving rock beats, sometimes more laid back, but nearly always in 4/4 or 3/4 as far as I could tell. The band is melodically impeccable, focusing on creating dramatic, grandiose passages with layered synths, flute and guitar parts. For Solaris, their distinguishing characteristic is their hard edged, "futuristic" feel. Somewhat in line with this theme, all the keyboards are digital, for better or for worse. In this case, I don't mind them. Despite having a neo-ish feel, the band simply kicks ass most of the time, as extraordinary synthesizer parts fuse with aggressive, metallic guitar riffs to great effect. The album opens up with the "Marsbéli Krónikák" suite. Actually, the worst part of the album comes in the first track, as the band uses cheesy "martian" voices over the otherwise cool instrumental part. After that initial misstep, the suite picks up gloriously with an array of utterly gorgeous synthesizer themes. Thankfully, the album does not let down afterwards, as the explosive and energetic "M'ars Poetica" is arguably the best cut on the album, followed by the beautiful flute melodies of "Ha Felszáll a Köd" (If the Fog Ascends), which maintain the winning streak. Solaris is a band characterized by consistently extraordinary melodic sense and a powerful, dramatic approach, holding a high standard throughout the album proper. "Apokalipszis" (Apocalypse) and "Legyõzhetetlen" (Undefeatable) are also overwhelmingly impressive. The two bonus tracks are nice additions, but don't overshadow any of the album work in my opinion. All in all, symphonic fans who would appreciate a harder, more metallic take on their favorite sub-genre would surely enjoy The Martian Chronicles.