I have followed the development of the logically named Uzbekistani band Fromuz with interest since buying their first album, the prog-jazz fusion workout Audio Diplomacy, back in 2005. Since then this highly skilled group of musicians have largely left the fusion stylings behind to become the electric symphonic monster that we hear today on this new album.
Sodom and Gomorrah, their fifth album, is as you might surmise from the title, a concept work based around the famous Biblical tale, in which the human race gets its just deserts. Originally written as the soundtrack for a musical production by the Youth Theatre of Uzbekistan by keyboardist and band leader Albert Khalmurzaev, this collaboration rekindles an association with the young thespians that goes back to their debut, the DVD of which was filmed on their stages.
The quiet acoustic guitar beginning to Intro heralds a rather familiar sounding guitar figure that bugged be for weeks, until, with a little help from my mate Phill (ta!), I tracked it down. The riff is a more upfront but almost note-for-note copy of Dave Gilmour's riff at the beginning of Sorrow, the last and best track from the otherwise rather dull Momentary Lapse Of Reason album. I have to admire the blatant cheek, as it is even in the same key! Well, I suppose if Steven Wilson can get away with being...ahem..."inspired" by Floyd on Time Flies, then why not? The now established stadium-sized prog atmospherics are carried through to Prologue and City, the former having an air of foreboding, while the latter tries to remain upbeat, but with a sense of something bad coming round the corner. City expands on a simple but evocative guitar theme, which has now evolved into one of those melodies you might find yourself humming in the shower. The song ends with a sort of Euro-romp that might have sounded cheesy in less capable hands.
Lot begins with an elongated keyboard minor chord as an introduction to a very Gilmour-like liquid guitar solo, before ploughing a trough of Floydian symphonic melancholy in perfect harmony with its doomed subject matter. It is apparent by now that Vitaly Popeloff is in thrall to Mr Gilmour, but that does not stop this being a highly enjoyable instrumental prog album, and unlike so many others these days, it actually contains some memorable melodies.
The video clip above is not the best example of the album, but all I could find on YouTube. Streaming of the whole album is availble by clicking the 10T Records link at the bottom of this article.
The sweeping vistas of a soundtrack give this record a wide open and dreamy feeling, so much so that one is sharply jolted back to Earth by the charging riffing of The Capture, Vitaly contributing another soaring solo in the middle section.
Albert has shown here that he is a very good arranger as well as composer, and although this is his project, the instrumental top billing throughout goes to guitarist Vitaly, whose sometimes derivative but always dexterous and melodic style fits the fast changing scenery perfectly.
Each distinctive part of the album forms a far greater whole, and although it may have been tempting to make this work a single fifty two minute long track to appease the easily led long track addict, Albert has sensibly edited it into far more agreeable bite size chunks, again showing no little skill in the process.
Listening to Andrei Mara-Novik’s bass parts, especially on The Orgy, a suitably frantically paced roustabout, it is clear that he is a fan of the Tree’s diminutive four (or five) stringer Colin Edwin. More riffs from the past appear in Folly or Mob, introduced on the back of what sounds like syncopated heavy breathing. Thankfully, this time the familiar melody was instantly recalled by my misfiring neurons as being similar to Don’t Fall by early UK indie legends The Chameleons, although it may well have been adapted by them in their turn from something else. There is nothing new under the sun where melodies are concerned, after all. The tune eventually morphs into something Big Country might have played out, which makes a nice change from worshipping Genesis and Yes, as is the wont for a lot of bands these days. This track has become my favourite on the album as it has bags of attitude and ventures into unexpected territories. The laughter, vocalisations, and heavy breathing work fine, too.
As the album progresses the sounds become darker, denser, and the pace slows, as you would expect given the story it narrates. This has the minor effect of making the album lose a little focus in last third, but listened to in context it all makes perfect sense. These dark atmospherics supplied by Albert and Evgeniy Popeloff (son of Vitaly) on dual keyboards are added to by the latter’s displaced and distant vocalisations.
The riff theme returns in Procession Of Dead Stars and continues through The Escape, as the album heads off for climax and destruction with To The Flames. The Biblical smiting and smoting is not achieved by ham-fisted metal-mania, as lesser musicians may have predictably wrung out, but by a chilling horror movie ambience, including an eerie sample of Marilyn Monroe’s famous line “I wanna be loved by you”. This last track would not sound out of place on a Fantomas album, and is so far removed from the obvious prog influences, some of which have appeared on the record anyway, that it provokes a wry smile from this scribbler.
All in all, a thoroughly enjoyable listen from this ever-evolving band. However if I may offer a few words of advice for the future - try to keep away from the swag bag of plundered riffs!
1. Intro (3:12)
2. Prologue (3:24)
3. City (2:06)
4. Lot (4:54)
5. The Capture (3:32)
6. Black Feast I (2:48)
7. The Orgy (4:17)
8. Folly or Mob (6:44)
9. The Blindness/Wife’s Prayer (5:07)
10. Black Wedding (4:07)
11. Black Feast II (3:42)
12. Procession Of Dead Stars (2:52)
13. The Escape (2:10)
14. To The Flames (3:41)
Total running time - 52:44
Vitaly Popeloff - guitars
Albert Khalmurzaev - keyboards, guitars, vocals, harmonica
Vladimir Badirov - drums
Andrey Mara-Novik - bass
Evgeiny Popeloff - keyboards, vocals
Get it at 10T Records
Footnote: Al tells me that in actual fact this album was recorded several years ago, which explains the original line-up present on this recording. The original recording has been remixed and remastered for this 10T Records release.