Priam 3 distances / irregular signs (Musea, 1998)
Priam, a French instrumental quartet named after the King of Troy in the Greek legend of that city's fall, plays melodic prog rock with ethereal synth breaks. The songs on 3 distances / irregular signs are arranged into three suites, each with three parts.
Soaring guitar melodies move seamlessly into melodic solos and back to composed figures, dominating the languid, occasionally melodramatic prog rock. The guitar almost exclusively takes a forefront role, playing single note melodic lines mixed above the other instruments - there is little traditional rhythm guitar or chording. In a soft contrast to the drive of the prog jams, eerie background synth passages or muted clean guitar often chatter for several minutes as the lead guitar and keyboards slowly build into the next song. The classical guitar interlude of "signs beyond the euphrates" provides a similar contrast as the synth breaks, but with a more natural feel.
The soaring guitar passages give the music a cinematic or epic feel that occasionally borders on ponderous, due to the constant use of this lead style. Priam keeps their instrumental prog rock fresh by not cycling the same verse/chorus patterns endlessly. They repeat key themes two or three times in a song, but the individual themes are often developed at a slow rate and lack a memorable character to differentiate them from each other.
The guitar assumes a large burden with the forefront melodic role, and the playing meets this challenge very well. The drumming solidly backs the rock sections but lacks a subtle touch that would much better compliment the mellow passages.
Priam's 3 distances / irregular signs entertains but rarely ascends above a background listening level due to the similar sound and unremarkable melodies.
Reviewed by Scott Andrews [sha3u@Virginia.edu]. Lineup:
chris casagrande: guitars
laurent lacombe-colomb: keyboards
bertrand hulin-bertaud: bass
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