Tantalus, Jubal (Hi-Note/Headline Records HDL504) Cyberhome: Hi-Note Music On their album Jubal, six piece symphonic rock group Tantulus offer an appealing package of lush keyboards, expressive guitars, tight ensemble, and emotional vocals. Their sound is not extremely original, combining classic 70's prog ala Yes and Genesis with 80's Marillion-esque neo prog, but the group still manages to create an identifiable sound. Compositionally, they have moments which echo the high points of the aforementioned bands, as well as a few less polished moments. The album has quite a few songs (12, clocking in at over an hour), so I'll examine a few of the highlights. The first piece, "Better Promises," provides a superb introduction to the group's sound, immediately showing off the dual keyboard attack of Max and Gerlinde Hunt, the powerful guitar work of Tim Day, and the strong vocals of Bob Leek. Less apparent is the supportive rhythm section of drummer Damien Slowey and bassist Jason Tilbrook (who still seem to be strong musicians). The keyboards immediately bring to mind Tony Banks key work on The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, punctuated by sharp guitars as Leek's vocals softly but powerfully enter. Beautiful stuff. The superb instrumental "Route Forty-Nine (Part I)" provides an even better showcase for the incredible keyboard and guitar work, while compositionally continually growing in tension and intensity, with a few more pieceful moments. Other highlights include the Genesis-like intro to "Neon City," Leek's acoustic guitar / voice ballad "Peas and Queues," the appropriately mysterious "Night Flight," and well-done epics "Gasp" and "Now's the Time." All of the album's pieces have at least a few good sections, but sometimes Tantulus can't seem to fit parts into a truly unified composition, such as some of the clumsy vocal sections on the otherwise incredible "When You Turn." Elsewhere, certain vocal melodies are repeated way too much ("Dance Me a Song" and the end of "Neon City," most annoyingly). Also, some of the lyrics are a little awkward, but Leek's strong delivery actually makes the actual words easier to ignore. For those of you who like well-done symphonic rock with all the attributes I've mentioned, this release seems like a can't-miss. For others, it may not be enough of a masterpiece to transcend it's genre, but still Jubal merits a look from all prog fans. ~Jon Dharma Murphree~
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