Artension Reviews

Also see: Vitalij Kuprij

From: "Andrew J. Rozsa"
I started writing this as I was listening to "Phoenix Rising." I have no idea how classify the style, since I just don't understand classifications. "Phoenix" is POWERFUL! This formation is comprised of: Vitalij Kuprij (keyboards), Mike Terrana (drums), Roger Staffelbach (guitar), Kevin Chown (bass - he left he group in 1998), and John West (vocals). Kevin on his Web page says: "I think one of the more accurate descriptions of the band's sound is "Deep Purple on steroids".... " Don't know Deep Purple, but this album is giving me goose pimples as I am listening to it. By all accounts it should turn me off, since all tracks have vocals on them and even those (anathema!) synth-choir vocals, but I have been totally taken by this album. In parts it's sheer Kuprij wizardry, in other parts it's just gorgeous, almost melancholic, tunemanship. A couple of the tunes will break your heart, they are so beautiful. And John West has a wonderful voice...just terrific... mellow if he needs be, polished, like a well-trained singer, yet he can growl or go as high as the best rock singers I have ever liked. I have changed my mind about singers and rock!
Yes, it is a keyboard driven band, as one would expect, but on "Phoenix" all the players are brought to the front not only to show us their instrumental virtuosity (which is considerable), but also to bare their souls. The bass will rattle your teeth, the guitar will make you cry, the drums will make you stomp your feet, the singer will enchant you. These guys are absolutely superb. And the last track, a tour de force by Vitalij on the piano will make you smile and say with satisfaction: "Oh, yeah!!" Somebody please tell me whether this is ProgRock or just plain GOOD rock. :-)). Some bloke, on the Web, classifies Artension with Metal bands. So be it. Moreover, if this is Metal, I am suddenly a Metal fan. :-) I am now listening to "Into the Eye of the Storm" and I can say that it is also VERY good. Seems more keyboard-driven, although all the instruments are clearly there for you to enjoy. It has a bit more of a raw feel to it (it was their first, having come out in 1996), but the excellence of the players is evident. Excellent, but clearly by the time "Phoenix" came out the next year, the guys have learned a thing or two. I wish I had listened to "Storm" first and "Phoenix" next. "Storm" is excellent...but "Phoenix" is INCREDIBLE!
Artension's 1999 release (which I will buy as soon as I am done with this post), "Forces Of Nature" has Vitalij Kuprij (Piano & keyboards), John West (Vocals), Shane Gaalaas (Drums), Roger Staffelbach (Lead & rhythm guitars), and John Onder (Bass). It' s almost scary to think that they may have improved since their last ("Phoenix"). Stay tuned. All the albums are available from Shrapnel's site or from your regular CD purveyor. CD Universe has them all for $13.57 a piece, which is less than Shrapnel's $16.00. Go figure. :-)