Sprung from the blood, sweat and tears of Rob Reed, founder of welsh progressive-rock band Magenta, Kompendium's debut concept album follows the spirit of all those great progressive rock albums from the 70s without sounding like any of them. Three years in the making, this exquisite album melds the talents of over two dozen artists and ensembles into an incredible album, Beneath The Waves takes on a rare depth, emotion and intensity. Held together by a dynamic vocal performance from Steve Balsamo (Jesus Christ Superstar), the album features a vast breadth of musical talent including: Steve Hackett (Genesis) - Nylon Guitar; Gavin Harrison (Porcupine Tree) - Drums; Nick Beggs (Steve Hackett Band, Kajagoogoo) – Chapman Stick; Troy Donockley (Nightwish, Bad Shepherds) Uilleann Pipes, Whistles; Nick Barrett (Pendragon) - Guitar, Neil Taylor (Tears for Fears, Robbie Williams) - Guitar; Jakko Jackzyk (20th Century Schizoid Band) - Guitar; Francis Dunnery (ex It Bites) - Guitar, John Mitchell (It Bites, Frost*) - Guitar, Mel Collins (King Crimson, Camel) - Sax, BJ Cole (Elton John, David Gilmour) - Pedal Steel Guitar, Chris Fry (Magenta) - Guitar and Christina Booth (Magenta) - Backing Vocals - and introducing the vocal talents of Angharad Bryn in the role of Lily.
Adding to the epic quality of the album are celebrated vocal ensemble Synergy, The English Chamber Choir conducted by Guy Protheroe, the London Session Orchestra conducted by Dave Stewart plus renowned opera singers Rhys Meirion and Shan Cothi.
At the core, Beneath the Waves tells a dark romantic sea-tale based on an early 20th century news item: Connor McGregor is a man broken with grief. His wife Lilly committed suicide shortly after the death of their first child, leaving him with an almost unbearable sense of guilt. Then, during a fishing trip, his ship encounters a storm and sinks. Connor is the only survivor but comes back believing that Lilly has reached out to him during the catastrophe and is longing to be reunited with him. Connor closes himself more and more and takes long strolls on the beach. Eventually, one day, he does not come back....
However, the story is not treated musically as dark and depressing. It is soulful through and through. Taken from various genres, Kompendium adds a splash of opera, celtic, choral, classical, and heavy rock to form their unique progressive rock sound. Instrumentation includes the synergy of Uilleann Pipes, Nylon Guitars, Chapman Stick, Symphonic Strings, Saxophone, Drums, Bass, Electric Guitars, and a variety of Vocals and other instruments.
As if that isn't enough to surely excite prog-rock fans, just wait until placing the DVD-Audio disc into your system. The entire album is spectacular from the first note to the last. Aural ecstasy radiates from all speakers filling the entire soundstage with extraordinary clarity. With so much instrumentation, there is literally no room for any gaps in the surround sound mix. Even during quiet moments with few parts, the placement and spectacular use of ambience never creates any imbalance, nor leads the focus of the listener out of the sweet spot. Dynamics are wide, sound quality is engaging, and nothing feels out of place.
Take a moment to check out the videos, which are really well produced and help define the storyline. These also include some great shots of the musicians performing their parts.
It is rare that I comment about packaging, but this is by far one of the best I have seen. First, the 7" gatefold is a real throw back to the days of 12" albums. Not only is the package substantially larger than the standard digipack, but the 20 page booklet is actually readable and includes lyrics and details about the musicians. I feel as if I am taking a vinyl record out to spin it on the turntable. It truly feels more substantial to hold this larger format package, and I wouldn't mind seeing more releases use this form factor.
The DVD features a hi-res 24/96 5.1 surround mix, a video promo and making of videos. For analog enthusiasts, a 180gm double vinyl version is presented in a gatefold cover with full colour inner sleeves and is cut directly from the 24bit/96 masters.
Kompendium's debut release is a towering success, only offered as a limited edition. Don't miss it.
CD and DVD-Audio, or on double blue Vinyl.
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About the Author
Wesley is a lifelong music enthusiast. He started his career in the recording industry in New York City as an audio engineer, producer, and studio manager. Subsequently he toured across America as a guitarist with the short-lived band Land's Crossing. After many years in the technology sector and amassing a substantial vinyl and CD collection, he delved into immersive audio and created Hi-Res Edition to share with other listeners about the sound quality and discrete mixes available on many formats. He recently upgraded his system to 5.1.4 Dolby Atmos and continues to seek out and share about the best sounding releases.