Solar Project - "Force Majeure"
(Musea Records 2004, FGBG 4549.AR)


From Aural Innovations #29 (October 2004)

Though they may borrow the name of their album from a Tangerine Dream release, Germanyís Solar Project approaches its music in a style more reminiscent of Pink Floyd, at times, but with a definite tack towards a more progressive and modern sound. They sound maybe something like the Pink Floyd that might have been had the band continued to work more as a unit than as a Roger Waters outlet after Animals. And also of course if theyíd hired a female lead vocalist.

The opening 6-Ĺ minute track Days of Wrath is definitely a powerhouse, though gives little hint of whatís to come. With a pounding beat and throbbing electronics, it has an almost danceable quality to it, and even features a talkbox solo! Lyrically, it does set the tone for the album, which deals with religious, ecological, and social apocalypses.

The 30-minute epic, Thunderstorm, is the centerpiece of the album, and left me truly breathless. Lyrically, it explores the ravages that mankind has wrought upon the environment by using the metaphor of a thunderstorm. Musically, the strongest Pink Floyd influences can be heard on this track, from the spacey synth, organ and guitar intro through epic Animals style guitar soloing, laidback jazzy passages reminiscent of DSOTM and even some lovely acoustically inclined sections that bring to mind some of the music on Obscured By Clouds. Yet the band brings its own punch and kick to the songs, giving it something original, elevating it above mere Pink Floyd imitation. One of the elements that goes a long way to aiding this is Solar Projectís secret weapon, vocalist Bettina Wirtz.

Now Iíve heard some criticism of Wirtzís vocals. Although she sings in English, it is obviously not her first language, and her accent is quite thick. This bothers some people, but not me. Wirtz has such a powerful, emotive, dynamic, and unique vocal delivery that I would enjoy hearing her sing in any language.

The 20-minute title track is equally impressive. Moving away from the overt Pink Floyd influences, Force Majeure, has a more modern progressive sound. Voice samples underline the theme of the piece, man against man, from the horrors of World War II right up to the tragedy of 9/11. Musically, itís a more rhythmic affair than Thunderstorm, with a recurring piano motif that is eerie and chilling, before the whole piece explodes into a heavier, stunning guitar and synth duel.

The final track, War, moves from a strumming acoustic part which possesses a menacing beauty to it, into a mid-tempo rocker with some great sax, then back to a more acoustic part with added Mellotron, which has a deep, sad, and quite elegiac feel to it. This certainly works with the lyrics, which deal with impending catastrophe and apocalypse.

Solar Project make a powerful musical statement, though lyrically they could be a little stronger, but with there being many long instrumental passages on the album, and Bettina Wirtzís amazing vocals, itís easy to overlook the lyrical inadequacies and enjoy Force Majeure for the truly amazing and epic album that it is.

For more information you can visit the Solar Project web site at: http://www.solarproject.de.
Email at: info@solarproject.de.
Visit the Musea Records web site at: http://www.musearecords.com.

Reviewed by Jeff Fitzgerald


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