Ars Nova - "Chrysalis/Force for the Fourth"
(Musea Records 2006, FGBG 4644.AR)
From Aural Innovations #34 (August 2006)
Ars Nova are a female keyboards/bass/drums trio from Japan, with founding member Keiko Kumagai (keyboards) being the mainstay throughout the years and several albums. Their latest album is described as a "sort of" best of live set, consisting of 6 tracks from previous albums recorded live in the studio (no audience), with guitarist Satoshi Handa contributing to 3 tracks. For those unfamiliar with the band, Ars Nova play hard and heavy, fast and furious, keyboard dominated progressive rock. I saw them perform at the Progday festival some years ago and recall chuckling to myself seeing these 3 impish little women coming on stage and stepping up to what seemed like huge instruments, but then blowing the audience away with their command of those instruments. These gals can play, no doubt about it.
The real treat on Chrysalis is hearing the band with a guitarist. Handa's guitar gets buried in the mix a bit when the band is in full swing on the opening track, "Succubus", but I could sense the metallic edge he provides and he steps out for a brief solo. The guitar is much more prominent on "Horla Rising" and "Metamorphose", which are among my favorite tracks of the set, sounding at times like a full blown prog rock version of 70's hard rock á la Uriah Heep, throwing a fair bit of ass kicking heavy rock into the mix. In fact, throughout the album I was struck by this hard rock element, a wild Phantom of the Opera blend of ELP and Uriah Heep, with a dash of the dark film soundtrack nature of Goblin.
The music on Chrysalis/Force for the Fourth is typically in-yer-face and intense, and often downright frenzied, with only the briefest of mellow interludes. And for me that's a good thing because Ars Nova are so clearly in their element when plummeting down that first big roller coaster hill. If you love the kind of prog that critics used to deride as pompous and bombastic, Ars Nova is just the ticket for you.
For more information you can visit the Ars Nova web site at: http://arsnova.chocot.net.
Visit the Musea Records web site at: http://www.musearecords.com.
Reviewed by Jerry Kranitz