Band Website: www.amarokweb.com
Label: ProgRock Records
Label Website: www.progrockrecords.com
Release Date: 2007
In amongst all the growing genres and sub-genres within the progressive rock realm is one called World-Prog. This is a style that works within the typical progressive rock format but is predominantly more ethnic in nature than rock oriented. With that set-up, I’d like to introduce a band called Amarok and their seventh release entitled Sol de Medianoche. This is a band formed in 1990 by Robert Santamaria, a paleontologist and still the primary composer for the group. He has surrounded himself by a host of musicians incorporating musical styles and instruments from around the world.
The compositions on Sol de Medianoche are mostly multi-part affairs with a dominant acoustic ethnic flavor. Incorporating instruments such as Saz, Kanun, Santur, Dulcimer, Autoharp and Didgeridoo along side the more traditional instruments of guitar, keyboards, bass and drums gives Amarok a very classical inspired folk sound. There are many moments where one traditional instrument or another is given time for a brief solo, be it percussive or stringed. Three of the tracks are over ten-minutes and a couple more are seven or eight minutes giving these compositions lots of room to meander through various musical shifts both in terms of time and tempo as well as mood. But again the structure is less rock and more classical in nature. The sounds of flute, fiddle and dulcimer provide a certain jauntiness, evident in a track like “Hermits” while the CD’s opening song “Sephiroth” tends to me more moody with soft percussion and delicious Mellotron strings in the background. Adding to the ethnic mix is the short (1:13) piece called “Xiongmao” which has a very traditional Chinese sound. Then we go back into something a little more proggy and jazzy in track four called “Wendigo” with some interesting organ, sax and Mellotron all playing off each other. Over all the music of Sol de Medianoche moves softly and slowly in different directions many times with a very acoustic feel giving lots of space. One moment you’ll be listening to some nice Mellotron strings with just a simple percussion supporting it, which then slides effortlessly into a somewhat more jazzy section. Where there are vocals they are provided by Marta Segura and mostly in sung in Spanish.
Sometimes it’s easy to get caught in a rut listening to the same style of music day-in and day-out, after all we each have our favorites. But I think it’s good to look outside that comfort zone. It’s not even necessary that we like everything to the same level. What’s important is that we expose our musical pallet to new and different things. That’s what Amarok does for me. It shows me a completely different side of the progressive genre. If you’ve never heard the music of Amarok, you need to have at least one of their CDs in your collection and Sol de Medianoche is the perfect place to start.