Cross have been described as a ‘neo-prog’ band from Sweden, headed by multi-instrumentalist, Hansi Cross, which have been going since 1988, although this is the first time I have heard the band. The working title for their latest album was X as it is their tenth album, but this was changed to Da Capo as it is essentially an album of old songs that the band have re-recorded.
Reviewing albums for The Progressive Aspect is an interesting role in which there are times when one is given the opportunity to hear favourite artists’ new material and give one’s thoughts. There are other times when one volunteers for artists one has not heard before or have not previously appreciated, which can be more challenging but has usually been rewarding as the process of reviewing should impel more thorough listening to do justice to the efforts and art of the artists. I have grown to love albums this way that upon first listening left me rather perplexed or unmoved. In short I am underlining that I always try to give an album a fair crack, and never seek to be too negative or disrespectful of the artist producing the music. Therefore, it almost pains me to say that this was an album which simply completely failed to hit the target for me in any way.
The press release informs us that this is an album of songs originally recorded in the period 1990 – 93, which was a surprise to me as it sounds more like the early 80’s in style and production. The album commences clearly with some ambition in an attempt for a rousing anthemic piece called Fire. Sadly, I would have to say that the attempt at grandeur fails, undermined by a ‘parping’ and, from my perspective, irritating and plodding keyboard sound straight out of the 80’s. The lyrics are simplistic, but reach greater depths later. The song does reach a more impressive finale with some good guitar playing over a keyboard backing, but ultimately it lacks real fire and passion. Following track Dream Reality opens again with that now familiar signature 80’s keyboard fanfare, and plods along without really engaging my interest. There is a slower and quieter ‘bridge’ section with Steve Howe-esque slide guitar sounds, but the song soon returns to the earlier keyboard strains, before Cross climax with some squealing guitars. There appears little drama or flow to the song, which does have the feel of bits being stuck together, and the reality is less dream and more nightmare.
The mid-point of the album has the promisingly titled instrumental Changing. Sadly, for this reviewer there’s no sign of any change in the direction or quality of this album, with yet more parping 80’s keyboards very reminiscent of the opening track. Visions follows and we are treated once again to the same dated keyboard sounds, indicating the vision here is very much in hindsight and back a few decades. The finale of the album is the obligatory epic Courage which continues to highlight the lacklustre vocals. However, with lines such as:
“Claiming Corroboration, By Demanding Adoration”
it is easy to understand why it may be difficult investing such lyricism with much emotion or passion. The track does become mildly more interesting with a darker section, evoking a sense of Hammer Horror, and possibly the best part of the album is the more jaunty acoustic section commencing with the line “No more silence…”. However, it is far too little too late for this reviewer, and when the album concludes with the unfortunate words:
“We keep on moving on and on… and on”
One cannot help thinking ‘I know the feeling‘!
Renowned Prog podcaster David Elliott from The European Perspective once politely said of an album which had not impressed him “It’s not aimed at me”. Perhaps that is a sentiment I should echo here, but I am wondering at whom the album is aimed in general. It is definitely not ‘progressive’ or challenging at all in style or ambition, and does not seek to break new ground. This is an album that is played relatively well and clearly originates from and harks back to an era 25 years ago and more. There are some fine bands out there drawing on or continuing that neo-prog style, but in my view this album completely lacks the imagination, emotion and power of many of those bands… and I return to my thought – who is this aimed at?
In all honesty, I have heard no other albums by Cross. This album may not be representative of their material and is simply an album of re-recorded old songs that no longer represent their music. Sadly, it has certainly put me off wanting to hear anymore albums by this band.
01. Fire (13:55)
02. Dream Reality (9:02)
03. Changing (1:36)
04. Visions (7:07)
05. Courage (14:21)
Hansi Cross – Guitars, Vocal, Keyboards
Thomas Christensen – Bass, Taurus Pedals
Tomas Hjort – Drums, Percussion
Mats Bender – Keyboards
Year of Release: 2014
Record Label: Progress Records
Uncovered Heart (1988)
Second Movement (1990)
III – Changing Poison into Medicine (1993)
Paradox [EP] (1995)
Visionary Fools (1998)
The Thrill of Nothingness (2009)
Wake Up call (2012)
Da Capo (2014)