The highly acclaimed Swedish group Cross, led by the talented composer and multi-instrumentalist Hansi Cross, has amassed an impressive discography between the years 1988 to the present: "Uncovered Heart" (1988), "Second Movement" (1990), "Changing Poison Into Medicine" (1993), "Dream Realities" (a compilation of material from their first three albums) "Paradox" EP (1995), "Gaze" (1996), "Visionary Fools" (1998), "Secrets" (2000), "Playground" (2004), "The Thrill Of Nothingness" (2009) - and their current release "Wake Up Call" (2012).
Over the years Cross has been through a constant state of evolution, gradually transitioning from the melodic prog/rock styling of Pink Floyd to a darker complex neo-prog style more akin to their Swedish brethren Anekdoten, Landberk, Anglagard, Anima Morte, Morte Macabre, and Sinkadus, as well as King Crimson, Rush, and Echolyn.
But for the new CD "Wake Up Call", the band has seemingly reverse engineered Eddie Jobson's "The Green Album" to create what may well have been the definitive follow-up to that album.
This is their most symphonic work to date, incorporating both electric and acoustic violins with synths for a lush multi-layered string section.
Hansi Cross, whose vocal style has often been compared to Dave Gilmore in past recording, is more reminiscent of Jobson on "Wake Up Call" - as is the pallet of 80s' keyboard patches he and fellow keyboardist Mats Bender employ throughout the disc. This is vintage Zinc, UK and "Drama" era YES.
The textural soundscape of the album is consistent throughout, with the noted exception of the bonus track "Now". The 2001 composition was originally intended for the "Playground" sessions but as a result of the 9/11 incident the band was forced to postpone the recording. Eventually Hansi donated the track to his other band Spektrum - a band highly influenced by 70s' era Genesis - for their 2003 debut album. Fast-forward to the 2011 recording session for "Wake Up Call" when a curious Hansi wondered how the tune would fare with Cross. The end result is an infectious tune with neo-prog elements much closer to IQ or Genesis than anything else on the album. Glad they decided to record it. It's a killer track.
Performers on the disc include the three members of Cross: Hansi Cross (guitars, keyboards, lead and harmony vocals, percussion), Lollo Andersson (basses, Taurus), and Tomas Hjort (drums, percussion), as well as additional guest artists, Jock Millgardh (lead and harmony vocals), Mats Bender (keyboards), Hannah Sundkvist (electric violins), Stefan Damicolas (harmony vocals), Lizette von Panajott (processed female voice), and Sabina Cross (additional violin).
Although the album boasts epic tracks like "Falling Beyond" (11:08), "Waking Up" (17:28) and "Now" (10:02) the tunes don't drag on ad infinitum and over stay their welcome. Each track is chock full of great hook laden melodies, superior musicianship, and excellent production value.
If you - like me - are a fan of the UK albums "Danger Money", "Night After Night", and the self-titled debut, or the Eddie Jobson/Zinc project "The Green Album", then this should be a no brainer. Buy it and enjoy! If not there is no amount of gushing from me that will change your mind. Highly recommended!
Reviewed by Jospeh Shingler on March 15th, 2012