I approach a new CD by first listening, then studying liner notes, press releases, etc... It should be no surprise that I thought initially that Ego Eimi was a full band of musicians. The sound is that complete and carefully crafted. It was only after the first listen that I discovered that Alexander Skorobogatov is the chief architect of this work. A tip of the hat to him for fooling me into believing that I might see Ego Eimi jamming on a stage somewhere someday.
The Door of Heart is Ego Eimi's third studio album. Stylistically, others have placed him in the Prog-Metal category, which I will not dispute. Even so, I find him more Progressive than Metal. He is frequently compared to Dream Theater's John Petrucci. My tastes being more antiquarian, I compare his works to those of Al DiMeola. No matter what you want to call it, it means excellence.
1. Face Off: 6:31: Nice juxtaposition of acoustic guitar lines with electric guitar lines. Vocal line mixed to be easily audible through the rest of the band - too bad I don't speak the language. Nice guitar solo around 4:40. The vocalist (Alexander Skorobogatov) has a powerful delivery that reminds me of Bob Dylan, with a better ability to carry melody.
2. Extended Mule: 13:19: A re-orchestration of Mule by Deep Purple, by way of the Moody Blues, King Crimson, and Al DiMeola. Alexander sings in English, which allows me to prove that his vocals are well mixed, because I can finally understand him. The guitar solos are fantastic. By minute 5:00 we are well into a jam that is part "Lazy" and part "Race With Devil on Spanish Highway". The trouble with some extended jams, is that the musicians are overly fond of either (a) repeating themselves ad nauseam, or (b) going so far afield from the source material that you forget which piece you are listening to. Ego Eimi steer well clear of both errors, producing an ever evolving soundscape which is worthy of the development section of the last movement of a Beethoven Symphony.
3. Air Abyss Mule: 4:49: The second you write a piece of "programmatical" music, you set the bar high. How do you evoke the atmosphere implied in the title? Ego Eimi rethink Mule from a viewpoint of multiple keyboards, set to space-age synth sounds and piano. You are three minutes into the piece before a reverberating electric guitar has a conversation with an acoustic guitar. The piece, for my taste, ends a little too soon.
4. Detachment: 8:37: (Russian) Having grown up listening to the recordings of Ivan Reberoff and of the Soviet Army Chorus, I expect big basso profundo sounds from my Russian vocalists. Alexander strongly holds up this tradition. He is well supported by the instrumental backing, which this time channels moments from Rush: 2112 without being too imitative.
5. At Millimetre A Year: 4:22: (Russian) The title seems to be a polyglot of French and English, which doesn't matter a whit. A nice piece which may have been intended (by length) to promote airplay.
6. The Door of Heart: 16:20: (Russian) Another piece which reminds me of Al DiMeola. The same kinds of jazz interplay you will find on the Album "Casino" are here in the title track. Again, the composition experiments with the initial thematic material without jumping completely off the rails. By this time, I must say, this is fast becoming a disk I will play frequently for my own pleasure and musical inspiration.
7. Simeon Foreknowledge: 2:28: Dark and mysterious keyboard work, reminding me that foreknowledge can be a dangerous thing...
8. Simeon Said: 11:12: ...followed by an acoustic guitar/vocal opening which is in perfect contrast to the previous dark track. Not to say that we are suddenly cheerful; this is just a guitar version of what came before. I don't know what Simeon is saying, but he is not in a good mood. The work morphs into space music, with synth and electric guitar arguing with each other until the guitar starts a riff (sotto voce) which then takes over the piece. This is then followed by a Gregorian chant-style vocal line which ends the piece. Again, I wanted to hear more.
Aferword: I have failed to mention the excellent contributions of guest keyboardist Ivan Rozmainsky, who holds his own against Alexander's guitar playing. Without him, this set of tunes would be sadly incomplete.
A minor technical quibble: The tracks did not have enough space between them to allow the end of each song to 'breathe'. Instead, it sounded like a badly edited cassette recording trying to beat the "End Of Tape" marker. I may have to rip this and add two or three seconds between each track (with the exception of the Simeons, 7 and 8). This is a personal editing issue which some listeners may completely disagree with.
Reviewed by Greg Amov on June 29th, 2006