This is the debut for Group 309, a Russian old school progressive rock band that is keyboard dominated. Andrey Pishchulov ( keys and vocals) writes all of the music and is accompanied by Igor Inshakov (guitar), Nikita Simonov (bass), Rusian Dzhigkayty (drums) Nikolay Vengrzhanovich (sound producer) and guest drummer Vasily Gorshkov on two songs.
I couldn’t find one shred of info or evidence of this band from their label Mals in Russia so I think it could be that they have been dropped, or just deleted. Not even a mention of them amongst the many other bands Mals has listed. In fact, it was quite difficult to find any info on them at all anywhere except Kinesis (English) and I can’t read anything but English, so here’s what I think about the music.
It begins with acoustic piano and vocals in Russian. Kind of a spoiler right off the bat as the vocals are pretty bad. The keyboards are nice but the production is sub par so all the instruments aren’t always clear nor are they balanced very well. The squeaking of the steel strings on the acoustic guitar really stands out though. We all know those great progressive rock bands that had fine instrumentals, and if it weren’t for the horrible vocals we would have loved it right? Well I am afraid this has the dreaded bad lead vocals all over it. The band starts off sounding the most like mid period Triumvirat ( Illusions on a Double Dimple, Spartacus ). So much so, that you could even call it a clone band. Of course, Triumvirat was heavily influenced by Emerson Lake & Palmer, so you get the idea of the style. It does have a bit more aggressive electric guitar in places in the vein of early Van Halen which begins the descent of bad material on the release. By track 3 ( “Ray of Light”) it has fallen to a very adult contemporary jazz rock sound. It sounds like KC and the Sunshine Band on that cut. Thankfully it climbs back out of that hole quickly. Song 4 (“Clouds”) brings back the acoustic piano and a early Italian progressive rock sound This song is pleasant and might be the best thing on Dreams of Sea. I don’t mind the Russian language at all, it is just the quality of vocals that detracts from the music here. Happily some songs have more of an Italian sound with the vocals if you use your imagination just a tad. They come out of the box at the beginning of song 6 (“What Are You Waiting For”) with heavy guitar but then it sounds like White Snake or Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow or more at Uriah Heep (early).
“There Is No Place For A Dream” (Song 7) begins beautifully and would be my pick as another best song of the disc, again sounding more Italian than Russian from singing and song style . Sadly, the next songs sounds just like the early classic rock band Survivor (Eye of the Tiger) or Van Halen. No doubt they listened to a lot of that radio arena rock as well as the more commercially available prog. They attempt a Aqua Fragile ( excellent PFM sounding Italian band) sound on song 8 ( Five Years Later) that is not bad, and played with lots of vigor. To my ears, this song has the most passion of all. More like this, and it would have been a success. The more angry vocals came across nice too. The last track (“This Belief in Miracles is Naive”) sounds much like Procol Harum, relaxed and pleasant. Again, the guitar work is dull and the bad vocals hardly give it room to breathe.
Overall, I am disappointed in the lack of creativity on this CD. At times it barely passes as progressive rock, old or new school. They do have some stable old school progressive rock influences but often go for a more commercial and Top 40 sound for some reason. Perhaps this is why they no longer exist on the Mal web site. The bulk of the drum beats are mundane, the chord progressions are choked by keyboard dominated compositions, but even the lead guitar parts are safe and plain. This is the problem I had with all but three of the eleven songs so not a good ratio. I just can’t recommend this or find much to support here other than three songs so I’ll leave it up to the reader as to whether they want to listen to Group 309 or not and decide if maybe they like it more than I did.
Reviewed by Lee Henderson on February 17th, 2011