Greece is considered by most to be the cradle of Western civilization and the birthplace of Democracy.
For me the colorful history of ancient Greece conjures up the heroic tales of Homer's “The Iliad” and “The Odyssey”; the Battle of Thermopylae and the valiant 300 Spartans who fought the mighty Persian Army to the last man; the motion picture “Jason and the Argonauts” and the mythological creatures brought to life by the special effects artistry of stop motion animator Ray Harryhausen; and that delicious Grecian fast food favorite … Gyros. Throughout history Greece has been at the forefront of Western philosophy, sports (the birthplace of The Olympic games), literature, politics, science, mathematics, and theater. But progressive rock is not a musical genre I'd even consider being part of the Greek culture.
Other than the legendary keyboardist Vangelis Odysseas Papathanassiou of the short-lived band Aphrodite's Child, as well as composer of countless film scores including “Chariots Of Fire” and “Blade Runner”, a string of electronic synth albums between 1975 and 1979 (Heaven And Hell, Albedo 0.39, Spiral, Beauboug, and China) and a series of collaborative projects with Jon Anderson of YES (Short Stories, The Friends Of Mr. Cairo, Private Collection and Page Of Life), I'd be hard pressed to think of another progressive Greek group. (With the exception of MK-O which I also reviewed here at Prognaut a while back.) Yet a quick glance through Greg Walker's Syn-Phonic catalog lists at least 20 progressive artists hailing from Greece. So they do have a seat at the table.
Well add to that list the talented artist Spyros Charmanis. Spyros Charmanis is an incredible multi-instrumentalist currently residing in Patras, Greece.
Born in Volos, Greece on the 25th of September in 1984, he began his musical training at the tender age of 9 on the recorder before moving on to the oboe. It was during this period of time that Charmanis performed as part of the Youth Orchestra of Volos and local school choir. As he approached adolescence his interest moved from the woodwinds of classical music to the traditional arsenal of rock & roll - drums, guitar, and bass. Throughout college he bounced around performing with a variety of cover bands in the capacity of drummer or bassist, and singing material from the songbook of artists like The Beatles and Simon and Garfunkel. He eventually re-channeled his energy into musical composition. After assembling enough inexpensive recording equipment to create a workable home studio, Charmanis produced a well received DIY debut album “Just Another Story” in 2010.
After working for a spell as a Physician's secretary Charmanis acquired enough cash to modernize his home studio. The end result is the ambitious 2012 sophomore follow-up “Wound”, a sophisticated concept album which Charmanis describes as a character's journey of good intentions, bad decisions, emotional fracture, and eventual resolution.
And for the record … his investment in new recording equipment paid off in spades. The production value in this DIY recording is flawless.
Charmanis' musical approach is more akin to US progressive rock artists than their European counterparts. Normally I'd use one of the Big Five bands like Genesis, or British neo-revivalists as a point of reference for comparison, but the music on “Wound” has more in common with US groups like Echolyn (his vocals are reminiscent of Brett Kull), O.S.I., Somnambulist, Chroma Key, or Neal Morse era Spock's Beard. In fact there are a lot of similarities between Spock's Beard concept album “Snow” and “Wound”. Echoes of Porcupine Tree, Pain Of Salvation and RPWL can be detected throughout the compositions as well.
Everything about the track “The Great Outdoors” screams ... ECHOLYN … lead vocals, multi-part harmonies, to the actual construction of the tune. Were Echolyn to re-record the tune it would sound 'exactly' like this.
I was pleasantly surprised to discover Charmanis' instrumental ... as well as vocal prowess are top notch. Too often I've been let down by sub-par vocals from a multi-instrumentalist who assumes complete control over his project. Charmanis excels at both, as well as composing remarkably textured cinematic arrangements and slick multi-layered production.
Charmanis seamlessly transitions from intricate energetic outbursts of controlled chaos to dark dramatic passages of brooding melancholy. And does so masterfully. This is great stuff for progressive music lovers. No complaints here.
The musicians on “Wound” include Spyros Charmanis (vocals, guitar, bass, keyboards, drums, samples), Dimitris Tsoukas (darbuka, davul, bendir), Melina Kyritsi (vocals), Sofia Nassiou (vocals), Theodore Papadimitriou (cello), and Nikolas Sideris (piano).
Charmanis' only failing is in the packaging of “Wound”. The 'faded red lettering on black' color scheme and minuscule print makes his 16 page booklet impossible to read without the aide of a high powered magnifying glass. Which is quite a shame - having a 16-page booklet printed up isn't cheap. Since this is a concept album, and lyrics are provided in the booklet, it would be nice to follow along with legible print. And it doesn't make much sense to acknowledged guest musicians and those who helped on the booklet if their names are indecipherable. Hopefully I've gotten the names of the guest musicians correct in my review.
Concept albums are meant to be listened to in their entirety rather than sifting through for catchy tracks that might strike your fancy – so I like to review a concept album as a complete work. And with that in mind I'd have to say there isn't a weak moment on the disc. Each track transitions into the next with a consistency of high quality throughout. This is no diamond in the rough … it's a polished precious stone. No lame “Who Dunnit” like on the Genesis album “Abacab” to be found on “Wound”. Just great progressive music start to finish.
Highly recommended for fans of groups like Echolyn, Spocks's Beard, Dream Theater, Porcupine Tree, Pink Floyd, RPWL and a host of other well respected groups.
Reviewed by Joseph Shingler on March 30th, 2013