1. Why did they make this album? What was the passion or message that forced them to produce what they have? Or, simply what was their motivation for the themes they chose for this album?
Unitopia is the first band from Australia signed to the major European progressive art music label, Inside/Out. They have been signed to a three album deal which began with their sophomore album, the Garden. Artificial is the next act in the unfolding story of the band, with some very big surprises coming down the road.
From the opening cannon – like drum shots of Common Goal, off More Than a Dream, this band signaled to the world that they will not only be unique and dynamic, but they will rock your experience. The Garden, with the support of Inside/Out helped gained the band more exposure and develop a loyal following globally. With the lineage and name recognition now established, Artificial offers the band the opportunity to advance deep into the hearts and minds of progressive art music fans around the globe. To get the full flavor of this band and hear the progression in their dynamic lyrics and music, the listener should purchase the catalog to uncover the full story.
Artificial is the next stage in the delivery of the power and magnitude of the dynamic lyrics and soundscapes envisioned by this prolific band. There is much more to come in the next few years which should solidify in concrete this band’s place in the pantheon of progressive art music as well as their membership in the renaissance of this dynamic genre of music.
2. What message are they delivering through their lyrics and music?
1. Suffocation – That slow quiet opening with keyboard sounds, then chimes, before the thundering roar of massive drums. The experience of a Unitopia album is developed not just from a musician’s perspective but with the full appreciation of creating a unique experience for the listener each time they are in the studio. This song embodies that desire to create a mood and feeling for the music which will follow. Total immersion in the sounds and experience will harvest a bounty of enjoyment. Mark’s vocals stressed and strained and the feeling of being boxed in by the world around him epitomizes the dichotomy of the two worlds which we all now live within. Great start setting the timbre.
2. Artificial World – Those keys are a wonderful memory from the early version of the album I was fortunate enough to hear over a year ago. The drums have always figured prominently on each Unitopia album, and with a new drummer, Jamie Jones, the balance between Mark’s powerful vocals and those drums has been reached. With a vocalist like Mark Trueack, lyrics and the sound of the vocals will always figure prominently. “Centuries passing in the blink of an eye.” “Minds caught in a crossfire of confusion.” “Mixed emotions as you realize that you’re something less than human.” Powerful reflections on a world that is constantly changing and in a direction we seem to have lost control over. “We search the heavens for signs of life, when there’s abundance on earth.”
Then the refrain, “Artificial world, artificial life.” “Superficial face molded by a knife.” A world full of people clamoring to adopt some new way of life or identity or to try to remain the person they once were. “Kids don’t play with each other anymore.” “They live their lives in seclusion.” “Interaction to inactivity.” “Have we reached the same conclusion?” Alienation and getting lost in the world of video games, text messaging, and the other modern media and entertainment that now dominate our lives. “I talk to my friend on the other side of the world, don’t even know my neighbor.” Our artificial world isolates us from the real world around us. The lyrics really set the stage for the drama that will follow throughout the album. “Face to face is not what it once was.” “Have we lost much more than we’ve gained?” Mark’s vocal delivery is urgent and provides the warning we all need.
Musically, this is one of the best songs on the album. A real fire – cracker of a song full of Matt Williams’s wonderful improvisations on the electric guitar, along with Shaun’s fluid bass and Jamie’s consistent drums. Sean’s steady and at times dreamy keys add balance and blend effects that interact well with Mark’s vocals so well. These two really are a great team and you can hear it throughout their music. Sean’s backing vocals also provide good harmonic balance to Mark. The saxophone really adds a warmth and comforting touch to the whole effect. This song is full of so many different sounds and effects it will take many listens to fully appreciate its immensity.
3. Nothing Lasts Forever – The transition between Artificial World and this song is one of my favorites on the album. But then, like the band, I have been a Beatles fan all of my life. All of the memories of the Beatles jump back to life, with the calliope – like sounds of Magical Mystery, the sitar effects, and what sounds like John Lennon’s voice trailing off into the distance. Brought back as a reminder. “Maybe the boys from Liverpool got it right when they said, come together.” “But even the fool on the hill can plainly see nothing lasts forever.” Matt’s guitar meanderings are wonderful as the calliope rolls on in the background. The horn section clearly brings back memories from Sgt. Peppers and the Magical Mystery Tour. They play all of it in such a way that makes it their own. The massive horn and string sections truly bring back all of the great memories we all miss from the power of the music of the past.
4. Not Human Anymore – Another great transition with guitar and cool keyboard/synth effects before Matt’s lead guitar rips open the seam. The drums, keys and that cool bass really drive this song. Set the controls… “The more we fear, the more we hide.” “Are we merely us, or one of them?” “Do we build our future or just condemn?” Mark’s vocals force you to ponder these questions with the force of delivery. “Needles that hide the lines, faces that hide the smiles.” “In keeping an open mind, have we lost part of ourselves?” The sitar sounds and tambourines surround you before a Middle Eastern rhythm builds as Matt’s guitar slices the air and Jamie’s drums blast through. “Aware we’re alive, but not living.” “Why don’t we let our spirit’s soar?” The lyrics and music behind these sections make this of my favorites on this album. Mark’s voice trails off as he states, “have we lost part of ourselves?” The feeling is powerful in all of the vocals and the music supporting.
5. Tesla – The epic on the album and one of the best songs the band has ever written. The slow tick of the clock, the bells, flutes and keys, the slow passage of time along with those slow whimpering strings. Then the power of thunder, lightning and rain, before Ed Unitsky utters some of Tesla’s famous quotes, “like a force of light, in an instant, the truth was revealed.” This band really knows how to immerse you in the full effect of the music. “Oh how I loved her, nothing else mattered.” The choir sounds just pick this song up and blast it over the wall, and then the fun begins. Sean kicks into a Tony Banks – like miracle synthesizer extravaganza! I was so hoping for that on this new album and they delivered. But the drums, bells and guitar are also there in this instrumental assault on the ears. The piano brings back the acoustic sound which is followed by the orchestra and a full on symphony of sound accompanied by clapping and Spanish/Moroccan sounds before the Sean Timms keyboard deck assault rips back center stage. With the table well set, Peter’s sax takes center stage reminding us how important the instrument was in all of our progressive musical beginnings back in the 70s. Mark is back, with his vocals supported well with Pete’s sax and Jamie’s drums and Sean’s synth effects. “Now let me present to you the egg of Columbus.” The band is rolling into a rhythm of instruments with congas, drums, sax, piano, bass and guitar. The sax and piano shine above all as a glamorous jazz sound takes control complete with a samba like rhythm and violins jetting in and out of the mix. The strings and synths support Mark’s vocal assault as the song winds through its many twists and turns like a river. The choir – like “all parts of the whole”, refrain is welcoming all of us to join in. The piano takes back center stage, along with a beautiful flute and Matt’s acoustic guitar and mandolin. “Oh, how I loved her, nothing else mattered.” “Clear was her message.” “Have we missed the opportunity to live forever?” The lyrics on the rest of the song are wonderful. Matt’s guitar magic continues on with the solid support of Jamie’s drums. A very mature and dynamic song for a band now finished with their third album and already working on their fourth.
6. Reflections – “In a time of bitter reflection.” “In self made solitude.” “Have we come too far?” “Have we overshot the mark?” Piano supporting that yanking on the heart strings emotional vocal from Mark that really forces you to reflect upon all that has passed. That Genesis keyboard sound of Sean’s is wonderful in the middle and takes us gently through to the end of the song.
7. The Power of 3 – Heavy strings, keys, piano, cool percussion, a horn section and an orchestra full of wonderful sounds that serves as a bridge between songs. This short, but fully orchestrated song inspired I’m sure by Sean’s many movie and commercial endeavors, hits all the highs and drives the imagination.
8. Rule of Three’s – Cool percussion opening to this one. Then the lead guitar and drums drive before Mark opens, “Do all things come in three?” “Sweet triangular beauty.”
“Soulful symmetry convinces absolutely.” The sax that follows is just wonderful. The guitar and those percussion effects together are just so unique and wonderful. “Nock three times to hear me!” Mark picks it up another notch. Peter’s sax takes us out, along with the surrounding strings.
9. Gone In The Blink of an Eye – The first time I heard this song was just before the time of the passing of Michael Jackson. The timing really left an impression. How fast things can change in our world.
Synths take us into this song, surrounded with voices before the powerful guitar, drums, and bass kick in. “Are you frightened of what the future might hold?” “Are you paralyzed by what some prophet has told?” “You bottle it in, awww, till you’re ready to explode.” “Do you think about the day when it all could be gone in a blink of an eye?” Mark’s vocals sound great as he stretches for the sun to reach full volume. The drums and guitar are solid throughout this song and the backing vocals do a wonderful job of supporting. The sax is back with piano support and a beautiful female voice stretches to the summit. “No premonitions, it’s all completely unknown.” “You can’t de - code the future, there’s no Rosetta Stone.” “Do we all want to live forever?” “Do we all want eternal life?” The guitar and drums really build a great melody and rhythm. The bass and that sax are wonderful. So much here to appreciate.
10. The Great Reward – The closer and my favorite song on the album. Save the best for last. The moral of the story. The end of the journey for now. Slow keys and effects before Mark along with Sean’s piano and keys open the song. “Now it’s time to make a choice.” “Sing along or with one voice in a choir of rescued souls.” “You don’t have to be alone anymore.” “Throw off the ties that bind.” “Break down the barriers.” The memories of the highlights of the Garden re – kindled. “Maybe the time has come to set things right.” “Some things are built to last forever.” “A purpose redefined.” “You found a part of yourself that’s been missing.” The keys and drums walk us up to the next level of the mountain of sound. “Now your destiny awaits!” “And receive the great reward for the sacrifice adored.” The flute, guitar and orchestration lift the spirit and leave the listener replenished and happy for the experience. The end of another great chapter in this band’s evolution.
The next three songs are included in the digi – pack CD set from the band:
11. What Kind of World – Keys and piano along with soft lead guitar open this song, before Mark opens, “I saw the tiny heartbeat, I heard the life alive.” Birth, and the hope it brings of renewal. “There is no iron clad guarantee…that’s it’s not the way it’s supposed to be…” Drums and what sounds like a didgeridoo, along with a kaleidoscope of sounds but this is only the beginning. The fun really begins after the midway point in this song when the band breaks into an instrumental plunge as if over a waterfall. You’ll know it when Matt’s guitar solo, which is very good, ends and Mark roars, “warning bells and battle cries we’re hearing every day…but like the boy who cried wolf, we only hear what we want to hear…” The tempo builds and a drum assault of extraordinary proportions fills the room. Bass and more percussion that the ear can take in fill the room and then you cascade over the falls as Matt’s soaring guitar grabs a hold and launches you over the falls. The keyboard sounds, smashing drums, and guitar are awesome. Mark’s launching vocals, “where does it all end?” Unfortunately the ride ends quickly and you’re back to the slow moving river. But the lyrics inspire and warn us to change our course if we want a different world than the one we are destroying. The piano takes us out.
12. This Time I Think We’ve Got It Right – Slow driving keys and synths that just completely envelope the room and settle you back in your chair. The fan video that is out there on You Tube really brings home the power of this song. This song really is amazing. Captures the power of both the Garden and Artificial in a song. The lyrics are deep and full of meaning. “This time I think we’ve got it right, come and join the journey, but don’t hold on too tight.” A perfect song full of emotion and power yet sung in a quiet contemplative way that relaxes and at the same time stimulates the thought process. The sax, keys and percussion do a wonderful job of surrounding the room with warmth and color.
13. Relative to Me – Bubbling synth keys and soft tempo percussion sounds. When I first heard this last year it was one of my favorites. They only improved it. Mark’s quiet vocals and those soft spacey keys fill every void of space in the room. Great way to ease back and relax and go to “that place you’re in between the dream and awakening.”
3. Does this music improve, change, or add to the genre? What does the listener receive from listening to the music?
This is a full package, so sit back and enjoy what they have produced for you. These are not just musicians after all, they are music lovers. Sean and Mark’s meeting in a record store provided the kindling for the fire they have been inspired to create throughout their catalog. If you could gaze into their personal record collections you’d see they want to produce at the level of sound and quality that they have enjoyed listening to over the years. They produce music that lifts the spirit and leaves the listener with a message that they can take with them after the music finishes. It is lasting music that you can come back to time after time to relive and remember where you were when you first heard it. It is indeed memorable music full of emotion.
The band’s selection of Ed Unitsky as their central artist is a testament to their heartfelt desire to get the most out of the entire experience each time they enter the studio. Like any great production, nothing is missing. Orchestras, incredible lyrics and music grand enough to be adorned with the best art imaginable. Ed’s unique artwork supports and expands the imagination of this music in every way. He is the fourth Unitopian!
4. Does it have longevity? Is it something a fan will like to play again and again?
Yes, there are reminders of the music of the past and hints of what’s yet to come. But they honor the best and push the level of production in this genre far beyond where it was before they released this album. I once told Mark I think this is the Magical Mystery Tour of Australia; I’ll stick with that comparison. But this band and their music stand on the shoulders of that wonderful band from Liverpool to deliver to the world a new symphony and a reminder of the message of hope and that it is never too late to make a change.
Rating: 10 of 10 – Nothing is missing!
Reviewed by Prof on April 30th, 2010