Fughu [Release date 2013]
Argentinean prog-metal band Fughu don’t do things by halves. Apart from releasing two separate albums as a double album, their complex music also wraps itself round two nightmarish librettos, the full drama of which is emoted by the operatic tenor of Santiago Burgi.
Both albums struggle under the weight of their ambitions and feel as if they are pieces of music that strive to be progressive on the back of a story line routed in impressionism rather than a coherent narrative.
Collectively, the band is apparently influenced by the likes of Iron Maiden, King Crimson, Van Der Graaf Generator, Bowie and Queen, but they have their own unique style as evidenced by ‘Human – The Tales’ which searches through the darkest corners of the human psyche.
Fughu paint a doomy, dystopian landscape populated by a schizoid character brought to life by vocalist Santiagio Burgi, whose quasi metal and operatic vocals bring a feverish, animated feel to the album. His stream of consciousness approach, as on ‘The Human Way’, hovers above music with a prog metal feel, generated by keyboards, horns and a startling moog solo over a stop-start rhythm section.
‘Inertia’ opens with imposing riffs and a dreamy synth section, with emotive operatic vocals and a moog/guitar solo played over doomy descending chords.
‘Dry Fountain’ is more of a languid piece, as the band pay attention to the pacing of the album on a climatic slow burner, before the electronic ‘Twisted Mind’, which uses an imposing wall of sound as a backdrop to Santiago’s impassioned vocals.
I tried hard to follow the story, but the main intention of the lyrics seems to be to create a dark mood and mind set that leaves very little room for any escape from the prevailing darkness. On ‘Goodbye’ the vocalist is in a perpetual battle with the band’s wall of sound, before the piece drops down to a drum pulse and resolves itself on a choral section before it exploding into crunching chords.
Fughu use the old Crimson/Family trick of the quiet to loud dynamics before the nightmarish lyrics of ‘Evil Eyes’ on which keyboard player Marcelo Malmierca and guitarist Ariel Bellizio’s cut loose on an instrumental section that is at times reminiscent of Jethro Tull and Gentle Giant. There’s also some clever studio trickery on ‘Mayhem’ asSantiago’s voice segues seamlessly into a soaring guitar and synths. The final climatic shred from guest guitarist Jeff Kolman and the didgeridoo finale from GEA is a suitable ending to a dense piece work, which in truth only retains your interest because of some nifty playing. ***
‘Human – The Facts’ is a tad more accessible, asSantiagoadopts the role of the narrator/host on the opening ‘Void’. Guest vocalist Damian Wilson impresses on ‘Quirk of Fate’, in his role as Thlot, a character who wrestles with his destiny on a surprising piece of melodic rock. Wilson’s presence seems to galvanise Santiago into his best vocal on ‘The Play’, while on ‘Climb’ the band indulge themselves with a Camel style layered keyboard intro, on a piece that that builds up to a climatic finish on the back of a strong chorus: ‘One tree’s fallen, one grows near it’
But just when the proggy elements appear to dominate another guest vocalist Dario Schmunck (in his role as Otto Climb on ‘Vater’) delivers some cod operatic lines in German!
But the band redress the balance with the Pink Floyd influenced ‘Winter’, which is the best instrumental track on the album. It’s a melodic, almost symphonic piece that splinters into prog rock style time changes and a suitable keyboard finale, while the title track is the big rock finish that an album like this demands.
Both ‘Human – The Tales’ and ‘Human -The Facts’ are predicated on lofty ambitions as they embark on a journey in which the music evokes the nightmarish thoughts of the main character. In that respect it successfully crosses over from soft metal to prog rock with occasional operatic pretensions. The down side isSantiago’s voice which all too rarely brings variety to his phrasing. When he does try and get inside the role of the character, his slightly creepy evocation of the lyrics isn’t something that naturally draws the listener into the music.
Of the two albums, ‘Human-The Facts’ is more coherent and certainly more musical, but as with other overblown concept albums, there is plenty here that could do with a rigorous edit. ***
Review by Pete Feenstra
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Pete Feenstra celebrated his 300th show in October 2019. Pete heads up a five-hour blues rock marathon when “Tuesday is Bluesday” from 19:00 GMT. Listen out also for his interview-based Feature show on Sundays (20:00 GMT)
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