Ten Jinn - 2016 - Sisyphus

(52:06; Attitude Recordings / Melodic Revolution Records)

Track list:
1. Sisyphus 26:03
2. Sisyphus [Instrumental] 26:03

John Paul Strauss - lead vocals, keyboards
Mark Wickliffe - drums, bass, vocals
Ken Skoglund - guitars, vocals
Mike Matier - guitars
Stefan Kramer - bass, trombone, strings
Helena Skoglund - backing vocals
Evelyn Haddad - backing vocals

US band Ten Jinn has been an ongoing venture for more than three decades at this point, with the first album appearing back in 1997 and their most recent studio production "Ardis" appearing earlier this year. The album "Sisyphus" is the band's fourth album, and was initially released through Swedish label Attitude Recordings back in 2016. The album has later been made available through US label Melodic Revolution Records.

This is an album that combine a few different aspects of music inside of a progressive rock context, and as a total experience this is a case of an album that comes with a clear orientation towards the symphonic parts of the progressive rock universe. The approach and execution is a rather distinct one though, and an aspect of this album that does set it a little bit apart from the greater majority of artists described in such a manner.  Another slight detail of note here is that this production probably merits a description as an expanded mini-album rather than a regular full length production, as it consists of two versions of one song. One version with vocals and one instrumental version. With the song in question clocking in at a healthy 26 minutes long playtime.

From the very first notes of this song springs to life, just about anyone that listen to this album will get associations towards classical music, with a very distinct classical piano motif being the choice for the opening section here. And it doesn't take all that long before the symphonic aspects of this album unfolds either, and on this occasion this is a landscape explored in full orchestral glory. To the point that orchestral rock might even be a better overall description of this composition, albeit one where the classical symphony orchestra elements arguably have a more dominating role than the rock aspects of it all. True to this tradition we get a creation that ebb and flow, rise and fall, twist and turn and generally come with a liberal amount of alterations and developments, seguing over to delicate piano and vocal passages just as easily as to full blown orchestral sequences and surges. And these are executed in such a splendid manner that it is actually a bit of a surprise that you won't find a classical symphony orchestra credited for their input. Hence quite a bit of keyboards wizardry has been in action here.

Besides drawing in impulses and the legacy of classic era symphonic progressive rock bands to combine with the classical music orientation of this creation, there is one additional impulse that strikes me as being a subtle but defining aspect of this composition. One that may be accidental, but that is a bit of a recurring element anyhow. That aspect is tonal string details and certain melody fragments that to my mind at least comes with a strong and distinct association towards The Beatles. While this is a feature that may well be totally accidental in nature, for me as a listener at least it adds a bit of an innocent 60's charm to the landscapes explored here, which for my impression as a listener function as an efficient contrast to the more striking orchestral elements and the borderline Wagnerian impulses that occur when the orchestral elements and the rock music elements combine their power into dark, majestic constructions.

I also note that the instrumental version of the composition works just as well as the one featuring vocals, which says quite a bit about how well arranged this creation is, with underlying motifs already in place that doesn't require replacing the vocals with additional elements in the instrumental version.

The mix and production required for such an elaborate production to function needs to be impeccable, and that is very much the case for this album. If this is at an audiophile level I can't tell, but at least there's nothing here that strikes me as being out of place or out of balance, and as elaborate as this creation can be that speaks volumes about a good quality craftsmanship that has been applied in this department too.

This mini-album will most likely be a joyful revelation for those with a more passionate interest in symphonic progressive rock in general and a more classical music inspired and oriented take on this tradition in particular. If this is orchestral progressive rock or symphonic progressive rock is a topic open to debate I guess, and much the same is probably be the case for my subjective associations towards The Beatles that I believe is a recurring element throughout this composition. But from my point of view at least, this is one of those albums that should be given a check by those with a general taste and affection for symphonic progressive rock, one of the rare cases of an album I'd rate as being of a superb quality.

Olav "Progmessor" Björnsen, August 2023



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