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Lalu - "Atomic Ark" (CD)

Lalu - "Atomic Ark" CD cover image

"Atomic Ark" track listing:

1. Greed
2. War On Animals
3. Tatonka
4. Mirror Prison
5. Deep Blue
6. Bast
7. Momento
8. Follow The Line
9. Slaughtered
10. Revelations

Reviewed by on February 7, 2014

"... it’s hard to get more traditionally prog metal than this."

Let’s get this out of the way first: prog fans have nothing to fear from this record. From the capable hands of bassist Mike LePond (Symphony X), guitarist Simone Mularoni (DGM/Empyrios), drummer Virgil Donati (Planet X/Serious Young Insects), vocalist Martin LeMar (Mekong Delta), and mind of established keyboard scorcher Vivien Lalu, it’s hard to get more traditionally prog metal than this. Add on top of that guest parts from Jordan Rudess (Dream Theater), Peter Wildoer (Darkane/James Labrie), Jens Johansson (Stratovarius), and Marco Sfogli (James Labrie/Creation’s End) and you have a feast for the ears.

Lalu’s first album, “Oniric Metal,” positioned the band well in the prog metal world. Even though that had been back in 2005, Lalu’s follow-up hasn’t lost one ounce of vigor. Most of the songs are molded into a verse/chorus/verse standard format for accessibility, in spite of the too-frequent trend of prog meandering. This actually helps the album out, overall, in light of its tendency to mold the music to the lyrics, allowing it to cover more ground without getting lost.

The sound quality of the keyboards is wonderfully lush, as is the production, on which no individual instrument dominates. The palette of tone colors on display here, especially in songs like “Follow The Line,” “Bast,” and “Momento” is diverse, as well. In “Slaughered,” there is even a bit of a Marco Hietala-esque Nightwish tinge to the chorus. As a bonus, “Tatonka” gives a brief nod to the Final Fantasy VII video game, and specifically to the character Red XIII.

In some songs, the lyrics are none too subtle and often overtly preachy, like “War on Animals,” which spits fire at animal testing for human products. On others, their meanings aren’t immediately obvious, but nevertheless make for a compelling listen. Upon first listen, the songs may also seem to be too short, ending before they even get going at full-steam. However, in repeated listens, only several songs still appear short. The grand track, “Revelations” is a fine attempt to remedy this problem, as its own length spans twenty minutes, fully realizing itself, and is only available on the actual physical album.

The album is well worth a purchase, especially since the proceeds are going to a charity, “ALERTE-SOS” from France, whose mission is to save animal lives. Prog metal for saving animal lives? The combination of feel-good and feel-good just makes for feel-great. Lalu’s third album is already in the works and it looks to be more keyboard-dominated. Pick up “Atomic Ark” for a refreshingly fun and easily listenable experience.

Highs: Fantastic musicianship that doesn’t wander off the map, with cohesive songs.

Lows: Occasionally preachy and short.

Bottom line: An enriching and vigorous follow-up from some elite prog players.

Rated 4 out of 5 skulls
4 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)