There are some who will try to convince you that all is not well in the world of symphonic progressive rock. They will suggest that it’s a tired genre with nothing new to offer. Well I’m here to tell you, nothing could be further from the truth. Evidence of this fact is born out not only by the sheer number of new releases but also the overall high quality that many of these releases display. If you want proof of this take a listen to the new release from Little Atlas entitled Wanderlust.
If you still haven’t heard of Little Atlas here’s what you need to know. This four piece came together back in 1997 in Miami, Florida. Group members include Steve Katsikas (vocals, keyboards), Rik Bigai (bass), Diego Pocovi (drums) and Roy Strattman (guitars). The quartet is assisted on this release by Bill Ayasse (violin) and Claudia Samiento (cuatro).
Wanderlust marks the third release for Little Atlas and as such shows a band with highly polished musical chops that are extremely capable when it comes to moving in and out of some rather complex arrangements. What’s more the video included on the disc shows just how well Little Atlas translates to a live experience. The seven compositions here seem to have benefited greatly from the rigors of live performance.
Musically the sound here is symphonic prog that is in the same style as bands such as IQ, Spock’s Beard or perhaps Echolyn. However it must be said, for my money the material on Wanderlust is certainly more satisfyingly complex than much of the recent Spock’s Beard. But further to my opening comments you need to rid yourself of the false claim that symphonic prog has little new to offer. It’s just not true. One listen to Little Atlas and you quickly see that while they share the obvious classic influences they don’t really sound like anyone else.
Their sound was clearly established with the last release Surface Serene and here on Wanderlust their sound has matured to one that is all their own. Little Atlas have a way of moving smoothly from one song element to another and even the shorter five minute tracks such as “On and On” or “Mirror of Life” contain a number of changes in time and tempo. The band really gets to show their stuff on the longer tracks however. Beautiful crescendos followed by soft and delicate interludes leading into very humm-able melodies. And just when you think it might be a little too “major-chord-ish” they throw some angular bits at you. It’s actually amazing just how good these guys are. Surprises await behind every corner. Wanderlust is wonderfully crafted, arrangements are loaded with substance, and through it all these are great songs that never lose their way.
If it’s true what they say that, “third times a charm” then this should be the release that does it for Little Atlas. These guys deserve to be big and Wanderlust gets a solid recommendation from me. If you enjoy symphonic prog this must be your next purchase. Without question Wanderlust is destined to be one of my top picks for 2005.
Review by Jerry Lucky
August 31, 2005