Welcome to our last Spotify Friday progressive metal post for 2012 and we’re very pleased to be able to expose our readers to the new album by British multi-instrumentalist, Richard Campbell, a rock opera based on the classic novel Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. Rock operas are not something that you hear much of these days but, honestly, if we can hear more music like the accomplished and sophisticated output that Campbell writes and self-produces, we’d all be much better off for it. Like a lot of artists in these wild, unruly times, Campbell is doing it alone with a few hired vocalists and I’m very thankful that we live in times where an artist with skills and vision can write and produce music as wonderful and sophisticated as Frankenstein.
First off, this is not the most modern or innovative take on progressive rock or metal but that’s not at all the point here. The music here is just glorious and extremely powerful as befits its literary source. This is also Campbell’s second recording based on a literary classic, the first being his take on the legend of Orpheus in 2010. Campbell plays all of the instruments and uses a lot of heavy guitars along with keyboards. From his bio, he’s played a wide variety of roles in various bands from drums, guitar, keyboards and bass in his attempt to, as he puts it, “create a perfect blend of Dream Theater, Queen, Spock’s Beard, Symphony X, Pantera, Elton John, Tool, and ELO.” I guess he can’t sing much though but that’s okay because he’s hired three male singers for the roles of Dr. Frankenstein, The Creature and Captain Robert Walton as well as the evocative Alexandra Martin (formerly of the atmospheric metal band Adastreia) in the role of Elizabeth.
Campbell is a truly great melodic writer and knows how to use the various vocal styles of each of his singers well and has a ton of great, heavy crunch to propel the urgency of such a powerful story. The album begins with a beautiful and somewhat melancholy melody to begin the tale (the melody is reprised to great effect in the next to last song) and does a wonderful job in illustrating the many aspects of this very sad and powerful story. Though Campbell can write in a classic prog metal style (a la Dream Theater), to his credit, one of the best songs on the album is the least heaviest, the beautiful ballad, The Veil, with a gorgeous lamenting vocal duo by Martin and Tamás Csemez (as Frankenstein) and some wonderful, fleet-fingered acoustic guitar and piano from Campbell. Best of all, right after that song, we have Retribution, a knock-out, somewhat rhythmically jarring intense and melodically brilliant piece that leads right into the intense finale.
I can’t overstate it here, but I really, really love this album. This is the album I was hoping that Trent Gardner (of Magellan fame) would have done with his overwraught Leonardo from a few years back. It’s also the kind of music that cries out for a good stage production and would probably knock a typical Broadway theater audience on their asses as they run screaming out the door at the first lick of metal guitar but, really, didn’t Broadway mainstay Andrew Lloyd Webber use prog rock and fusion musicians to great effect on his classic 70’s album Variations? And, given that musical theater is one of the most overtly bombastic art forms, doesn’t it finally make sense to have the power of metallic heaviness added to the mix? Well, who knows, maybe in a few years, we’ll see a top-notch production of one of Campbell’s albums. It would be a wonderful thing to witness, especially for this writer. If you haven’t done so already, you can hear the entire album via the Spotify playlist below and please let us know if you enjoyed it as much as we do.
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