A perfect candidate for Angelo’s Rock Orphanage. That is what Oliver Rüsing delivered under the name Karibow on the album Addicted. There is a tendency amongst progressive (or symphonic) rock fans to dismiss everything that is ‘not prog enough’. As such, the band is missing amongst the list of bands and albums on many prog web sites, despite their bio states that they are influenced by (next to pop) rock and (neo)progressive rock, and they got the German Rock & Pop Award for Best Progressive Band in 2014. Exactly the type of band that led me to come up with the name Rock Orphanage.
Certainly, the prog influences are clear on this album, there is a lot of keyboard/synth work that goes beyond standard pop and rock tunes, even though the average track length of just over 3 minutes (not counting the two 8 1/2 minute tracks) makes it hard to build soundscapes or include many tempo (and time signature) changes. Luckily, Oliver Rüsing is very much aware of this – being one of those musicians that create the music they like (in this case already since 1997), without trying to fit a certain pigeon hole. As he told me himself: those who like AOR are as much an audience for Karibow as those who like progressive rock – with the track The Cry (Radio Edit) on the album as illustration. A radio ready rock track in the vain of perhaps Toto or Survivor, transferred to the 21st century – with vocals that contain a hint of Sting here and there.
16 tracks on a single album is a lot, and I won’t do a track-by-track on such a lot anymore, as it makes reviews a pain to read. Instead, let’s have a look at some highlight. First of all, there is indeed a lot of music on this album that is perhaps only borderline progressive rock, but that doesn’t make it any less enjoyable. Certainly not to those who have a soft spot for bands like Toto, Survivor or even Styx (all in their better days). Tracks like the ballad Primeval, or Place to Be, Always There and Something will not disappoint in that respect.
On top of that, there are more complex and rocky tracks that are certainly part of the progressive rock landscape, with the instrumental F8 Al Ba6 and the varied 9/16 as best examples. For F8 Al Ba6 I wrote in my notes “This is what is all about, a layered instrumental with a keyboard driven tune, nicely supported by the bass and a beautiful lead guitar”. 9/16 is the track that comes closest to what we could call an epic, as it falls apart in different pieces, each with their own characteristics (rocking guitar at the start, keyboard driven melancholic middle…) and tempos. Not to mention a slow, melodic guitar solo.
Also there are small surprises here and there – like the Styx-like keyboard leads in Place to Be and Something, and the keyboard melody that reminds so much of a certain Vangelis track in Always There.
A final word on the production of this album, because after the mix was done by Oliver Rüsing and the mastering by Eroc (former drummer and producer of Grobschnitt). Because the mix is very dense on this album, Eroc tried to find a good balance between dynamics and loudness, and found it by applying mastering settings he had used in the past for mastering Maria Callas albums. That adds a nice anekdote to a fine album, that is certainly worth listening to for AOR fans, and for any rock fan who is in need of good melodies, nice vocals and balanced mix of more and less complex tracks. This one will spin more often in my house for sure.