"A Rock Opera" is the collaborative effort of two talented multi-media artists, musician Steve Brockmann and writer/lyricist George Andrade, as well as a talented ensemble of guest musicians and performers working under the moniker Airs - including two members of Spock's Beard (Alan Morse and Dave Meros).
Steve Brockmann is a music composer, arranger, producer, and multi-instrumentalist who has played an active role in Northern Germany’s music scene since the early 1980s. He has played support gigs for such heavy metal legends as Uriah Heep and space rockers Hawkwind.
George Andrade has just as impressive a list of credentials including: published author, lyricist and Executive Producer for the progressive metal band The ANABASIS (10T Records). He has written adult and children’s fiction, provides critical readings for screenplays, reviews novels for HorrorNews.net and is a freelance editor. He also wrote, produced and directed the short film "Supports’ which won RI Cable Award for "Best Entertainment/Variety".
Together the pair have created an ambitious thought provoking prog/metal concept album grounded in reality unlike the fanciful fables and incoherent psychobabble that tends to permeate most multi-disc progressive rock projects.
"A Rock Opera" is an emotional tale of guilt, remorse, and redemption from a man who ran through a stop sign after passing out from a combination of anti-depressants and alcohol, running down an eight year old girl and paralyzing her from the waist down. A tale not unlike the melancholy Genesis hit-and-run ballad "Dreaming While You Sleep". But unlike the Genesis tune in which the driver escapes without capture yet is haunted by the memory of the incident; Owen, the protagonist of "A Rock Opera" pays the penalty for his crime, spending six years in prison, bankrupting the family business, and causing ill health (and eventual death) upon his father. But with all odds against him - his life becomes a heartfelt pilgrimage of redemption.
The music on the disc encompasses everything from 80s' arena rock ballads, to heavy metal prog, neo/prog, and even a little good old fashion Gospel as on the tune "The Great Salt Pond". Noticeable influences include: Dream Theater, Queensryche, Kansas, Styx, Tony Bank's Bankstatement, Spock's Beard, Opeth, Pink Floyd, Enchant, Magnum, Shadow Gallery, Royal Hunt, YES, Symphony X, John Payne's Asia, Rush, Pallas and Arena to name a few.
The line-up includes: Steve Brockmann – guitars, bass, keyboards, Jochen Ohl – drums, Dave Meros – bass, Alan Morse – guitar effects and solos, Christoph "Luppi" Brockmann – bass, Phil Robertson – drums, Paul Adrian Villarreal – vocals, Gordon Tittsworth – vocals, Tilman Eckelt – vocals, Cornelius Kappabani – vocals, Jan Hoving – vocals, Floor Kraaijvanger – vocals, Antila Thomsen – vocals, Seann Jackson – dialog, and Tony Kost – dialog.
There are many stand-out vocal tracks on the CD - my preference being tracks with vocalist Paul Adrian Villarreal ("Fateful Days) and (Owen") whose style smacks of Kansas frontman Steve Walsh or Alistair Gordon (vocalist on Tony Banks one-off project "Bankstatement") . Another stand-out track features vocalist Jan Hoving - the tune "Annabelle" is a great rock and roll anthem with an exceptional hook. I was reminded of Geoff Tate and the American progressive metal band Queensryche on tracks like "Grounded", "Current Events", "Experiments", "Grounded II" featuring vocalist Gordon Tittsworth. There was a real cinematic "Project Mindcrime I & II" element in the tunes featuring Tittsworth's vocal work.
"A Rock Opera" also features three exceptional instrumental tracks that deserve special notice: "History" combining medieval textured Renaissance music with 21st Century rock, "Floating" which ventures into classic Alan Parson's Project territory, and "Kites II" a guitar driven head turner that mirrors elements of 80s' instrumental guitar heroes like Vinnie Moore, Tony MacAlpine and Joe Satrinani.
"A Rock Opera" ranks right up there with solid theatrical concept albums like "Quadrophenia" from The Who, Queensryche's "Project Mindcrime I & II", the excellent but seldom mentioned two disc wonder "Snow" from Spock's Beard, "Metropolis Part II: Scenes From A Memory" from Dream Theater, and the exceptional concept album "The?Book" from Seven Steps To The Green Door Doors.
Airs - "A Rock Opera" is highly recommended and well worth a listen.
Reviewed by Joseph Shingler on August 7th, 2012