Residuos Mentales – A Temporary State of Bliss (2023)

Residuos Mentales - A Temporary State of Bliss (2023)
Artist: Residuos Mentales
Album: A Temporary State of Bliss
Genre: Progressive Rock, Symphonic Prog
Label: OOB Records
Year Of Release: 2023
Quality: FLAC (tracks)

Tracklist:
1. The Stuff of Dreams (17:02)
2. The Missing Part (5:35)
3. A Series of Self-Correcting Errors (12:03)
4. Impending Catastrophe (9:12)

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Personnel:
– Alexandros Mantas / electric & acoustic guitars, flute, bass
– Stratos Morianos / keyboards, synthesizers

With:
– Dimitris Radis / electric & acoustic guitars, bass
– Yiannis Iliakis / drums & percussion
– Leonidas Sarantopoulos / saxophone, flute (3)
– George Karayiannis / guitar (3)
– Vaggelis Katsarelis / trumpet (2)
– Maria Tseva / vocals (1)

Residuos Mentales is a studio-based instrumental progressive rock project from Athens, Greece, formed by Stratos Morianos (on keyboards) and Alexandros Mantas (on guitars and flute) in 2012. A Temporary State of Bliss is their second release (their debut album was ‘Introspection‘ back in 2018) and were it not for Epic Prog Rock Radio DJ Bob Prigmore giving it generous airplay towards the end of 2023 on his show, it might well have flown under my radar (as so many worthy releases on Bandcamp can do).

I am so pleased that I discovered this glorious musical endeavour, because not only has it turned out to be one of my top albums of 2023, but over the last few months it has significantly grown further in stature and regard with repeated plays. As a result, I felt that a full review was needed at the start of this year to spread the word within the prog rock community of this sparkling jewel.

This is modern instrumental progressive rock of the highest order. Influenced by the classic era bands such as ‘Camel’, ‘Yes’, ‘Genesis’, ‘Pink Floyd’, ‘Gentle Giant’ and ‘King Crimson’ – but it has a fresh, vibrant and contemporary sound which takes in heavier and prog-metal influences to create truly cinematic and panoramic soundscapes, along with Greek influences from their homeland.

There is no doubt that a lyrical content to progressive rock does provide a compositional structure which the instrumentation may not be able to do on its own. As a result, many instrumental releases can be long, drawn-out affairs which lack variety and depth once the key themes are rendered. Keeping the music complex and ever changing can avoid this, but then there is a danger of the music becoming merely technical and virtuoso grandstanding, lacking continuity and emotion. Residuous Mentales have successfully avoided both these pitfalls with A Temporary State of Bliss, producing an album full of epic themes, unexpected twists and turns, and, quality musicianship, without sacrificing the emotional heft that the music can deliver.

By 2016 Alexandros and Stratos (who is also a member of the acclaimed Greek prog band ‘Verbal Delirium’) had composed enough material for 3 full albums, but it was the more recent output that comprised their Introspection debut album. The material on A Temporary State of Bliss, pre-dates that, but has gone through significant changes in the studio, led by producers Vangelis Spanakakis and Dimitris Radis, and then revised and adjusted over the extended lockdowns of the Covid pandemic. In fact, Dimitris has contributed guitars and bass to the final album, whilst Yiannis Iliakis (from the Greek prog rock band ‘Ciccada’) has supplied the dynamic drums and percussion that embolden the whole album. Other guest musicians add their sparkle here and there, to create a very cohesive and exciting release.

A Temporary State of Bliss starts wonderfully with the first, and longest, of the two epics on the album, called The Stuff of Dreams. Sub-divided into seven sections, each with a distinctive musical character, this 17-minute tour-de-force is never allowed to drift along aimlessly, as many such extended instrumental tracks can do at times. It begins atmospherically enough with the soothing sound of repeating, futuristic, ‘Vangelis’-like synth patterns, supported by resonating bass synths, as a simple, melodic guitar-led pattern slowly develops. The music then builds majestically with a rich flurry of keyboards from Stratos, before the tempo quickens with strummed acoustic guitar, accompanied by soaring and exuberant, multi-layered keyboards and dynamic drumming from Yiannis.

The subsequent interplay between guitar and keyboards is a joy to behold, with soaring and sweeping electric guitar soloing and keyboards flights of fancy, but with shifts in tempo throughout. Stabs of piano, rich bass and percussive excursions maintain the variety, producing a sound at times bright and uplifting, and then dreamy and blissful – all held together with intriguing musical transitions and a myriad of twists and turns. While the influence of classic 70s prog is undoubtedly there, especially early ‘Camel’ (I also picked up hints of classic ‘Mike Oldfield’ midway amongst other musical echoes), it is all directed through a more contemporary lens, keeping the music fresh, vibrant and delightfully unpredictable.

The track takes on a much darker character later on, as some dense guitar riffing and eerie solo notes, combine with a creeping bass guitar, nervy, discordant piano and ticking percussive sounds conjuring up unsettling ‘Red’-era King Crimson atmospherics. The nightmarish trip to Hades and back is cemented by haunting vocals from Maria Tseva intertwining with dynamic synths. The manic intensity and pace build and shifts back and forth, following Dimitris’s Rush-like guitar soloing, but there is still time for Alexandros to deliver a soothing, closing Floydian guitar solo to bring us out of the darkness. The pace doesn’t drop though, and the track gallops towards a satisfying fade out with spritely drums, a repeating guitar pattern and lush piano and keyboards. Simply marvellous!

The Missing Part provides a welcome lull in the musical ensemble intensity but is equally impressive, despite it being the shortest track on the album at under 6 minutes). Stately piano from Stratos and a melodic, fluid and yearning electric guitar create real magic over the background wash of keyboards. The spirit of Andy Latimer resonates, before a beautiful, haunting trumpet solo from Vaggelis Katsarelis (written by Stratos), brings a late-night jazz feel to proceedings, as modal piano chords anchor the music firmly. However, just when you think the track has peaked, Alexandros delivers a simply stunning, melancholic and deeply personal guitar solo to melt your heart, before the pace quickens and trumpet and piano sign off this little musical gem. The song title remained the same throughout the relatively quick compositional period and refers, according to Alexandros, to the missing parts of our lives.

A Series of Self-Correcting Errors might be shorter than the opening epic by 5 minutes, but it is another stunningly diverse, ambitious and exhilarating instrumental that never rests on its thematic laurels for too long. Originally titled ‘Void, Prog and There Again’, Stratos, along with Alexandros, shaped the musical journey over nine months and the composition was driven by the need to make each specific part as interesting to listen to as possible. Their thinking was: “If this song would come on the radio, would you reach for the knob and change the station? If the answer was yes, we would scrap it and come up with something else!”

Gentle, slightly off-kilter, acoustic guitar playing is joined by a layering of electric guitar and piano, with string-like synthesisers building up tension, but nothing quite prepares you with the sudden explosion of raucous, swirling and devilish electric guitar over a bustling bass and drum rhythm (echoes of ‘Rush’ and specifically ‘La Villa Strangiato’ for sure). The music takes a smoother course temporarily, but the dynamic beat still maintains the frantic intensity, with more complex guitar and keyboard interplay, before the prog-metal power returns and the twinkling, descending piano and keyboards take us down the proverbial rabbit hole to places unknown.

The music becomes more serene and pastoral in nature for a time, flowing beautifully – propelled by dreamy synthesiser sounds and an effortlessly smooth guitar solo from Alexandros over luscious Mellotron-like chords. Things seem reconciled and at peace, but then a subtle but more menacing tones begins to pervade the soundscape and we are propelled back into full-on, dynamic and wild section full of driving drums, ethereal flute sounds (from Leonidas Sarantopoulos), powerful guitar shredding complexity from George Karayiannis, and a wickedly catchy, funky Hammond organ that ‘Keith Emerson’ would have been proud of.

After some musical stops and starts the final section is heralded by a wonderfully dark and dirty bass rhythm from Dimitris that provides the impetus for the driving beat and the subsequent urgency and cinematic sweep the track delivers, with Dimitris also behind the expansion guitar solo that closes this stunning epic.

The album closes impressively with Impending Catastrophe and takes us on a voyage from calmer waters to impending doom in only 9 minutes. It begins with tranquil, twinkling nursery-like keyboards, over lush background chords and serene flute notes, and the sense of innocent serenity is emphasised by soft acoustic guitar patterns. However, the introduction of ‘Spock’s Beard’-style keyboards, resonating guitar patterns and some punchy brass instrument programming provides a drive and sway to the music – with a darker tone set by more prog-metal guitar riffs. Suddenly, we are in a full-blown ‘proggy’ extravaganza of melodic guitar soloing and delicious flurries of keyboards to savour fully. It would have been an easy option to have prolonged this charming section further, but the track’s tempo eases, and a rich church organ sound permeates the music prior to the introduction of dreamy chiming bell notes.

There is a mid-way majestic rise in intensity followed by a galloping sense of threat, and even an interim moment of tranquillity produced by the expressive flute, melodic piano and evocative keyboard chords cannot hold back the impending catastrophe to come. Orchestral-like sounds shape the symphonic prog splendour typified by Stratos’s rich ‘Six Wives’ ‘Rick Wakeman’-like keyboards accompanying the rising drum tempo, before the final diminution and eulogy of the final church organ notes. The dramatic atmosphere seems to hang in the air as album finally closes.

Over 4 tracks, and a total running time of 44 minutes, the album is perfect for listening to in one sitting, and never feels like it overstays its welcome at any time. If intelligent and modern instrumental progressive rock appeals to you, A Temporary State of Bliss will not disappoint. Classic era prog and symphonic rock themes mingle with more contemporary influences, including touches of prog metal, jazz, Greek folk and even a hint of funk, with the music constantly weaving and displaying stylistic shifts, but without losing its dynamism, emotional content and unique identity. Highly recommended!
~ progradar

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