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Art Against Agony – Reincarnation Suite Award winner

Art Against Agony
Reincarnation Suite
by Gary Hernandez at 04 September 2021, 9:43 PM

I feel completely unqualified to offer up a review on ART AGAINST AGONY—but I feel that way about all Prog. I mean, Prog is some intimidating shit. At its best, it’s artistic genius made manifest; at its worst, it’s pretentious and over-wrought. The truest measure of its merit, IMHO, is how it makes you feel. The question is: After three or four listenings, does it standup? Because in the first two listenings, all you hear is what you expected to hear. After spinning their latest EP, “Reincarnation Suite” (released August 6, 2021), and after contemplating the accompanying artwork for each song, I have to go with the “artistic genius made manifest.”

We’ll start with their own words: ART AGAINST AGONY is a “contemporary aesthetics applied to music, photography, videography and performance arts. The project is both a band and an international artist collective.” They formed in 2012 in Stuttgart, Germany. Since that time, they have expanded beyond musical endeavors and have ventured into performance art as well as photo and videographic art. Members of the project “wear masks to cover their faces, because the philosophy of ART AGAINST AGONY considers every focus on bodily features as insignificant regarding to the creation of art within the project. Therefore, all members use pseudonyms to cover their names, masks to cover their faces, and costumes to cover their bodies.”

“Reincarnation Suite” is entirely instrumental. Musically, it’s jazz, it’s metal, it’s like Zappa and Fripp had a baby and then left it with DREAM THEATER to raise. Thematically, “Reincarnation Suite” picks up somewhere around where “Shiva Appreciation Society” left off, with some clear Asian religion tendencies (e.g. Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism, etc). The album musically reflects various phases of the reincarnation journey from “Recreate” all the way around back to “Dissolve” where/when presumably the journey begins anew. Along the way there are multiple stops depicting the highs on lows of existence, focusing on the cyclical nature of being. Hence “Differentiate” and “Elaborate” clash with “Condemn” and then emerge into “Rejoice.” From there it is the “Procreate” imperative which later deconstructs into “Dissolve.”

Standout tracks will, of course, vary with the audience. I preferred the heavier tracks like “Rejoice,” “Procreate,” and “Dissolve.” Interestingly, these are also the last three songs on the album, suggesting that there is something in the nature of being, at least in this depiction of it, that becomes more visceral and urgent as it progresses. Regrets? Personally, I could have done without the saxophone (features in “Differentiate”). Call me closed minded, but there is only so far I can hazard on the Prog scale.

“Reincarnation Suite” was my first exploration of the ART AGAINST AGONY space, and I have to say it was time well spent. I do have a lingering appetite for wine, cheese, and figs, but apart from that there are no obvious side effects. I also felt a need to break out some KING CRIMSON “Indiscipline,” but that’s never a bad thing.

Songwriting: 10
Musicianship: 10
Memorability: 6
Production: 10

4 Star Rating

1. Recreate
2. Differentiate
3. Elaborate
4. Condemn
5. Rejoice
6. Procreate
7. Dissolve
The Sorcerer – Guitar, synth
The Machinist – Guitar
The Void – Guitar, synth
The Surgeon – Live piano
The Pun – Drums
The Twin – Bass
The Maximalist – Mridangam
The Maniac – Touch guitar S8 Au8, samples

Featured artists:
Nippy Noya – Percussion
Mars Williams – Saxophone
Mattias IA Eklundh – Guitar
Record Label: Vault Productions


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Edited 27 March 2023

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