AIRS – A Rock Opera

Although ‘progressive rock’ nowadays tends to clutch onto many sounds and styles of the past, the concept of the ‘rock opera’ has generally fallen out of favour. Although conceptually- bound records are still a norm for prog, the ensemble of vocalists and sense of theatrical stage performance have largely dwindled, possibly with only Ayreon now carrying the torch into the limelight. Built as a collaboration over the internet, the partnership between musician Steve Brockmann and writer George Andrade seeks to forge a rock opera for the new prog generation. With a tightly written narrative, variety of songwriting and loads of theatrical flair, ‘Airs’ is an excellently constructed piece of work. While the shortfalls of most rock operas still apply here, Brockmann and Andrade lead a grand operation here.

Musically, Steve Brockmann’s composition tends to recall anthemic 80′s rock, pop and metal, although the potential cheese is offset by the variety in the composition. Like all great rock operas, the music of ‘Airs’ shifts to whatever emotional state the narrative engages. Andrade’s storytelling- a melancholy tale of a man making mistakes and redeeming himself- may not have a startling sense of originality, but it tends to cover the board in terms of the emotions it sees the characters and listener through. Contrary to many concept albums- which like to dabble in fantasy, action, or philosophy- ‘Airs’ is a story entirely about people, their feelings, and their relations with one another. It is a fairly complex drama taking place in a closed setting called ‘Manisses Island’, and in truth, the plot can be fairly difficult to follow, especially considering that characters- particularly the protagonist Owen- are suspect to changing vocalists. In other words, ‘Airs’ is an album meant to be followed by reading the booklet, which is helpfully fleshed out with added text and background that helps to give some context to the feelings in these characters.

Although this is largely an online collaboration, ‘Airs’ sounds far from amateurish, and instead has been given a very talented, professional treatment. As is typical for rock operas, much of the passion comes through in the vocals, and they have been chosen very well for their roles. Moreover, there is a great variety to the sound of vocalists. There is singing here that fits the heavy metal side of ‘Airs’, lighter melodic delivery for the softer parts, and even a Floor Kraaijvanger giving a standout performance on ‘The Great Salt Pond’ that would not sound of place in a gospel soundtrack. Nearly fleshing out the entire eighty minute capacity of a CD, there is plenty of material, musical ideas, and emotions to digest on ‘Airs’, though as complex as it is, there is an accessible layer of melody to it. Brockmann has delivered a fine balance between compositional eloquence and simpler elements, although the overall style of ‘Airs’ does not feel up to date with ‘prog’ in 2012, the ‘rock opera’ format included. ‘Airs’ is instead a work which takes elements not only from the 70s, but from every decade since the 60′s, and fuses it into an emotionally stirring adventure. In short, ‘Airs’ is an excellent revival of the rock opera, and while it does not revolutionize or change what has already been done, there is a great deal of enjoyment and depth to be found within.

Tracklist:

1. Fateful Days (7:37)
2. Grounded (5:25)
3. Kites (3:17)
4. Flight (6:37)
5. Current Events (5:23)
6. History (1:22)
7. Heritage (4:38)
8. Experiments (3:11)
9. Floating (1:32)
10. Annabelle (5:02)
11. The Center (4:40)
12. Fateful Days II (1:17)
13. Hannah (4:00)
14. The Great Salt Pond (5:52)
15. Grounded II (5:11)
16. Kites II (2:14)
17. Flight II (5:00)
18. Owen (1:39)

Line-up:

* 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 – dialogue
* Tony Kost – dialogue

Links:

http://www.airs-arockopera.com/

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