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Monday, March 12, 2018

Review: Bob Katsionis - Prognosis & Synopsis


When you’re from Greece Bob Katsionis really needs no introduction, but for those that aren’t it might be good to introduce him, so here you are. Born in Athens, Greece as Babis Katsionis, Bob started learning to play keyboards in his youth, picked up playing the guitar along the way and started writing and producing music to top things off. He proved to have considerable talent in all three, so it is not a miracle he played in and composed for a huge amount of bands over the years, the most notable being the well-known Greek power metal band Firewind (as musician) and the American symphonic metal band Kamelot (as composer). Apart from those countless appearances, Bob also has a lively solo career, filled with music that is best described as mostly instrumental, progressive, new age influenced releases with a considerable pinch of power and some shred. On his 41st birthday, the 17th of February, he released his fifth full-length titled Prognosis & Synopsis, on which he takes the term ‘solo’ very seriously. In fact, the only contribution to this album that is not his own, is the drum parts, who are played by unknown Greek drummer Vangelis Moraitis. The title refers to both his previous work (Synopsis) and his future work (Prognosis). An interesting concept that implies the music, especially the Prognosis-part, is carefully composed to reveal just enough without giving too much away. Remarkably though, he wrote and captured these rather important moments in just fifteen days. Interesting to see if that proves to be possible and if it’s any good at that.

I’m sure most people would have opened with the synopsis rather than the prognosis, but not Bob. He kicks off with the songs that represent the new Bob Katsionis, which might not be a bad idea at all. Starting with the new work immediately focuses you on the tunes, rather than leaving you dangling and, maybe, wondering what his new work might sound like throughout his synopsis. Anyway, if opener Prognosis is any indication of what is about to come next, this could be a highly interesting album. With its somewhat mysterious intro, vaguely reminding me of the work of Vangelis and Jarre, who have had a significant influence on Bob’s musical development, and its subsequent burst into a strong prog-power song it most certainly grabbed my attention. Quite a way to introduce your new direction as far as I’m concerned. The guitars seem to fight the keys for the attention of the listener, creating an organized havoc. The speedy key parts, riffs and guitar solos are catchy as hell, causing all sorts of involuntary movement of various body parts to the rhythm of the song. The complementary drum lines are expertly taken care of by Mr. Moraitis, who seems to be a true gem. The next two songs more or less follow the same concept, but there is plenty of variety to keep things seriously interesting. The fastest passing 12 minutes I have lived through in a while.

Up next is Dark Matter, a completely different song which, according to the man himself, truly displays his thoughts on what musical path he wants to follow in the future. It’s way more dark and atmospheric, a lot slower and completely deprived of guitar solos. I wouldn’t even call this metal, the most fitting category would be film music, and guess what? That is exactly what he meant this song to be. What he really wants is, and I quote, ‘make music that could fit in a movie like Bladerunner while it’s also a song I could go out and perform live’. After this musical revelation he more or less returns to where he left off by turning the speed back up and the brightness back on along with the guitar amp in part two. There’s six more songs, four of which also the same concept as the first three, again with more than enough variation to keep them interesting and you focused. Exceptions are The Messenger and Amnesia, which could both fit on a Vangelis or a Jarre album. In my opinion not the best songs on the album, but that is mainly due to my personal taste. It all ends with the massive Synopsis, where he blends all of his influences into an outburst of melodic prog-power. And yes, there is a definite taste of the new musical path in it as well.

It’s obvious prog-power mixed with new age is where Mr. Katsionis has his roots, but apparently he has chosen to stray off that path into new grounds. I consider that a loss for the prog-power metal genre, but in all honesty I have to admit I also very much enjoyed Dark Matter, so it’s safe to say he on the other hand could very well be a huge asset to that particular genre. I don’t think I do, but if I have anything to say about it, I hope he will stay true to his roots at least to some extent. I believe mixing the two together into a hybrid, organic album is something he can definitely pull off, the proof is here, brought to you in just 15 days… However, regardless the path he follows I will most certainly keep track of him. I like his execution of both styles a lot, which is more than enough reason for me to keep him on my radar. Judge for yourself.

Written by Henric van Essen

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