Collage – Over and Out (2022)
Yes folks, Collage is back and with a bang! All prog fans will undoubtedly have the classic album “Moonshine” in their collection and if not, just be ashamed. This masterpiece from 1994 by the Poles was so good that successor Safe (1995) did not quite succeed in matching this level. After that it became quiet around Collage.
Drummer and composer Wojtek Szadkowski later became the brains behind Satellite and this band has also released a few wonderful albums, such as A Street between Sunrise and Sunset, Into the Night or Nostalgia.
Yet guitarist Mirek Gill was missed because for many he was the distinguishing factor at Collage. With his hyper melodic playing he created a very unique sound and that made the difference, for me anyway. Well, they have found an almost perfect clone in successor Michal Kirmuc..
Former singer Robert Amirian was a classy singer for many, but I've always had a bit of trouble with his voice. Especially after seeing him live twice, that wasn't very good to be honest. That is why I am very happy with replacement Bartosz Kossowicz. The vocalist from Quidam is very good and his singing fits the music perfectly. He really reminds me of Fish at times and that's not a bad thing for sure. He easily switches to a high voice and sings with a lot of passion and feeling. As a result, he occasionally cuts just along the edge, so let’s just say that a little drama is okay.
The rest of the guys stayed, so keyboardist Krzysztof Palczewski and bassist Pjotr Mintay Witkowski are back, just like Szadkowski. As always , they do a splendid job.
After the release of the singles One Empty Hand and What about the Pain it was clear that we could expect a very nice album and Over and Out has certainly become that. In an already very generous year, this album can certainly count on a place in my annual list.
We get a wonderful neoprog album with five tracks and that means nice and long songs of course. It starts with the longest song, Over and Out clocks in at over 21 minutes and offers an incredible amount of variety. Maybe even a bit too much, but that shows the ambition of these Poles and where I normally go for the longer songs, I must admit that it only gets better as the album progresses. Due to the somewhat fragmentary character and the occasional chaotic transitions, even with some screaming, I still miss the special feeling of Moonshine. But don't worry, that comes immediately in the second song What about the Pain that has a beautiful melody line and the emotion is dripping off. Michal's guitar solos are very melodic but don't always stand out, but they are present in all songs and as stated Mr. Gill would do something similar. The children's choir is a nice addition and this is how I like Collage best. At least that's what I thought but as we move on to One empty Hand with another heavenly melody I can't contain my enthusiasm and I'm starting to believe we can approach Moonshine. With over 13 minutes, A Moment a Feeling is a good example of a complete song. Heavy keys, present drums and just enough variety so that the attention just cannot slacken. A band in top form. And if you think you've had it all, a rather famous guest passes by in the last song Man in the Middle. Where Steven Rothery is still a bit sparing with long solos on the latest Marillion album An Hour before it's Dark, he can show off with a solo of more than five minutes in this compelling song and yes, that is just heaven on earth. How very cool. And what a closer of this album.
Is there nothing to complain about then? Not much but okay, a few small things then.
I would have changed the order of the songs so that there would be even more dynamics in the whole. Starting with A Moment a Feeling, then One empty Hand, then Over and Out and then What about the Pain and finally Man in the Middle. But luckily that's not up to me. Too bad, you can't have everything 😊
Sometimes the guys try so hard that is becomes a bit messy like in the title song but these moments are scarce and don’t overwhelm the beautiful parts.
Colleague reviewers here and there grumble about the recording quality, but I can't agree with that. Look, Collage is not a super big band with unlimited possibilities, but within the given frameworks it is just fine. I certainly know of cases where this ratio is more skewed.
And yes, the guitar solos could be a bit more virtuosic, but not everyone has to play a hundred notes in ten seconds and feeling and emotion are certainly there. Well fitting. If the sound of the guitar would be a bit more clear than this could prove to be a big difference.
So Collage has made a very worthy comeback album and when I see what they can bring on stage, long live youtube, I can't wait to see them live again.
Hats of Gentlemen!