Style: Progressive Rock
Release Date: 3 Jan 2022
Sites: Prog Archives
I'm not sure why there's a new Framauro album being released in 2022, their second after a debut way back in 1998, Etermedia. I'd guess it may have something to do with the band they renamed to in 1999, Millennium, as their website is no longer active, so maybe they've ceased to be. That's the Polish prog rock band Millennium, with sixteen studio albums to their name, not the British heavy metal band led by Mark Duffy of Toranaga fame. This features the keyboardist and bass player on their last album, The Sin, but not the others, so maybe it's a split or a side project.
The style here is neoprog and it's very accessible neoprog, doing interesting things in a clean way, with the most overt influences perhaps Twelfth Night and IQ, but mixed with a heavy dose of Pink Floyd, especially on the final track, What's Happened?, which is constantly engaging for seven and a half minutes and features some excellent melodious guitarwork from Marcin Kruczek. He takes care of the solos here, while band founderRichard Kramarski handles rhythm guitars and acoustic work, as well as keyboards and vocals. Kramarski's Millennium bandmate, Krzysztof Wyrwa, plays the bass, while Grzegorz Fieber of Loonypark handles the drums.
If I'm translating from the Polish properly, I think the lyrics were written by Zdislaw Zabierzewski, known as the Bat, so I don't know how applicable they are to the guys in the band. The reason that I mention that is that a couple of these songs speak very specifically to musical influences, and I'd love to know how many of the names cited cross over from Zabierzewski's tastes to Kramarski's, or indeed those of the other members of the band. I'd especially love to hear Kramarski's list as the owner of a record company, Lynx Music.
Records from My Shelf is the most obvious, the lyrics pretty much a list of the LPs in what I assume is Zabierzewski's collection. It isn't a particularly surprising list, detailing the history of prog from King Crimson to Dream Theater, but with a few less expected names from the world of pop, Duran Duran, Michael Jackson and Frankie Goes to Hollywood among them. It ends with a note that he's running out of time and I wonder if he meant in this song or in life. Certainly When Idols are Gone is a nostalgic look back at major names in music from the past, mostly the 27 club but again with a few surprising names like Robin Gibb and George Michael added to the mix. Two such looks back in one album suggest a reckoning.
They're good songs and they do a decent job of highlighting what Framauro do, but my favourites come between them, which means Living in the Shadow of Death and Hey You Fools! The former is solid anyway but elevated considerably by Kruczek's guitar solos. He's clearly a David Gilmour fan and he does him justice here. The latter finds a really neat groove, including an energetic beat by Fieber, with a pop/rock drive to the lyrics that reminds of the Alan Parsons Project but, given the names in Records from My Shelf and what else is on this album, clearly owes a little to Kate Bush as well.
She certainly comes to mind as I am Only a Moment begins, though it's mostly during an intro, the song proper moving in another direction. This is another highlight, the more so the longer it runs, with a nice vocal hook duetting with some more Kruczek soloing. The final one for me is the closer, that smooth Floydian epic to wrap things up. It's the longest song here, a seven and a half minute exercise in grabbing us subtly and taking us wherever the band wants. It's not an immediate piece but it keeps us like an ocean, bobbing along at its whim, especially with its orchestral sweeps.
I'm still dipping my feet into the world of Polish prog, so I hadn't heard Framauro or its alter ego, Millennium, before, let alone the other bands of the other musicians. I'm certainly interesting in digging into their back catalogues though. This is less innovative and maybe even less progressive than some of what I've been hearing lately, but it's smooth, solid and accomplished. And that's no bad thing. I may enjoy diving into more experimental work here and there, but it's just as good to come back to an old favourite, like Floyd's Wish You Were Here, that's not at all challenging in the 2020s but remains reliable and pristine. Framauro are certainly trying on that mould and it's not a bad fit.