Arlekin – Disguise Serenades (2014)

Arlekin_Disguise3.5 out of 5 Stars!

From Ukraine, Arlekin released its five-track Disguise Serenades in 2014, although it could have easily fit into the style of Neo-Prog released thirty years earlier. Indeed, as a whole, the album is very “Marillion-esque,” especially the Script For A Jester’s Tear era. I mean, seriously, not only does the cover art reflect the early-Marillion image, but there’s even a song with the word “Jester” in its title, while the singer attempts to duplicate the tone and delivery style of Fish on almost every occasion, although without the quirky perfection (more on this below).

So overall, there’s plenty here to satisfy most fans of early Marillion (and, in turn, early Genesis). The music/musicianship and instrumentation are just fine overall, and the general mood/atmosphere of the album fits in reasonably well with the early-Genesis/early-Marillion albums. It’s in the vocal department where things get a bit “iffy” (ie. an acquired taste), hence my rather average rating. Let me explain…

As mentioned, the singer does a “Fish impersonation” throughout just about every track, yet sadly his vocals are frequently a tad “off.” There’s “quirky good” (as in the case of Fish, where the occasional precarious singing is endearing when delivered with passion and high drama) and then there’s “quirky bad,” in the case of Arlekin’s vocalist. Some of his vocal passages are acceptable (usually when he’s singing short-noted, wordy passages such as during the verses and the dramatic bridge section near the end of “Dance Of The Jester”) whereas other passages (when he’s attempting to hold longer notes, as in the chorus of the same track or during most of the song “Romance” or in the final section of “The Lost Path”) are, frankly, sorely off-key and just on the very edge of being unlistenable. Thankfully it seems the “acceptable” outweigh the “unlistenable.” Nevertheless, buyer definitely beware. (Oddly, and this may be shocking—it was to me—but there are some sections of songs, around the 5:00 minute mark of “In This Puzzled Roundabout,” as an example, where the singer has actually overdubbed his vocal lines. With the problems mentioned above regarding the singer’s tendency to be off-key, his doubled voice may seem a horrible idea—one track might be bad enough, but two???—but actually this makes him sound much better, fuller sounding, and less off-putting. Anyway, just thought I’d mentioned the irony.)

Now then, despite my criticism, I can indeed see myself returning to this album in the future, probably numerous times, since (as mentioned above) the atmosphere and collection of songs fit nicely alongside other albums of a similar musical style of which I am fond. So when the mood strikes…

Anyway, the compositions “The Lost Path,” “Dance Of The Jester,” and “In This Puzzled Roundabout” bring to mind classic tracks by other Prog-Rock bands such as IQ or Pallas (and, obviously, Marillion/Genesis). Hopefully the band, should it stay together and keep writing/recording more material (and I pray Arlekin does, since there’s talent here in abundance), will correct the problems in the vocal department. There’s no musical law preventing a band from asking the singer to re-record a line or two, folks, so before putting the final stamp of approval on each song and calling it a day, listening carefully and fixing problem melodies or performances before unleashing your future output to the public’s ears will make all the difference in the world!

 

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