Prologue. "El Vals de los Duendos" ("The Waltz of the Little Elves") is the second album by the Spanish band Omni. Eleven years passed by since the band released their debut album on LP. To read the review of its CD version, click here.
The Album. Nothing changed about the music of Omni with years. As before, on "El Vals de los Duendos", this band presents a very nice, melodious, and instantly accessible Symphonic Progressive. On this album, I noticed only Camel's influences. They, however, are slight rather than significant and are really evident only in some of the lead guitar solos. Overall, "The Waltz of the Little Elves" is an album of a unified stylistic concept, though there are a few of the little differences between compositions that are featured on it. Precisely half of the tracks of this album, Casapuerta, Charco la Rana, Faro de Trafalgar, and Mexicali (1, 6, 7, & 8), are about a rather original, yet, at the same time, traditional Neo Symphonic Progressive. The last of these, Mexicali, features Spanish and Latin American flavors, most of which were reproduced by various percussion instruments. Faro de Trafalgar (7) is also a melodious and accessible piece, though at the same time, this is the only composition on the album that is out of its predominant stylistics. It features only passages of flute and solos of hand percussion instruments. All four of the remaining tracks, El Vals de Los Duendos, Ronda de las Dunas, Rompeolas, and Como la Noche y el Dia (2, 3, 4, & 5), are the core of this album (in all senses). Each of them is way richer in the so-called progressive ingredients than any of the aforementioned compositions. The arrangements that are present on each of these four pieces are typical for both the Classic and Neo manifestations of Symphonic Art-Rock. Ronda de las Dunas and Rompeolas (2 & 4) are the only compositions on the album that contain the vocal parts (in Spanish), both of which, though, are very short. But then, the instrumental arrangements that are featured on these and the other two core tracks of the album are truly large-scaled and not only. While Como la Noche y el Dia (5) is about a purely 'European sort' of Symphonic Art-Rock, all three of the other best compositions of this album are rich in different ethnic colors. Rompeolas (4), as well as both of the closing tracks of the album, has a Spanish feel to it. While El Vals de Los Duendos and Ronda de las Dunas (2 & 3) are, in my view, the absolute winners. Both of them are just filled with distinct flavors of East and feature the most intriguing arrangements. Michael Starry is a good guitarist, but the technique of his main partner in interplay, keyboardist Alberto Marquez, is higher. However, the most capable and virtuosi musicians on this album are bassist Jose Luis Adaba and saxophonist Pepe Torres. Despite the merits of this production, the uninspiring, straightforward, and rather monotonous drumming of Ismael Colon is actually the only serious drawback of this album. As for Salvador Velez, it was really curious to hear the rhythm guitar on the album of Symphonic Progressive.
Summary. Being both definitely progressive and instantly accessible, Omni's "El Vals de los Duendos" should please a large audience and, thus, get a major commercial success, which is more than merely essential for small progressive labels. Also, unlike lots of the wannabe bands, Omni play a rather original and by all means tasteful music which can become a real revelation for hundreds of the Prog lovers on their way to comprehending the more complex forms of progressive music. All in all, this is in many ways a useful album, to say the least.
Prologue. I don't really know if the only album from this Spanish band was ever released before (on LP / MC), but thanks only to Juan Jose Salas at "Luna Negra", who has issued it on the CD, the Spanish Progressive Rock movement, which is not too solid (to put it mildly), becomes a bit stronger with this another Prog-unit, despite the fact that Omni passed away quite a long time ago. I've already let Juan Jose know my opinion on Omni's entirely instrumental "Tras el puente" album. And here is for you.
The Album. Most of the album's tracks were recorded far back in 1990, but this CD contains a few pieces more. Factually, being formed sometime in the middle-to-late of the 1980s, the band existed until the mid- 1990s, and all 'bonuses' were recorded in 1991 and 1993. Although the band's original line-up doesn't have a free keyboardist and all pieces were composed by the lead guitarists, the album on the whole has such a lush symphonic sound that is typical specially for the so called keyboard (or keyboard based) albums with a keyboard player or two at the band's hand. No, I didn't say there's no guitars on "Tras el puerte". The playing of both guitar guys is heard in each piece, but two guest keyboardists retain the upper hand in all of them. They play their instruments quite skillfully, but with a lack of diversity, so bearing in mind that the album's mastermind is originally the lead guitarist, I think the guest keyboardists built their arrangements just according to the chords composed by the 'master'. I can't call excellent either the joint musicianship (i.e. performance) on this album or the personal one of some (let alone all) of the musicians performed here. All in all, I consider all these joint and separate things as good-to-very good. The same goes for the bandleader's composing capabilities, though I think both guest keyboardists did a great work concerning their arrangements that actually have given the album its real status. Especially since, according to the official notes in the album's booklet, they haven't composed anything here. Now, let's go back to the 'staff' lime-up of Omni and to real contributions to the album from all four principal members. Rhythm-guitarist does his not very hard work quite properly according to his "rhythmically-chord" status. As for the lead guitarist, most of all I like his not too virtusic yet not without interest acoustic and semi-acoustic guitar roulades that support the keyboards passages quite often. The work of the rhythm-section is not bad, but it would be out of place to call it impressive. On the other hand, such an ordinary work of the rhythm section (in the face of bassist and drummer) can be proper for such music - not too complex yet quite interesting, rather mellow-to-mid-tempo than bombastic pieces of typical Symphonic Progressive.
Summary. Sorry, here we have those 'hidden' (by me myself, otherwise why did I just say sorry?) two aces that these Spanish guys have in their sleeve (as if in reserve for my summary). In addition to some my above criticism regarding this band, now I feel pleasure to let you know that Omni's music is not only original, but also highly innovative - at least within the same Neo genre. So these aces are major enough to name Omni the first and still the best instrumental, mostly keyboard based band of Symphonic Neo Progressive. Hey those neo-headed who feel already tired of boring music (you should guess what I mean), please try Omni, and then it will be your closest step to comprehend the best works of ELP, Rick Wakeman and even UK (the band talk!) until you reach the status of a profound Prog-person. If you really wish it, check out Omni, comprehend them properly. Then you may be sure that you finally crossed that foolish threshold between Neo and Classic Progressive.
VM. June 12, 2000