“One of the main aspects of progressive rock was always the movement. The progressive sound is the mutation of music.” Quoted from the biography on their own webpage, I feel this statement describes progressive rock in a uniquely special way, in that progressive rock takes a wide variety of standard rock sounds and experiments with them, mutating them to see if something new and special will come out of it. From the early days of Yes and ELP to the present, prog bands have been pushing the limits of what rock is capable of, and have come up with an endless supply of pure magic. Brazilian prog rockers Apocalypse have been a part of this for 25 years, and celebrated their endurance with the release of a 25th anniversary box set, which contained a new studio album, 2012 Light Years from Home.
The career of Apocalypse is a fascinating one, formed initially in 1983 by Eloy Fritsch and some friends for a music contest, they soon added guitarist Ruy Fritsch and drummer Chico Fasoli, all three of whom still form the core of Apocalypse today. Their history has many international dates and credentials to it, stylizing their music after such giants as Yes, ELP, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, all in their native language, Portuguese. In 2004, original bassist and vocalist Chico Casara leaves the band, and in came vocalist Gustavo Demarchi and bassist Magoo Wise. With the new additions they decided to embark on a much greater challenge, re-recording old songs and writing new songs in English. The first product of this venture is The Bridge of Light, a live album of entirely new music. Three years later came 2012 Light Years from Home.
Hitting play, the first thought that comes to mind is yes, this is prog, they are bending the rules and pushing limits. Not hard or far, but just enough to make the listener work a bit, in all the best ways. Guitar and drums take the forefront, Fasoli’s fills are just wonderful, and Fritsch bends the notes with the best of them. The opening song, New Sunrise, is one of my personal favorites. The changes are marked by solid drums and bass, echoed by the keys, with phenomenal guitar licks carrying the transition, just awesome stuff. Demarchi’s voice is soulful and solid, and accents the music well. The final product is a complex structure of music that is put together in a way that is clean and uplifting. Throughout the rest of the album, they change and vary the structures and moods of the music, but always in a solid manner. The second song, Set Me Free, takes a slightly harder edge, with a rough timbre entering Demarchi’s voice that translates the darker elements of the song well. Guitars take on a harder edge, and the rhythm is more pounding and solid. The third song, Take My Heart is a soulful ballad that pushes the edge of sappy, but that ends at song four, The Angels and the Trumpets.
Here the solid prog kicks in hard, and with the addition of Demarchi’s flute and dramatic vocals, gives it a solid Jethro Tull feel to the opening of the song, but again they push, change, mutate, into something their own. This song has more of a storytelling element to it than most of the others on the album, and though it’s put in biblical terms, I feel the song is about getting through the harsher parts of love, about moving past the bad times, about giving the power of love the opening to triumph over and heal all. All of the songs are pretty much love songs, the messages are simple, poetic, and solid. Much of it has religious and spiritual overtones, especially Morning Light, another ballad. The lyrical elements of this song, and many of the others, tie together the love elements of spirituality and the loving bonds between people, in essence making them one and the same. It’s very uplifting stuff, and extremely sensual at parts. In the final song, and the title track, 2012 Light Years From home, they burst through all the barriers set in the previous songs.
Opening with soft keys, the synths kick in, the time changes are often and quick, drum accents are timely, and the only thing that comes to mind is ELP, but they mutate it into their own sound, and quickly we are in the air of a soft celestial jazz club. I just have to say I loved this part, made me want to light up a smoke and kick my feet up. Apocalypse had other things in mind though. The jazz elements hang throughout the song, and are deftly handled, but accented by a solid prog sound. This is a complex and wonderful song. Thematically, it culminates all the elements of love presented, with the message that through living and loving, the world can be changed, “The more we live, the more we learn, the more we fear, the more we lie, the spirit of imagination, can lead us through the shadows, so let’s change the world.” They are not leaving out the negative elements, but accepting that all aspect of love and life are needed for completion and fulfillment. Love can’t be just rainbows and sunshine, it has to have color and depth. Longer than any other song on the album by at least seven minutes, it is a fantastic musical journey.
With all the doomsday predictions of the year 2012, this band gives an opposing one, that the love between us will triumph. The 25 years of experience, and the duration most of the original lineup, shows in the maturity of the music. The passion for love and life shows in the lyrics. It is a warm and welcome album all around, and it pleases this author to see that someone still writes music to lift the soul. With the individual talents of each musician, the influences of their predecessors, and a simple yet soulful lyrical element, Apocalypse manages to mutate a wide array of musical themes to make 2012 Light Years from Home a delightful journey.