Wednesday, May 10, 2023

Aragorn - The Suite (1973 australia, prog rock masterpiece, 2022 korean remaster)

In 1975, a strange album that pressed only 50 copies without even an outer sleeve was released quietly. It was the only album by Snakes Alive, a band with a unique combination of guitar, drums, bass, keyboards, woodwinds and trumpet. About 25 years later, when its pirated CD was released, people were amazed at the high level of performance by unknown musicians and the complex, well-designed structure of a mix of Progressive Rock and Jazz. There are countless minor bands that have disappeared leaving only one album in the form of a private pressing, but Snakes Alive’s album was on a different level from those of mediocre minor ones. Despite this high level of musical quality, due to the very small amount of pressings, their music did not reach a larger audience and the band disappeared into history.

Snakes Alive had only been active for about a year, but if you look at their history, you can see that the group Aragorn, formed in 1972, was the starting point of their musical career. They also didn’t release an official album, but fortunately they left an album-length recording, and that’s the album you’re listening to right now called “The Suite.” This magnificent 43-minute grand piece, mainly composed by the keyboardist Oleg Ditrich was originally inspired by none other than, J.R.R Tolkien’s novel, “The Lord of the Rings.”

Oleg Dietrich, who studied classical music from an early age, began composing “The Suite” in 1967 under the influence of his friend John Simpson, who was obsessed with The Lord of the Rings. Oleg was only 14 years old at the time. After completing most of the composition, he formed the band Aragorn, named after the main character in the novel. In September 1973, after completing additional work on the composition and arrangement with the help of other band members, “The Suite” was recorded, but did not reach an album release and remained only as master tapes.

This album is a 43-minute suite consisting of 16 short pieces. As it is a song that has been refined over a period of 6 years, it shows a fairly elaborate level of completion.

The first thing that stands out in terms of performance is Oleg’s classical piano, which reveals his musical roots, and Peter Nykyruj’s drums, which give rich variation to the flow of the song’s structure. Also, what’s interesting is the glimpse of Jethro Tull throughout the aggressive appearance of flute and minstrel melody in the vocal by Jonas Sayewell. A fabulous flute solo flaring out on the solid rhythm , a medieval vibe using rippling guitar ensemble – Those excellent elements and ideas in a series of short pieces are proving how fluent they are in a variety of musical style.

Overall, Aragorn’s music style is a profound Progressive Rock that directly feels the influence of British Rock in the early 70’s. By taking various style from Medieval Folk to Symphonic Rock with a Jazzy flavor, they are fully expressing the dramatic and grandiose storyline of the original novel with delicacy. In order to compress situations and emotions such as mystery, magnificence, confusion and intensity contained in the original story, the composition becomes more complex and dense toward the latter part of the music.

The presence of album “The Suite” was discovered in the process of reissuing Snakes Alive, and it is the very first release brought out to the world in nearly 50 years. “The Suite,” a vigorous performance full of energy by the young bloods who were in their 20s back then, must be the hidden masterpiece to rewrite the history of Australian Progressive Rock.
by Jacopo Vigezzi, February 5, 2023
1. Creatures Of The Night (Oleg Ditrich, Jonas Sayewell) - 3:05
2. Rivendell - 3:52
3. Wonder (Jonas Sayewell) - 4:48
4. Rivendell South - 0:48
5. Land Of A Mordor - 3:49
6. Trees And Grass - 2:04
7. East Of Greyhaven - 4:17
8. A History Book (Jonas Sayewell) - 3:32
9. Thuner - 2:59
10.Grove - 2:01
11.Sky - 1:20
12.Dark Lord (Oleg Ditrich, Jonas Sayewell) - 2:33
13.Rivendell East - 1:39
14.Aragorn - 2:52
15.Ends Of Time - 1:52
16.Dance Of The Ring (Oleg Ditrich, Jonas Sayewell) - 1:32
17.And The People And The Night - 7:50
All compositions by Oleg Ditrich except where indicated

*Michael Vidale - Bass
*Peter Nykyruj - Drums, Percussion
*John Simpson - Electric Guitar
*Jonas Sayewell - Flute, Acoustic Guitar, Vocals
*Oleg Ditrich - Piano, Keyboards, Vocals