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Omega - 1987 Babylon



ARTIST: Omega
ALBUM: Babylon
LABEL: Favorit
SERIAL: SLPM 37097
YEAR: 1987
CD REISSUE: 1994, Hungaroton, MEGA HCD 37097

COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:

LINEUP: János Kóbor - lead vocals * György Molnár - guitars * László Benko - keyboards, vocals * Tamás Mihály - bass, vocals * Ferenc Debreczeni - drums

TRACK LISTING: 01 Babylon * 02 Hajnali óceán * 03 Harangok * 04 Gonosz város * 05 Holdvirág * 06 Júdás * 07 Segíts nekem! * 08 Utolsó ítélet

WEBLINKS: www.omega.hu


Background
As promised a while back, here's the next chapter from the iron curtain's top AOR legend, Hungary's Omega. Following on from 1986's AOR ice blast 'A Föld Árnyékos Oldalán', 1987 saw Omega begin work on the 'Babylon' album. Front man Janos Kobor is said to have had some business dealings relating to studio equipment, so no problem in getting the latest sounds of the day. Still, the ice from 1986 seemed to have thawed somewhat to merely chilly, representing the sound on 'Babylon' fairly accurately. Still a fair amount of hi-tech intrusion, but used in a slightly less jarring fashion this time around, could these factors add up to an album worthy of following the mighty 'A Föld Árnyékos Oldalán'?


The Songs
'Babylon' comes pounding down the stairs and onto the stage in a flurry of AOR tempo and power, chunky guitar hook to the fore, augmenting the masterful synth to deadly effect. Quite the driving power AOR outing this one, have a glance at the tiered chorus spiralling skywards and the choppy guitar cutting away underneath. Classic stuff, sitting comfortably alongside material from Saga's 'Wildest Dreams' or Eloy's 'Ra' album. 'Hajnali óceán (Morning Light)' proves to be epic and uplifting, clocking in at just over 7 minutes. Switching between ballad and midtempo, Kobor is exploring the deeper registers of his voice in the verses, something like a truck battling to get out of first gear, but what a chorus to follow - terraced layers of melody, with a choral aspect recalling Angel's 'Winter Song', complete with tricky percussive bits from Ferenc Debreceni adding further spice and momentum. Guitar is sparse on this one, synth dominating, mining the best of what BJH were doing in the 80's minus the daintiness. Prog AOR crossover defined, smashing my long serving coffee meter into the red zone once again. 'Harangok (The Bells)' flies in on some zesty sequencing, quickly joined by insistent midtempo AOR rhythm (a very satisfying snare crunch through most of this album), and Benko's synth mastery chiming out the bells hinted at in the title, pomp death from behind the iron curtain! Proving itself a strong contender for anthem status, even dipping into some 'on the one' tempo here and there while Benko delivers the pomp in spades, something very Magnum about all this. Chalk up another lethal AOR track to the Omega canon. 'Gonosz város' does not let up either, surging guitar underpinning the omnipotent synth over a bedrock of crunchy snare, this is how I love my AOR. The melody seems effortless, like an Eastern Bloc version of Foreigner or Journey, Omega don't need to take a step back for either band. A call and response chorus is in place, the call being very deep/low register, making the midrange response soar by comparison. Very effective, very AOR.

'Holdvirág (Lady Moon)' enters the mystic ballad sweepstakes, tinkling piano and gentle sax around the fringes. The verses have a Pink Floyd feeling about them but this setback is quickly overcome as the sweeping chorus stamps Omega's melodic identity all over the place. I could describe it as singalong, stirring etc but suffice to say the national anthem effect is in full force once again. 'Júdás' curiously reminds me of LRB's classic 'Playing To Win', from the tempo and pompy synths right through to the spiky guitar punctuations and irresistible melodies. Bombastic AOR to the core, and this track illustrates perfectly the difference between Omega and a band like BJH: power, momentum and urgency is Omega's to command when they deliver the rocking AOR, something BJH lag behind in, yet they match BJH in the majestic ballad stakes. A case in point being 'Segíts nekem! (Home Again)', gentle at the start, a grandiose chorus that's pretty standard issue from Omega by now. I really enjoyed how the tempo rises to near midtempo in the song's centre, something Le Roux were adept at, as well as a smouldering guitar solo from Gyorgy Molnar, seeming to usher in a heightened guitar presence for the rest of the track. Album closer 'Utolsó ítélet' is built around synth and guitar interplay, combining to provide a hook and general AOR song structure of Kansas proportions. The vocal melody showcasing Kobor's easy grace over insistent uptempo. Everything is so wrapped in the melody that the verses and chorus seem to blur into one, yet the chorus is identified by the upward key change adding to the melodic drama. Delicious AOR, simple as that. As George has recently commented in one of his reviews, saxophone is hardly an ideal lead instrument in the AOR setting, but Omega end this closing AOR anthem with a lengthy sax solo that actually works, reminding me at times of the sax work in Magnum's 'Midnight' from 1986. The CD version I bought has English versions of 'Lady Moon', 'Morning Light' and 'Home Again' as bonus tracks, all very welcome additions. I could be difficult and wish they'd done a rocker or two instead of all three mid ballad tunes, but it's a minor observation. The English 'Morning Light' is especially good, pushing for classic AOR status.


In Summary
By this stage in their career Omega were frustrated at the patchy success levels they were experiencing in Western Europe, remaining megastars in Eastern Europe all the while. In subsequent interviews front man Janos Kobor has stated that they were forced to work with state sanctioned labels and promoters, a stifling situation and all the more amazing they achieved what they did. After some concerts promoting 'Babylon', Omega was put on hiatus while the members pursued some outside interests. They would be back for the legendary 'Nepstadion' concert in 1994, but in the meantime they released their definitive AOR compilation 'Platina (1977-1987)' on cd in 1988. So to sum up the 'Babylon' album? It pretty much hits every AOR target I expect a great album to hit: power, urgency and melody.


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Comments
#1 | Eric on July 17 2013 03:59:27
Man, those Hungarian song titles are brutal! Great review, awesome band.
#2 | gdazegod on July 17 2013 04:40:59
They sure are Eric. I'm trying to preserve the Hungarian songtitles in their original language, including all the accents and letter/character variations.
 
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