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Articles Home » 1999 Articles » Grapow, Roland - 1999 Kaleidoscope
Grapow, Roland - 1999 Kaleidoscope

ARTIST: Grapow, Roland
ALBUM: Kaleidoscope
SERIAL: SPV 085-21412 CD
YEAR: 1999


LINEUP: Roland Grapow - guitars * Michael Vescera - vocals * Barry Sparks - bass * Mike Terrana - drums * Ferdy Doernberg - keyboards

TRACK LISTING: 01 Walk On Fire * 02 Under The Same Sun * 03 The Hunger * 04 A Heartbeat Away * 05 Hidden Answer * 06 'Till The End * 07 Kaleidoscope * 08 Angel Face * 09 Listen To The Lyrics * 10 Reaching Higher * 11 Lord I'm Dying * 12 Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)


What was wrong with 1999? At the time of writing, GDM articles for this year numbered only 50, one of the lowest, on that basis would you even think It would be possible to muster a top 10 for that year? Granted, highlighting this album is not going to save 1999 or show some shining light, be truthful would you even give this album a cursory glance? But look again, even give it a good stare. I am hoping to say that good albums were released in this year, although from a result of a side project of the then current Helloween guitarist? Along with a line up that on paper may look like a second string Manchester United team used for tin pot cups, but as a group they really gelled together even excel, which in reality is not that surprising because they are all top professional, high calibre musicians, but just don't feature that world class number 9.

Roland joined Helloween at a time when the decline, at least in one of the many worlds in my head was beginning; my listening of Helloween came to abrupt halt, with the end to the 'Keeper' series. Roland's tenure began in 1989 but album wise he had to wait a further two years before the release of 'Pink Bubbles Go Ape' and ended in 2001 after touring with 'The Dark Ride', which had a release date of 2000. Although Roland's recording career began before this with Rampage, who released a couple of albums, and while in Helloween this was the second of two solo albums. Of course when free from Helloween he formed Masterplan, who to date have released a further 5 albums, my abiding memory of this group being the excellent track 'Back For My Life' from the 'Aeronautics' album released in 2005.

The Songs
The opening 'Walk On Fire' is a good start, although it's never going to change the world, very competent tune, and one you have heard a million times on any good Malmsteen album.

Neo classical albums can get very repetitive if the artist is not willing to change things around, I'm pleased to say this isn't the case, as we are already at track 2, being 'Under The Same Sun' and shows a drop in pace, but more pounding, close to the excellent Midnight Sun.

Not afraid to beef it up, you come across the situation when Dream Theater got obsessed with Metallica, but still 'The Hunger' has a clean cut, sharp approach, although probably the most challenging track on the album too get along with, but I suggest also was the most difficult to master, but towards the end it shows its true class.

More pleasing is the Stryper and Joshua instilled 'A Heartbeat Away', and could easily slip onto any of The Poodles albums, you see quality AOR was leaving and breathing, but we were looking in the wrong place.

Obvious there would be the odd Helloween moment and 'Till The End' probably has a combination of the pumpkin boys plus also the likes of early Firewind. But also this is more strategic rock that requires a high level of planning. Take the title track for instance, lots of musicians round a table, graphs, forecasts, presentations and it really works, as a mighty epic takes off. They have managed to force together a combustible combination of Helloween and Sonata Arctica elements. You see this track is the same as when Axel Rudi Pell is at the top of his game, from the heyday of his 'The Masquerade Ball'. This has the ability to create footprints in steel and resurrect a time when the album track title meant something.

With even have some AOR enticed melody, not your normal ballad, but just a step up, like 'Angel Face' showing a good example of this. The instrumental 'Listen To The Lyrics' of course shows like a streams of notes resonating from the wood of a Malmsteen guitar, very accomplish, but with the opening, your screaming 'please have a vocal', 'please have a vocal' because you know it would be just brilliant, but alas no, why?

'Reaching Higher' is a genuine piece of classic neo-classical metal, once was a time that this was close to being my favourite genre, the likes of Kamelot, Labyrinth and Majestic (if you can track it down, I beg you to listen to the track 'The Rapture Of Canaan' from their 2000 album, 'Trinity Overture'), loved the humming keyboards in the background of each tune, and this is easily included in my affair.

'Lord I'm Dying', is an acoustic led push, in the remit of Warrant, Trixter and creates a nice balance to the album.

Later versions of this album end with a fine rendition of Journey's 'Separate Ways'.

In Summary
What was I doing in 1999? Struggling with exams, just moved house and what was left of any spare money was being drained away buying classic AOR vinyl for over inflated prices, obviously I was being taking for a mug, but I was too stupid to realise it at the time. Before I conclude I would like to make special mention about the vocals here, you see I have got a number of albums with Michael Vescera singing, good as they are, I have never heard him been given a whole albums worth of compositions this good, and he grabs the opportunity. This album contains in various measures parts of neo-classical, prog metal, melodic rock and even the odd AOR moment, all tastes are catered for and they stick together, it's a good bake. When was the last time an artist managed to include all these genres and carry it off, or for that matter even attempted to?

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#1 | george_the_jack on December 03 2013 19:58:25
Roland is a fine musician and guitarist. I remember during the nineties he was baring the fame of being the ''German Malmsteen'' and fairly enough I'd say.

Had the pleasure to watch him live, performing with Helloween in 1998 while being a part of one the best ever line-ups and eras for the band IMO... Sadly, Weilkath was meant to force him along with the drummer Uli Kusch out of the band only a while later... A real shame.

I remember that CD being well received by the press at the time of its release, gaining a pretty good hype among other releases of its kind. Unfortunately, never got to listen to it myself. I guess now the time has come and I really thank you for the reminder Chris!
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