Flag - 1997 Across The Stars

richardbrichardb Poole, Dorset

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ARTIST: Flag
ALBUM: Across The Stars
LABEL: Andromeda Music
SERIAL: 192
YEAR: 1997

COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: image

LINEUP: Arthur Offen - vocals, guitars, bass, keyboards * Jon Sherman - vocals, drums, keyboards, primary computer sequences

TRACK LISTING: 01 Flag * 02 Starrider * 03 Shadowland * 04 Counting Days * 05 I Have A Secret Dream * 06 Battle Songs * 07 Tigerhead * 08 My Fathers House * 09 A Million Miles * 10 The Journey Long

WEBLINKS: Site Link

Background

GDM readers will no doubt already be familiar with Arthur Offen's previous outfit Air Raid who tantalized us with one album, and then promptly disappeared off the radar.

That album for the uninitiated was a credible attempt to wrest the Kings of pomp crown from Styx, and it still holds a special place in my affections to this very day, nearly 25 years after the event.

I'd heard rumours for some time now that Arthur Offen had returned, 'Lazarus' like in the mid 1990's. I therefore set out on a mission to track down Flag's album pronto.

To be honest I wasn't sure what to expect from Arthur Offen given that he had been AWOL from the melodic rock scene for so long.

My AOR idols of yesterday, seem to have a habit of returning with feet of clay many years later. Journey's 'Trial By Fire' being a classic example, and as for the last Boston album, don't get me started.

However there is always an exception to the rule, Flag being one of them. I have to say that I'm completely blown away by this album. Pausing briefly to use a sporting euphemism - it's a comeback on a par with Ali v Foreman.

The Songs

The years appear to have been kind to Arthur Offen judging by his physical appearance, he barely seems to have aged since last sighted with Air Raid. Perhaps like Oscar Wilde's fictional character Dorian Gray, he keeps a portrait in the attic?

His pomp sensibilities have remained similarly well preserved. Flag are therefore something of a throwback. Encapsulated in their own time warp they are men totally oblivious to the changing musical climate.

To them it's almost as if grunge and nu metal never existed - now there's a pleasant thought!! (too bloody right!! ... Ed).

Put more unequivocally 'Across The Stars' is 'Pomp!' with a capital' P!'. It's heart and soul both lyrically and musically firmly placed in the late 1970's, and early 1980's albeit with modern production values.

I feel confident that even our friend Steven B Allen, a man known for his scant praise, would (albeit grudgingly) give Flag his seal of approval.

Whilst Flag's musical style may elicit hoots of derision from large sections of the general public, it induces me to paroxysms of delight. I've never been one subject to the whims of fashionable trends (just ask my missus - she cleared out my wardrobe recently).

Picking up the thread from his Air Raid days, once again Offen takes centre stage, penning most of the songs, producing and playing pratically everything but the kitchen sink. That said, the contribution of his right hand man Jon Sherman should not be discounted as he is also an excellent vocalist and talented song-writer.

Offen's assured and commanding vocal delivery is set against a pompous backdrop of sumptuous orchestrated keyboards, biting guitars, immaculate vocal harmonies, and variations in tempo typical of the pomp genre.

There is the occasional nod to modern technology with the use of computer programming in the arrangements, but never enough to become irritating, or detract from the overall listening pleasure.

It's difficult to select a favourite track when the quality of the material is uniformly excellent. If I'm cherry picking though, I'd go for the unashamedly heartfelt 'Counting Days' (I'm a sucker for a romantic love song), the swaggering pomp bombast (or bomblast?) of 'Battle Songs' and the Saga like closer 'The Journey Long'. Here Offen lets rip with the six string on the outro - is there no end to this man's talents?

In Summary

Once again, shortly after 'Across The Stars' release it would appear that Mr Offen has pulled off yet another vanishing act.

In view of previous events, and in the interests of pomp lovers everywhere, I suggest that if sighted again, he is immediately frog marched to the nearest recording studio.

Hopefully this will ensure he follows up 'Across The Stars' with another similar overblown masterpiece.


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