Omega - Transcendent

Lee South AfricaLee South Africa South Africa
edited August 1 in year-1996

'Transcendent' has become a 90's AOR classic for me, and a very welcome one considering how barren that decade was compared to the 80's.

Omega - Transcendent
ALBUM: Transcendent
LABEL: Hungaroton
SERIAL: HICD 085-54002
YEAR: 1996

LINEUP: Edwin Balogh - lead vocals * Janos Kobor - lead vocals * Gyorgy Molnar - guitars * Laszlo Benko - keyboards, vocals * Tamas Mihaly - bass, vocals * Ferenc Debreczeni - drums

TRACK LISTING: 01 Overture * 02 Silent Garden * 03 Castles Of Reality * 04 Break The Chain * 05 Tower Of Babel * 06 The Ocean * 07 Tomorrow * 08 Sight By Sight * 09 Returning To The Garden



Having immersed myself in Omega for the last several months, this most recent arrival in the post was no exception. As stated in previous reviews, the band members focused on personal projects after 1988's 'Platina' compilation, a temporary hiatus as demand for the band reached fever pitch.

And in 1994 a comeback concert was announced at the legendary Nepstadion in Budapest, 80 000 people crammed into the venue as the band reignited classics from their catalogue in the pouring rain, even joined on stage by old friends Klaus Meine and Rudolph Schenker. Such was the success of this show that it was released as two live albums in 1994, and prompted Omega back into songwriting action.

The curiously titled studio album 'Transandans' appeared in 1995, sung in Hungarian with Janos Kobor at the mike, a stunning comeback which fared decently at the box office rather than smashing it wide open. Reasons for this appear to be the title, which hinted at the 'rave' club scene going on at the time, possibly confusing some fans as to the direction on the album. They needn't have worried, powerful AOR was on the agenda. Omega certainly did not do a mid 90's Hawkwind and get into trance loops etc (although I admit that stuff was quite interesting!).

After the album's run the band felt this album had more to give, and so they set about releasing an English version. Front man Janos Kobor had enough of struggling with English diction, and personally sanctioned the hiring of Dutchman Edwin Balogh to sing on this new English version. A very good but very different voice to that of the legendary Kobor, he performed admirably, seeing a slightly abbreviated 9 track version released in 1996 as 'Transcendent' for the international market.

The Songs

'Overture' eases us into the album via a 2 minute atmospheric synth piece, gliding into 'Silent Garden', the opening song proper. Starting off in subdued form, Omega set about giving a master-class in AOR song construction, adding layers and increasing tempo all the while, until the final minute sweeps you up and away on waves of urgent melody and tempo. Something in Balogh's voice reminds me vaguely of erstwhile 90's Asia vocalist John Payne. Remember he is copying tracks originally sung by the mighty Janos Kobor, perhaps finding the deeper registers tough work, but coming out with plenty of credit at the end.

'Castles Of Reality' follows a similar path, very gentle at first yet building to a determined mid-tempo by the Magnum tinged grand-pomp chorus, not miles away from their 'Sleepwalking' album. Epic AOR it has to be said. 'Break The Chain' ushers in the first ballad, focusing on the evils of drug abuse and trying to break free of addiction, some of the lyrics are fairly wrenching as is the melody. Soaring guitar parts blend with tasteful keys, Balogh reaching for the sky by song's end. Unmissable AOR.

'Tower Of Babel' is an English rewrite of their 1987 classic 'Babylon', a slightly harder edge coming to the fore and thicker vocals on the chorus. This is a welcome addition and interesting to compare with the original, which I still prefer but it's marginal.

'The Ocean' could be called a ballad but it's really more about down-tempo, moody AOR full of melancholy appeal, it will touch anyone who has lived at the coast and doesn't any longer. Omega pull out yet another anthemic chorus, somewhere between Magnum and Y&T in their quieter moments.

'Tomorrow' is an outright AOR blockbuster, urgent tempo and a killer hook bordering on heavy, Omega delve into something of a morality sermon. The chorus could knock the Springbok pack onto their backs, a semi chanted anthemic affair to set the coffee meter to overload, Y&T again comes to mind, together with 80's Kiss at times. Blistering stuff.

'Sight By Sight' presents itself as a ballad but wants to be a mid-tempo AOR blinder when it grows up, and guess what: Omega swallowed the Magnum tablets again, the track's conversion to soaring AOR is completed by the overwhelming chorus, adding some Foreigner styled backing vocals to the established Magnum influence. Grandiose AOR and nowhere to run.

'Transcendent' ends with 'Returning To The Garden', a melodic and lyrical reprise of the opening song. Again a track of two halves, moody and restrained at first, it slowly builds to a crescendo of pomp rock death, repeating a chorus mantra over a melody that can quite honestly only be Omega. That mantra reads 'There's more to see than ever meets the eye, behind every new moon an old sun is in the sky'. Cryptic, even mystical, but somehow unforgettable once you've heard it.

In Summary

'Transcendent' has become a 90's AOR classic for me, and a very welcome one considering how barren that decade was compared to the 80's. Omega seem to possess a sense of melody that is both triumphant and melancholy, a tendency that is in very strong evidence all over this album.

Edwin Balogh gives a sterling performance, yet Janos Kobor remains the de-facto Omega front man and is also listed in the credits for this English version. Most likely his presence is felt in the backing vocals. There would be future sporadic releases from Omega, but 'Transcendent' marks the end of their essential AOR era. More on Omega in the coming months, early 80's and late 70's coming into focus.

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