Omega - 1986 A Föld Árnyékos Oldalán

Lee South AfricaLee South Africa South Africa
edited August 2 in year-1986

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ARTIST: Omega
ALBUM: A Föld Árnyékos Oldalán
LABEL: Favorit
SERIAL: SLPM 17865
YEAR: 1986
CD REISSUE: 1994, Hungaroton, MEGA HCD 17865 -

COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: image

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

TRACK LISTING: 01 A Föld Árnyékos Oldalán * 02 Hallgatag Szív * 03 Vigyázz Ránk! * 04 Fekete Pillangó * 05 Holdfény-negyed * 06 A Pénz * 07 Az Utolsó Zöld Levél * 08 Computer-álom * 09 Arnyékember * 10 Fekete Doboz (A Challanger Emlékére)

Background

Hungarian AOR kings Omega had eluded me until recently (thanks Eric), so having finally taken possession of this disc by way of beginning the process of collecting their AOR material, why not shed some Glory Daze light onto the band?

I say AOR kings, although they certainly were prog influenced in the early to mid 70's, and as they shifted toward AOR in the later 70's and beyond, their sound was still shot through with prog/pomp flourish. Sound familiar?

Yes, the usual suspects are rounded up again, comparisons such as 80's Eloy, Saga, the harder side of BJH and another new discovery (thanks again Eric) FSB.

There is a difference here though, and that is temperature. If music can be said to have a temperature, then Omega are not merely chilly, imagine Eloy and Saga taken out of the fridge and placed in the freezer for a week. The sound here is positively frigid, but no less melodic and no less AOR.

Let me also be clear about this: we are not dealing with an obscure band here, these guys were very popular in several parts of Europe (Germany especially), and untouchable stadium fillers in Hungary. Check Youtube full concert Nepstadion 1994 to get a sense of the magnitude/majesty Omega represents.

They sing in Hungarian, which is something to adapt to, but really isn't an obstacle after a few listens. Having thought Dragon was the last great AOR surprise I would experience, what a pleasure to be wrong!

The Songs

Title track 'A Föld Árnyékos Oldalán' kicks us off with some spoken word over stirring piano, before launching into a relentless AOR backbeat and melody. This is really catchy stuff, synth and drums taking the major role but in a hard, icy way.

This is certainly not lightweight. Gyorgy Molnar unleashes his guitar in the post chorus breaks, but the sound is colder than your standard AOR overdriven guitar. This is razor sharp, precise, whether riffing or soloing, like a scalpel being used to perform melodic surgery on the track at hand. I hear traces of Cheap Trick and Golden Earring just behind the obvious Saga/Eloy comparisons.

'Hallgatag Szív' (Child In Your Arms) ranks as an outright AOR classic for me, a slightly electro beginning gives way to crunching AOR, that snare drum sounding like a wrecking ball smashing into the solid ice of a frozen lake, the chorus gusting in like a melodic chill wind off the frozen mountain tops. This is high class AOR that stands alongside any legendary AOR band we hold as sacred. My glass of gluhwein overflows!

'Vigyázz Ránk!' introduces some midtempo, complete with Saga like frigid electro synth at times, and the occasional startling pomp blast, something like an ice cold slap in the face (in a good way). Ridiculously catchy throughout, I again hear some faint traces of Cheap Trick here and there, paricularly the occasional snarl in Janos Kobor's vocal delivery.

'Fekete Pillangó' is the first ballad, hardly any guitar power going on but plenty of synth and a flag waving sing along chorus to sweep us away. During the above mentioned 1994 stadium concert, Klaus Meine and Rudolf Schenker joined Omega on stage to perform this track and 'Winds Of Change'.

'Holdfény-negyed' is something of a semi ballad with a military drum theme eventuating through most of it, but the melody is again the star of the show. Understated and subtle, even wistful, this will stay with you the more you listen, the chorus especially. One of those AOR sleepers that creeps up on you.

'A Pénz ' gets us back to full AOR tempo, minor key synth in the verses a little startling, like some of Cheap Trick's more experimental moments (High Priest Of Rhythmic Noise, I Want Be Man, 3D etc). The chorus redeems though, addictively catchy and sounding like they are dealing with fairly light subject matter here. Some worthy contribution from the scalpel wielding Molnar as well.

'Az Utolsó Zöld Levél' is pure AOR class, from the synth motif to Molnar's crunching sustain in the verses, then fluid runs in the instrumental breaks, imagine Neal Schon's guitar sound processed through a glacier. Superb vocal from Kobor as well, this transcends any prog AOR sub genre pigeonholing. Outright AOR of the highest order, and how could I neglect the anthemic chorus and a post chorus pomp rock extravaganza?

More gluhwein I say, although 'Computer-álom' might briefly unsettle our tour of AOR's icy side, here the hi tech bits and robo voices get away from the band a little too much. A bit of a novelty I suppose like a crazy Tubes offcut, not really my scene.

'Arnyékember' corrects the steering though, as we miss the iceberg and go back into uptempo AOR territory, some insistent riffing and ever present synth in a truly simple song structure. Use of some minor chords adding more chill factor, but I find myself thinking it again : this is catchy as hell, despite no discernable chorus!

'Fekete Doboz (A Challanger Emlékére)' closes the album, a dramatic and heartfelt ballad with some soaring guitar into the mix. I write this under correction, but 'Fekete Doboz' may refer to 'Black Day', a tribute to the crew aboard the space shuttle that exploded after take off in 1986.

Two bonus tracks follow on the version I have, English renditions of 'Child In Your Arms' and 'Black Butterfly'. Janos Kobor handles English especially well, the highlight being the soaring version of 'Child In Your Arms'. What a vocal take! Pure, undiluted AOR.

In Summary

It's difficult to find definite information on how this album fared commercially, remember this is AOR from behind the iron curtain, all the more remarkable considering the odds rock music was facing from the governments of the day.

However, Youtube footage of a concert in Hungary around 1987 shows some of these tracks being performed to a 70,000 stadium going completely nuts. I think we can safely assume it was a success!

Next on the horizon would be the 'Babylon' album, a further AOR gem from 1987. Then a compilation Platinum 1977 to 1987, followed by some inactivity until 1994 when their comeback concert was recorded and released as two live albums.

'Trancendent' would emerge in 1996, AOR bliss released in Hungarian and English versions, as they did in the 70's. More on Omega in the coming months.


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