Exposé print issues (1993-2011)
Cast — Angels and Demons
(Bandcamp no#, 1997, CD / DL)
I've been reading about Cast for a while in Exposé, but the arrival of this disc marks the first time I've actually heard them. So going into it, I knew they were a "symphonic neo-prog" band from Mexico, and I was not expecting much. Symphonic neo-prog would not generally be to my liking. I grew up on the first generation of classically-oriented progressive rock (Genesis, Yes, ELP, and the rest) and my general impression of neo-prog is "Been there, heard that." Then Angels and Demons kicks in with a quick drum roll and twenty seconds of pure percussive energy, followed by a short silence and a nice bit of everybody playing eighth notes in 7/8. The keyboards predominate, but a lyric electric guitar soars over it all, providing a gutsy top to masses of synth and piano. This is "Initiation" in more ways than one; I'm hooked. The musicians wear their influences proudly (I hear lots of Genesis in particular), but manage to avoid sounding overly derivative to my ears. It's over eight minutes into the lengthy disc (weighing in around 74 minutes) before there's any singing. The vocals remind me a bit of PFM, though without the vibrato, and all the lyrics are in English. In spite of a somewhat ambitious concept to the album involving the fall of an angel and the coming of a redeemer to the world (sounds vaguely familiar somehow), the lyrics are mostly decent and manage to avoid weighing down the music with semi-religious philosophizing. What really sets Cast apart is the quality of the writing and playing. Keyboardist Alfonso Vidales, who is responsible for all the composing, has a real penchant for odd meters (always a plus in my book), and the arranging duties (shared by all the players) spotlight tight ensemble playing over individual ego-gratification. And I have no complaints about the production, either: this recording from "Cast Studio" sounds crisp and professional in all respects.
by Jon Davis, Published 1998-02-01
Cast never ceases to amaze. Just when I thought they had reached their peak with Beyond Reality, they one-up themselves with this, their latest release. Before I had even placed the disc in the player, I already was delighted to discover that about one-third of the albums' tracks are instrumentals. What's more, with the exception of "We Don't Belong to Heaven" (the album's first vocal track), the group seems to have eschewed traditional verse / chorus / verse song structures altogether. This is for the better, I think, allowing them to move further away from the dreaded "neo" tag. With Endless Signs and Beyond Reality, Alfonso Vidales developed his distinctive composing and playing style, a return toward the classical music roots that most British neo bands were (and still are) moving away from. With Angels and Demons, the entire band improves on their own distinctive style. And it seems with each successive album, Dino Brassea plays more and more flute. This album seems to comprise, along with the previous two, the beginning of a healthy, creative plateau. In the end, those who already big fans of them will not be disappointed one whit by this one. If you haven't heard any Cast yet, start here.
by Mike Ohman, Published 1998-02-01
Cast is indeed a prolific band. I barely got acquainted with their previous release, last year's Beyond Reality, when Angels and Demons appeared. As with all previous efforts from this Mexicali quintet, Angels and Demons' 10 songs belie a strong undercurrent of '76-'78 Genesis influenced symphonic prog. Instrumentally speaking, the band's sound is again centered on Alfonso Vidales' multi-colored keyboard wizardry with guitar, bass, and drums rounding out the arrangements. Vocals are handled jointly by Dino Brassea (who also adds occasional flute) and guitarist Francisco Hernandez. Content wise, Angels and Demons deals with man's pursuit of heavenly freedom and escape from the agents of evil. Despite its strong religious references, I doubt many would take offense at what are fundamentally songs of hope in the face of temptation and oppression. This CD has two things going for it over past Cast releases. One, someone in the band must have gotten wind of the frequent complaints of weak drums because Antonio Bringas' playing is frequently noteworthy, often ahead of the guitar in the mix. Also, the overall production is cleaner and, while still flat in certain places, Cast's best yet. Finally, many acknowledge that this band is strongest during their instrumental jams (especially live) and happily Angels and Demons has lots here to offer. Many shining moments come to mind but standout tracks are the over 13 minute "Revealing Signs of Love" suite with its catchy melodies and fiery closing instrumental romp as well as the closer "White Lies," which features some of Hernandez’ best guitar work and another great instrumental workout. If Cast is your cup of tea, this one is a must.
by Paul Hightower, Published 1998-02-01
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