Ars Nova - 1998 - The Book Of The Dead 
Genre: Progressive Rock
Album Infor (DPRP CD Review):
Ars Nova is a three piece band from Japan. The core of the group, the two female members of the band, Keiko Kumagai (keyboards) and Akiko Takahasho (drums) have worked with Ken Ishita (bass) on this album. An ELP-like line-up is the result. Soundwise there are also similarities between these bands, although a strong Wakemanian-influence cannot be denied either. Ars Nova's music is instrumental, psychedelic and very keyboard oriented.
The Musea-version of The Book Of The Dead features some extra 'bonus'-tracks (called interludes), that form 'bridges' between the longer songs. The interludes are nicely put between the other songs and hence the from a 'resting point' for the listener. This is indeed necessary, since Ars Nova's music is very hectic, fast and bombastic.
The prologue, Re leads to Ankh, a fast song with oriental melody patterns and changing melody-lines, not unlike Wakeman's music, but more psychedelic. The piano-piece Nut is followed by another bombastic song, The 42 Gods. There are many changes in this song as well. Hammond, mellotron, Keiko Kumagai uses it all in this orchestral composition. In between the orchestration there's room for a nice, almost 80s-sounding keys-solo. Anubis is an oriental (Persian?) introduction to Held Of Iaru. This composition starts off in a very quiet mood, with church-organ and a great synth-lead on top of it. Twinkling sounds follow, and an orchestra comes in bombastically, including a harp. An interlude features some 'classical' piano, to contrast the bombast of the rest of the track. A lot is happening in this track, like in the other tracks. Key-solo's, drums-breaks and even a bass-solo, it's all there. Aggressive and romantic parts follow each other. Another middle-east-sounding interlude, called Sekhem, features rhythmic instruments prominently. A fast The Judgment Of Osiris follows. Great rhythm, great keyboardlead. Orchestral sounds in between the solo's. This song is a bit more melodic than Held Of Iaru but is made up of the same ingredients. Ani's Heart and Maat's Feather begins with sound 'from a night-scene' and other threatening sounds. But soon this track develops along the same pattern: solo's, interludes, fast drums, orchestral sounds. To me, this almost 10-minute track is a bit too much after all the impressions of the aforementioned songs. This is certainly no easy-listening, although very nice, oriental melodies are present here again.
Because of the instrumental and hectic nature of the music, the album is a bit hard to get into. But there are some really awesome bits on this album. The album delivers a lot of variation, primarily within (and not between) the songs, because most of them follow the same 'structure', which makes it difficult to keep them apart. The Book Of The Dead takes strong nerves to get through and the 45 minutes of the album is more than enough, but it's certainly a beautiful experience. If you like ELP or Wakeman, you should give this a chance. It certainly takes you one step further.
1. Prologue: Re (1:35)
2. Ankh (5:11)
3. Interlude 1: Nut (1:11)
4. The 42 Gods (5:15)
5. Interlude 2: Anubis (0:40)
6. Held Of Iaru (10:43)
7. Interlude 3: Sekhem (1:03)
8. The Judgement Of Osiris (7:41)
9. Interlude 4: Nephthys (0:33)
10. Ani's Heart and Maat's Feather (9:20)
11. Epilogue: Hapi (1:01)