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Music DVD Review: Andromeda – Playing Off the Board

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Europe has such a great metal scene. It seems like every time I turn around there is a new, at least to me, band from across the Atlantic that is turning out incredible music. It doesn't seem to matter what style you are looking for, there it is.

Take Andromeda, for example, prior to my viewing of this DVD, I had never heard them. I slipped the disk in, no idea what to expect, pressed play, and prayed that it is good. In this case, it is better than good. Andromeda's brand of melodic prog-metal is beyond compare, these guys possess an incredible amount of talent, and this DVD clearly shows off what they can do.

When you first hear them, the obvious comparison is going to be with Dream Theater. I think it is almost inevitable  if you play melodic prog-metal, at some point you are going to be compared to the band that could arguably be called the leader of the genre. It doesn't hurt that they are one of my favorite bands. Anyway, Andromeda's music is highly technical, very melodic, and filled with hooks, a certain level of catchiness, and some insane soloing. It is definitely comparable to Dream Theater, but this band does stand a bit apart, I cannot quite put my finger on it, but they have a distinctly different flavor that is a little more consistently heavy, perhaps it has to do with their developing their sound in their Swedish homeland. Whatever it is, they do stand as their own band, and the music is incredible.

The show was filmed at the Slaski Theater, in Poland, on a cold October night. The setting is perfect for this music, it is an actual sitdown theater that provides an intimate setting, and just looks like a great concert hall. The only downside would have to be that it is a sitdown theater, so, despite the great setting, the fans can only get so rowdy, and this night they seemed to be rather sedate, as there is very little crowd noise creeping into the mix.

At this stage of their career, they have three albums, plus a re-release of their debut album, re-recorded with their new lead singer. The 12 song setlist is equally balanced between all of them. I could not tell you which song came from which album, but they are all pretty impressive. The centerpiece being the instrumental "Chameleon Carneval," which is also the most Dream Theater-esque sounding track. This marks the mid-point of the set, and features some lightning fast solos, some fantastic unison between guitar and keyboards, and some catchy prog grooves.

The concert is very nicely shot. I have a few nitpicks here and there, but they are few and far between.  They have to do with some of the camera work, occasionally they insist on putting in a quick zoom in/out, other times has the camera rotating from side to side. Frankly, I found those moves to be a bit distracting. There is good camera movement rotating around the band, equal time for the band members, and for all you guitar players out there, there are some great closeups of guitarist Johan Reindholz hands that let you get a pretty good look at what he's doing.

Watching Andromeda onstage is like having my eyes opened for the first time. No, it isn't my first round with this style of music, though I freely admit that there are a lot of bands out there that I have yet to discover. I say that because when you hear an impressive band play, you cannot help but get hooked in, and Andromeda does just that.  If their stage presence has a weakpoint, it is vocalist David Fremberg. He has a very good voice, but there seems to be something lacking in stage presence. Still, that is a minor nit, as they just sound great.

As for the DVD, the 90 minute concert looks great, ir is nicely shot, beautifully transferred, and presented in anamorphic widescreen. The audio is just as good, with the 2.0 track feeling a bit meatier than the 5.1 track, though neither one is seriously lacking.

As good as the tech aspects are, there are an absolute ton of extras to wade through. There are lengthy interviews with band members, road movies with the band goofing around, practice footage, old live material, photo galleries, PC wallpapers, and text biographies for all the band members. There is just a lot of stuff fleshing out this release, making it even more worthy, though even without it, the concert alone would be worth it.

Bottomline. This is a must have for Andromeda fans, and for those who don't know the band, but like prog-metal, this is a must have. You will not be disappointed by this incredibly talented band as they put on a great set of music, showing off their skills, rocking hard and just flat out impressing.

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