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King Crimson

The Power To Believe

Review by Gary Hill

Since its formation in the late 1960's King Crimson has never been content to stay in one musical place. They were one of the pioneers of progressive rock, and under the guidance of band leader Robert Fripp they have gone through many changes, both in terms of musical style and lineup. Indeed, they began as a psychedelic sort of form of free form prog wanderings, then moved into more jazzy and eventually pioneered a hard edged sort of blend of prog with guitar dominated fusion and hard rock. They broke up for a time, then reformed in the 1980's with a completely new sound, somewhat alternative in texture, and definitely quite quirky. After a couple of other incarnations, the band have released a true masterpiece in The Power To Believe. The disc seems to have elements of all the rich musical history and textures of the group, but with a much harder edge. This is not metal, but should appeal to fans of prog metal while still pleasing long time Crimson fans. The album really is one of the finest produced by any grouping of this band.

The current lineup of the group is Fripp on guitar, Adrian Belew providing both additional guitar and vocals, Trey Gunn on Warr guitar and rubber bass, and Pat Mastelotto manning the drums. An A Cappella take on the title cut theme starts the disc, but as Level Five takes over from there, it is quickly proven that this is no wimpy recording. Standout cuts include "Facts of Life" and "Dangerous Curves".

All in all, if you have ever liked King Crimson, run, don't walk to the store and pick this up, its greatness is on a level quite close to even such KC classics as Red. If you are a fan of hard and adventurous rock, but have never heard Crimson, this would be a great introduction to the band.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2003 Year Book Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
The Power To Believe (A Cappella)
This short acapella number based on slightly processed vocals seems to call to mind the very early era of King Crimson.
Level Five
Frantic hard edged jamming screams out, feeling all the more tense contrasted to the gentleness of the previous piece. This is a strong rocker, although at times it feels a bit like a dinosaur plodding along. The instrumental is full of trademark Crimsonisms. It comes across as bot a bit like Red and a rather like some of the material from ConstruKCtion of Light. This has plenty of twists.
Eyes Wide Open
Less furious and more melodic, this feels more like something from the Discipline or Beat eras of the band. It has a catchy chorus, but is not really a standout number.
Electrik
Atmosphere starts this. As it carries forward, circular guitar patterns, very typically Crimsonian in texture appear. This instrumental is not particularly earth shattering, but instead feels like the culmination of a modern Crimson jam, varied segments and all.
Facts of Life Intro
Textural and haunting, this is a short instrumental that, appropriately, runs straight into the next cut. A hammering hard-edged jam serves as the last segment of this.
Facts of Life
This scathing take on the human condition is a killer jam and one of the high points of the disc. Metal fans and Crimson aficionados alike should appreciate this one. It includes a screaming and erratic, but quite cool instrumental segment. The lyrics are quite a clever take that includes a comparison to humans and the insect world "6 billion ants crawling on a plate", and a statement that perhaps nations should consider "It doesn't mean you should just because you can".
The Power to Believe II
This is an intricate and rather pretty tune based on percussive elements. It serves as a nice break after the fury of the last song. It includes similar vocals to those that started the disc. The cut gets rather intense later and the guitar takes some time for wandering about.
Dangerous Curves
This is another that comes in atmospheric. Waves build in almost Hawkwindish electronic manners as the percussion begins running about. The steady evolution process continues, the instrumental piece gaining both intensity and volume. It gets a bit cacophonous at times, then bursts forth into a cool riff based jam. It moves back to the earlier elements, but with a new enthusiasm. Raucous cacophony serves as the outro.
Happy With What You Have To Be Happy With
This one is rowdy, metallic and fun. It drams to a very intriguing chorus with a killer vocal arrangement and screaming guitar dominates a brief break. The lyrics are essentially a parody of a tired and over-relied upon song structure. "I'm gonna have to write a chorus, We're gonna need a chorus, And this would seem as good a place as any, To repeat it til I'm blue in the face."
The Power to Believe III
This is a rather erratic, but quite dramatic Crimson jam. Fairly sedate throughout the majority, there are bursts of fury. It also turns to a textural soundscape at time. This is quite dynamic for a song that weighs in at less than 5-minutes in length.
The Power to Believe IV: Coda
Atmosphere starts this one, and the cut is essentially a reprise of the opening track, but accompanied by sedate, almost neo-classical textures. This is a short one.
 
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