Greg Northrup    7-August-2001 Nagyvárosi Ikonok

I gotta say, the opening to this album is one of the most exciting I've ever heard. I mean, it's just an explosion of keyboards and locked-in, thundering drum patterns, with some killer electronic sample cycling over the riff, driving home the groove. Townscream is the project of former After Crying keyboardist Csaba Vedres, and there is an expectedly significant carry over from his former band, Vedres being the main composer during his stay. Considering that After Crying's period with Vedres at the helm was arguably their most successful, fans of their early work would probably want to follow him to Townscream before exploring the more inconsistent, later After Crying albums. Nagyvárosi Ikonok received a ton of hype upon its release, and as usual there's been backlash, but I think now that the dust has settled, it still stands as a great album. For those familiar with After Crying's work, Townscream is slightly heavier and more aggressive, but also manages to work in that lush, classically inspired After Crying feel at points. In some ways they are even more varied, which may contribute to complaints concerning the discontinuity of the album. Even those unfamiliar with early After Crying should make an effort to pursue Townscream, as I think the album stands up very well on its own and would possibly halt the unconscious desire to compare the two groups.

As is usually the case with Csaba Vedres, his biggest inspirations seem to be King Crimson and Emerson, Lake and Palmer, as well as his incorporation of a dark classical feel to the music. The album moves through a number of different phases, which sort of caused me to lose interest at various points at first, focusing on one chunk of pieces and then sort of zoning out. However, repeated listenings have allowed the whole thing to sink in and make sense. The title suite is an unequivocal masterpiece. The aforementioned opening is utterly fantastic, but the piece doesn't really let down as far as quality goes, though certainly the intensity is varied throughout. It incorporates a number of beautiful piano solos, as well as a drum solo that uses sampled rhythms to great effect before exploding into the suite's shuddering climax. "Minden Nap" is the first track that really evokes early After Crying, an extremely beautiful and melodic piece featuring vocals, acoustic guitar and flute.

The next section of the album was originally what sort of lost me. "A Lazarus-Ból" through "Koldus" are extremely ELP-ish, and very bombastic. However, the aggressive cello and horn parts that overlay the keyboard pyrotechnics really sunk in over time, and I've gotten to thoroughly enjoy this section of the album as well, reminding me that there's really nothing wrong with ELP-style bombast, as long as it's done well.

The final section of the album starts out very slow, as both the ninth and tenth tracks occupy around ten minutes of near dead air, consisting of minimalistic chanting and sound effects. However, patience pays off as the closing set of tunes proves utterly fantastic, rivalling the best work of After Crying and in very much the same style. Stunning symphonic progressive with an overt classical air and with all the flourish and grand instrumentation that we've come to expect from such large scale Vedres compositions. Nagyvárosi Ikonok requires some persistent listening for it to all fall together. It does drag at points, and the project could have used some tightening up, but the album still holds up with any of the After Crying albums. A great example of original and inspired symphonic progressive for the 90s. Here's to hoping we'll see some more out of Townscream in the future, though Vedres has been apparently concentrating on solo piano work as of late. Ah well, the next album could have been a real classic.

Tom Hayes 16-April-2001 Nagyvárosi Ikonok

Townscream are an After Crying offshoot and very similar. As with After Crying there are plenty of digital keys, speedy piano runs, powerful rock drumming, ELPisms, pseudo-classical riffs and lots of singing/a cappella/narration in Hungarian. Many of the best ideas on here are presented on the four-part title track and the seven-minute "Fekete Hangulat", which have a more instrumental and creative approach to songwriting. Clearly, the keyboards are at the forefront of all the compositions with too few examples of flute, violin and electric guitar (great fat sound too). Also, like After Crying, the male vocals can dominate to the point of irritation. Unfortunately, despite a promising start, Townscream really crawls to the finish. The atmospheric five minute synth piece "Igy Szolt a Madar" is just boring. They even cop a bit of "Peace" from King Crimson on "Hajnali Enek". The excellent instrumental break on "Alaszalla a Poklokra" being the major exception to this slowdown.

While there is really nothing wrong with Townscream, I just don't see what all the fuss is about. They are obviously accomplished musicians and the music is decidedly uncommercial, though it all seems a bit contrived and "square wave" to my ears (with some stunning exceptions). A good but unspectacular release. They do, however, seem to have the potential to construct a masterpiece.

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