This meld of prog rock and classical is as interesting an album as you’d want; entertaining if you like your prog broken down and your classical with bass solos and lots of 4/4 time. Mike Oldfield managed it on Tubular Bells. Adventurous brass band fans might also find much to like.
Porra, (40), is an interesting guy: a Finnish composer, he is the great grandson of composer Jean Sibelius but also bass player in Stratovarius, a power metal band, a genre that is huge across Northern Europe and down to Germany.
Porra started in the family tradition at six with the cello, then switched to bass guitar — at which he is a virtuoso — as well as learning piano, double bass, trumpet and singing. In his downtime he composes film and television scores.
This album is his most recent orchestral works, performed by Lahti Symphony Orchestra and conducted by Jaakko Kuusisto.
Opening piece Kohta is 19 minutes long and features the least successful component of the album, the voice of rap artist Paperi T (Henri Pulkkinen to his friends). The instrumental version is a bonus track at the end.
He speaks/sings in Finnish backed by the orchestra, with a token snatch of the chorus of Rage Against The Machine’s Killing In The Name meeting classical Scandinavian sounds, plus saxophone solo. We generally like spoken sections in languages we don’t understand, but Finnish is a less harmonious language than, say, Spanish. This is not to say it’s a weak song, we just think the spoken sections are the least-best sections.
If you play drums, you’re going to love Domino Suite, 17 minutes divided in three movements. The opening section Stasis begins with gentle piano then strings, only the pulse of a beat (on the piano) giving away its rock star writer’s day job.
The second movement, Domino is edgier, drummer Riippa Joonas doing a fine impression of Animal from The Muppets as the percussion goes mad under a modern (classical) brass section and strings; without the drums some sections would be discordant but Joonas holds it all together and gives it cohesion. This is probably one of the sections that prog fans would like best (and we include Mike Oldfield in prog). It grows in sound in a Thus Spoke Zarathustra kind of way, the strings gradually smoothing out as Joonas attempts to replicate the sound of a firework display on his drumkit. Surrender slows it all down again, with gentle piano and strings.
Porra is known for bass solos with Stratovarius, often playing the national anthems of the countries they tour in, and Entropia, Concerto For Electric Bass, originally composed for the 150th anniversary of Jean Sibelius, gives him a chance to show off his chops. Impressive. It’s not all bass, and large parts of this piece are the most traditional sounding of the album, showing Porra can do Sibelius when he wants to.
Porra’s bass and the orchestra go together well. We guess people who strictly define the classical music they like will recoil in horror, but for those more adventurous, it’s impressive.
Out on Bis, BIS2305.