Coste Apetrea is an artist with a pedigree reaching back as far as the early 70s, and it includes a great variety of band constellations, genres and venues (the Montreaux Jazz Festival and the Roskilde Festival to name but a few). He’s dabbled with jazz, world, alternative, rock, 70s prog and now something bordering on metal – and there can be no doubt that his compositional and musical skills are very good.
I’ve had his latest solo effort Surprisingly Heavy lying around for quite some time now, and I’m still not sure what to make of it. It’s mostly a prog rock album drawing on everything from Yes to Proto-Kaw to some very modern heavy riffing. Some tracks, like ‘Macho’, are more straight rockers with a 70s groove that remind me of Captain Beyond, Montrose and even UFO, but there’s always an underlying experimental air that brings Frank Zappa to mind.
Every time I listen to this album I have a feeling that it’s just too much. Some parts are really good, but just when you think you’ve got it nailed and sit there bopping your head to the groove, Apetrea spins everything on its head and throws you off balance again. The music weaves between heavy riffing and soaring instrumental passages, blistering soloing, jazzy jamming, syncopated drumming under straight rock chords … and I could go on, but just try listening to tracks like ‘Shadow Boxer’ and 'Take The Stairs', and you’ll catch my drift.
I’m not sure if this variety – and I’m sure all the twists and turns are intentional – is a strength in the sense that one can listen to this album again and again and always discover new little details and finesses, or whether it’s a drawback simply because it gets too confusing. All I know is that I’m going to give Surprisingly Heavy an occasional spin in my CD player to try and find out what this guy is really up to.
Very interesting but definitely not something that will suit everybody’s taste. Give it time to sink in, though. A month ago I would have given this 40/100 – come the end of the year, maybe I’ll rate it as a classic.