Abraxas was formed in October 1987 in Bydgoszcz Poland. They played a lot of gigs and were dreaming about recording an own album. But at that time their music wasn't taken seriously. And after a struggle the band split up and didn't perform for two years. In 1991 the band revived but when their guitar player Radek Kaminski died in a car accident in 1993, nobody believed anymore in their future career. But Abraxas had a third revival and their dream of making an album came true in the year 1996. The album was simply called "Abraxas" and for my Dutch friends and me it became the album of the year. The second album of Abraxas came in 1998 and was first released in a polish version called "Centurie" and later with English vocals as "Prophecies". On that album we can find the ultimate guitar solo in the track "Pokuszenie". Their third album "99" which also came in two different versions saw the light in 1999, and a review of that album you can find in our review section. And now they released a live album in a really beautiful digipack with a booklet with photo's and lyrics of one of the two new tracks "Tomasz Fray Torquemada".
The band has now the following line-up: Marcin Blaszczyk - keyboards, Szymon Brzezinski - guitars, Adam Lassa - vocals, Mikolaj Matyska - percussion, Rafal Ratajczak - bass and Lukasz Swiech - acoustic guitars. Guests: Anja Orthodox and Kinga Bogdanska - backing vocals.
At Christmas 1999 Abraxas big friend Tomasz Beksinski died. He was the best polish translator and fan of the band. His father Zdzislaw Beksinski is in the opinion of many the best Polish painter. Some of you must remember the beautiful "Moonshine" CD cover of the also Polish band Collage. From 1985 Tomasz Beksinski was also the best prog-rock radio DJ at "Polish Radio Program 3". He was a big help for Abraxas. The band played 2 concerts for him as a memorial. The first one at 16 January 2000 in their own town Bydgoszcz at the club "Kuznia". The second one at 29 January 2000 in Warsaw at the Polish Radio Program 3. They played for 1,5 hours a set of their best songs and did do two new songs. "E'lamachiwae" a really new one and "Tomasz Fray Torquemada" a song from 1991 which was never recorded but was a favourite of Tomasz Beksinski. The concert was very special and the band decided to release the Warsaw recordings as an album and to dedicate it in memory of the late Tomasz Beksinski.
The album opens with an announcement "Zapowiedz" (2:31) from Piotr Stelmach in Polish and you can hear even if you don't understand Polish that Tomasz is remembered. I am glad Abraxas left the announcement on the CD because you can taste the atmosphere of that evening in January. Then the band opens with a song from their first album ("Abraxas") "Dorian Gray" (5:21) a typical Abraxas song. Nice melodies, a lot of tempo changes, melodic guitar sounds and aggressive guitar sounds in the same track and always lyrics which are sung very theatrical and with great passion by Adam Lassa. Tomasz Beksinski once stated: "the Abraxas music is razor-sharp and when it brushes against a man one can't remain indifferent". That aggressive side you can hear in the next track from the "99" album "14 Czerwca 1999" (2:47) It starts up-tempo and builds further up to a climax with a lot of rhythm changes and breaks with great drumming of Mikolaj. The pace slows down with the next track "Anathema, czyli moje obsesje" (7:36) (my obsessions) from the same album. It starts with a beautiful and mysteriously keyboard intro where after the bands falls in with a heavy slow sound. After that the music slowly builds up to a climax. At the climax of the fast and heavy guitar parts it suddenly goes over into a beautiful melodic guitar solo with a lot of passion. This is Abraxas, and I love it.
Next is the earlier mentioned favourite of Tomasz and Abraxas gave it the title "Tomasz Fray Torquemada" (10:31) Guitar and keyboards intro goes over into a beautiful screaming guitar part. Adam sings again with that great passion. This song has all the Abraxas ingredients. Beautiful melodies combined with the aggressive up-tempo pieces, with a delicious fat bass of Rafal. It seems to me that Abraxas is giving here 100 percent extra, special for their friend Tomasz. It's one of the highlights of the album for me. Speaking of highlights the next song is my favourite Abraxas track from their second album "Centurie" ("Prophecies"). I am talking now about "Pokuszenie" (12:32) The intro is sung slowly by Adam where after first only the keyboards join and then the complete band falls in with the first beautiful guitar sounds of Szymon. This song I like so much because the music is building slowly up to a great climax. It has its mysterious moments with an almost whispering Adam. Nice keyboard solo's but the highlight is the fantastic guitar solo in the end of Szymon Brzezinski. He puts so much emotion and passion in this one that he has several times managed to bring me into tears (tears of joy) with his playing. (You must see this as a great compliment Szymon!)
After this great track it is time for the new piece called "E'Lamachiwae" (3:39) It is an instrumental piece with mysterious keyboards in the beginning and is very complex and heavy of structure and sounds a little bit experimental. Very fast rhythms and great playing of the band. "Czakramy" (9:26) is from the "Centurie" album and starts with a slower tempo and is sometimes like a ballad, it has a beautiful melody. But it is an Abraxas song so after four minutes the song becomes more heavier and up-tempo but they combine that with the melodic refrain from the beginning which is followed by a keyboard solo of Marcin. Another great Abraxas song. "Medalion" is again from the "99" album and starts with a beautiful melodic vocal line. In my opinion Abraxas must keep to their Polish and not sing in English. Polish brings the right atmosphere into their songs. "Medalion" has melodic vocal refrains and sounds not so complicated as the standard Abraxas songs. After that a song of their first album "Tarot" (6:38) a favourite of the Abraxas fans of the first hour. The arrangements of the songs are really great and impressive. This song has again everything in six and a half minutes. The theatrical and passionate vocals, the beautiful melodies, the tempo breaks and the aggressive up-tempo parts. And did you notice I didn't compare their music to other prog bands so far. That is because their music is very original, they have an own Abraxas sound. The next song is "Spowiedz" from "99", an up-tempo song with a melodic vocal refrain. It could be a single in Poland I think. The last song (the ending from "99" ) is "Moje Mantry" (3:08) and it is a beauty. A slow song with piano intro, and the beautiful guitar solo of Szymon. This track is to short, but a great ending of a really good performance of this Polish band.
For people who don't have any records of the band this one is a good entrance to their music. You can hear a best of compilation of the band. The complete CD has a total recording time of 78:18 and is packed in a beautiful digipack. For Abraxas fans it is a must. It's a great document of that evening in Warsaw and a remembrance to Tomasz Beksinski the man that meant so much to the band.