Originally released in the year 2005, "Tales from the Artichoke Wood" is the third studio album by the Polish band Lizard. Now there is a freshly remastered and remixed 2021 version. I remember well that their debut album "W Gallerii Czasu" ("In The Gallery Of Time") was released. A real sensation for me, one of the best debut albums of a new Prog band. Now that we are years later, the Polish Lizard is still an underrated prog band in my opinion. The band itself says it all "Hard, Difficult & Unpleasant Music" but also "Let People Think On Their Own Now". The references to King Crimson's music are often mentioned. But I never understood the fact that Lizard's albums don't sell as often as King Crimson's. So yes, I will continue to support and promote Damian Bydliński's band. This is an album painted with sounds because you can find three suites on the album which are inspired by famous painters. Painters who are so famous now that we recognise them by their first names (Vincent, Salvador and Pablo).
Janusz Tanistra - bass guitar; Krzysztof Maciejowski - violin, keyboards; Mariusz Szulakowski - drums, percussion; Damian Bydlinski - vocals, guitar, guitar synth
Daniel Kurtyka - guitar; Pawel Fabrowicz - keyboards
In addition to the already mentioned suites inspired by famous painters, the album also consists of the title track, which is split into two parts and placed before and after the three suites. This re-release also has a hidden bonus track, but more on that later.
So the albums opens with the track "Tales from the Artichoke Wood Part I" (8:46). A song that starts quietly with a plucking guitar and delicately sung Polish lyrics. By continuing to sing in their native language, the band keeps the unique Polish atmosphere in their music. Then the tempo picks up and we hear the first references to the work of King Crimson, especially in the guitar work. But because this has been seamlessly woven into their music over the years, it does not disturb and their musical style remains unique. In the last part of the track the band goes wild, especially during the beautiful violin solo. A great opener to this album.
When I hear the name Vincent, especially as a Dutch person, I think of the Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh. The three-part suite "Vincent" is inspired by this painter. "Vincent: Impression 1" (1:26) is a short and atmospheric intro with a spatial violin part. "Vincent: Impression 2" (3:44) starts as a ballad-like song with beautiful vocal lines supported by plucking guitars and atmospheric keyboard and violin parts. The second part has beautiful melodic keyboard melodies which are backed up with a beautiful violin solo. I "Vincent: Impression 3" (6:08) has nice bass parts and in the vocal choruses the intensity slowly increases but the music remains melodic. In the later part the piano is also used before the music really gets more powerful and contains a nice reference to the debut album from UK.
"Salvador: Impression 1" (1:20) is another atmospheric introduction with sound samples and delicious Mellotron string. "Salvador: Impression 2" (5:31) opens with those fierce King Crimson guitars. The next vocal part is quieter in construction but soon those guitars come back again. Now preceded by a lovely freaky violin part. This is the typical Lizard sound. The song continues to fascinate because of the alternation of vocal parts, heavy guitars, wonderful violin and drum parts. In the last part, the Mellotron also returns. A wonderful impression. "Salvador: Impression 3" (7:17) opens with a delicate electric guitar supported by atmospheric keyboards. It gives a mysterious atmosphere to the music. In the second part of this impression the music gets heavier due to the uptempo guitar parts before the vocals return but the music remains heavy with fine drums, organ and violin parts.
"Pablo: Impression 1" (3:11) has beautiful and melodic vocal parts before the heavy guitar and drums take over in "Pablo: Impression 2" (8:15). The vocal parts are again calmer in tempo. This works well so that the music is in balance and remains captivating. In this impression the reference with King Crimson comes into play again. Slowly it is working towards a climax. Wonderful when that violin counteracts the guitars.
"Tales from the Artichoke Wood Part 2" concludes this album in an atmospheric way. However, the album has another hidden bonus track. It is a live version of "Psychopuls # 001 Part 2" / "Psychopuls # 002 Part 1 & 2" performed live in Bielsko-Biała, Poland on September 20, 2015 (25th anniversary concert), mixed by Marcin Piekło in 2017. Both parts are powerful tracks with again those wonderful violin and synth parts that counterbalance the heavy guitars. But part two also has nice quiet vocal parts that are musically supported in a delicate way.
First, I would like to thank Damian Bydlinski for making a physical promo copy available to progVisions again. This freshly remastered and remixed 2021 version of "Tales from the Artichoke Wood" sounds great. It is an album that has a nice balance between the powerful parts with the heavy guitars and the delicious violin solos and the more delicate parts with beautiful and melodic vocal parts. Personally, I love the use of the electric violin in progressive rock music. Your reviewer enjoyed going back into the Artichoke Wood very much. As I said before, sometimes the music is complex and difficult but definitely not unpleasant! Because of the earlier mentioned balance of the album, I think that this album is a good starting point for new Lizard fans. Check out the music of this fine Polish prog band.