"It's been five years since 2004's Playgrounds, but Sweden's Cross are back with The Thrill of Nothingness, an album that was intended for release in 2007, but due to band leader (and head of Progress Records) Hansi Cross coming down with a bad case of tinnitus and hyperacusis (sensitivity to sounds), this delayed matters a few years while he recouped enough to finish the CD. Here we are in 2009, and The Thrill of Nothingness is finally complete and available to prog fans throughout the world. Thankfully the rest of the band remained patient while Hansi overcame his illness, as this CD is a fine example of 70's inspired modern progressive work, and features the able talents of Goran Johnsson (keyboards, harmony vocals), Lollo Andersson (bass), and Tomas Hjort (drums) alonside Cross, who handles guitars, vocals, and additional keyboards.
Tunes such as "Universe Inside" and "Animation" simply scratch that itch for mid-late 70's period Genesis (when Phil Collins took over the vocal slot), as well as IQ, complete with soaring vocal harmonies, layers of vintage keyboard sounds, acoustic and electric guitars, tight rhythms, and memorable arrangements. The near 12-minute "Innocence" features some splendid drum work from Hjort, as well as plenty of engaging synth work from Johnsson. Add in the Hackett-esque lead work from Cross, some dreamy vocal sections, and moments of complex interplay and you have what is basically a killer track. Hansi's aggressive guitar lines open up "Hope", a short instrumental on which the guitarist really focuses on some emotional lead work over atmospheric synths from Johnsson. The band mixes some melodic pop melodies with symphonic prog on the lengthy "Chameleons", and delivers a quirky instrumental in the form of "Magnifico Giganticus", complete with wild guitar lines and synth passages. The CDs epic finale, the near 13-minute "Eternity", kicks off with pastoral acoustic guitar & keyboard melodies before Hansi's majestic vocals come into play. From there the song morphs into a symphonic rocker featuring a wide array of keyboard textures and some stunning guitar solos, finally ending with a grand crescendo that quickly drops to a tranquil calm that will leave a big smile on your face.
There's a well trodden saying that goes something like 'this one was worth the long wait', but I think in this case, it's well worth repeating that worn out statement. The Thrill of Nothingness is a welcome return from Cross, and one of 2009's best symphonic progressive rock albums. Lovers of Trick of the Tail & Wind and Wuthering era Genesis will eat this up in a big way."
Rating: 4 stars out of 5
SEA OF TRANQUILITY
"Universe Inside provides a catchy start to the album, with a good melody, some fine singing and the symphonic keyboard textures that start, and later the guitar, are very pleasing. Animation continues in similar vein without perhaps being as strong but Innocence is then another of the album’s highlights: it begins with a long instrumental section of gorgeous keyboards textures before the guitar comes in; then a sonic treat sprinkling of what sounds like vibes; the vocal section in the last sections are good too, rounding off an excellent composition.
Hope is a beautifully melodic guitar-led instrumental before Chameleons and Magnifico Giganticus, another instrumental, continue in a similar vein. Eternity closes what is a fine album, its introduction featuring soft acoustic guitar textures (interestingly, the sleeve notes are careful to point out that this is a nylon stringed guitar, which shows you the attention to detail that this album’s music has had) playing a beautiful melody and it develops nicely with a good beat.
The album’s just short of being worthy of a recommendation-level score: there’s a slight hint of “creative drag” just after Hope and the slow middle section of Eternity fails to live up to the promise of its excellent beginning (and, later, there’s a slight feeling of disappointment at that same middle section because of the returning excellence during the coda).
Despite these slight reservations, The Thrill Of Nothingness remains a very strong album: indeed, as I said before, it’s my favourite out of the three Cross albums that I’ve heard, and I like them all, so if you are a fan of similar soundscapes, then you may well enjoy this too."
"The promo material announcing the release of The Thrill of Nothingness says it’s a logical continuation of the previous two releases Secrets and Playgrounds with a focus on a slightly more 70’s sounding production. Now I really liked those two releases and after listening to this new disc that’s a fair assessment. The seven compositions on this release stylistically have their roots in the Trick of the Tail era of Genesis. The music is complex featuring songs made up of many parts and many changes. Nothing is hurried about the music here. As prog should do, time is devoted to creating just the right musical mood. If a tune requires a minute or two of acoustic guitar or keyboards to introduce the next segment, so be it. It’s a very organic feel, as the music quite literally evolves before your ears. Moods change as does tone and tempo and yet melody pervades throughout. Cross craft some very catchy musical hooks that are quite memorable and pleasing to my ears. One minute a song will be rolling along with the emphasis on major chords and then the next minute it suddenly it flip-flops and becomes dark and dramatic with powerful minor chords. This then opens up to grand flourishes and huge swells of keyboards, guitars and bass pedals.
I’ll freely admit that the style of symphonic prog created by Cross is my favorite. I love the grand epic nature of these pieces of music and I’m willing to bet if you love the music of Genesis, Flower Kings, IQ et al this new release from Cross will spend many hours on your CD player. The Thrill of Nothingness is a must purchase for symphonic prog fans and gets an unqualified recommendation from me."
"Five years after their latest album Playgrounds Swedish Cross is now releasing their ninth album in order, The Thrill Of Nothingness. Guitarist / singer / composer Hansi Cross has also founded the record company Progress Records, which has given us some of the most interesting album releases with the best of Scandinavian progressive rock for the last ten years. It’s very nice that the band returns with a well composed and engaging album with enough variation to keep interest up all the way. The songs often lies within comfortable tempos, highlighted by beautiful melodic lines, reflective without excessive muscle exposure. At the same time there are plenty of subtle rhythmic and instrumental figures in characteristic Cross fashion. "Innocence" is my personal favorite, which is mainly driven by a boiling instrumental interplay reminiscent of Genesis Wind & Wuthering to Duke, where Hansi Cross fine guitar playing is also given space."
RED HOT ROCK MAGAZINE
"Finally, 5 years after ‘Playgrounds’ this new album has found its way from the pressing plant. Even if I don’t have all the predecessors’ fresh in mind, it strikes me that ‘The Thrill of Nothingness’ is their best so far. Above all, the many strong instrumental passages did it to me. I noticed a couple of nods to heroes like Genesis, ELP or Hackett. I would say he has simular quality as Steve Hackett. Hansi Cross also convinces vocally. I can certainly see no failure. Quite the contrary: ‘The Thrill Of Nothingness’ is one of the really positive surprises this year. Fans of sophisticated, melodic instrumental passages in the style of Hackett and Camel should be heading for the limited double CD version. There are another 7 bonus songs (including the nearly 20-minute 'Rhiannian Daey'). I give an extra plus for the truly excellent production.
"The intro to 'Universe Inside' immediately sets the tone for the album, a rather busy drum pattern on a background of vintage keyboards and soaring guitar parts, sliding over to Hansi’s melancholic voice and a number of continuous switching between a ballad and solid neo-prog. ‘Animation’ leans back in with the pleasant sounding and yet sublime instrumental music of Alan Parsons. ‘Innocence’ is tightly bound to sweep with such a nice combination à la Gentle Giant, excellent drum work from Hjort, beautiful layers of synthesizers and guitar playing walking the thin line between Hackett and Gilmour, one of the highlights on the album. The guitar is somewhat firmer and more aggressive in the instrumental ‘Hope, to some content evoking Satriani or Vai. 'Chameleons' starts out in a rocky fashion, but leads, again, into symphonic prog. The album is more instrumental oriented than the predecessors. ‘Magnifico Gigantus’ is an example that even tend to be towards RIO. The epic on the album, ‘Eternity’, starts out with a nice acoustic intro, then quickly turns into a symphonic rocker with all the pace and mood swings, typical for the genre. Cross remains one of the leading groups in the genre of pure symphonic rock."
"This album is distinguished by excellent production, a major accumulation of interesting melodic lines and wonderful instrumentation. Stylistically, "The Thrill of Nothingness" is placed somewhere between the works of Tony Banks (Genesis), and Richard Wright (Pink Floyd). Hansi takes care of the vocals, all guitars and some keyboards together with his permanent colleagues Tomas Hjort (drums) and Lollo Andersson (bass) and Göran Johnson, who enriches the sound with loads of synthesizers, harmony vocals, as well as composing. As invited guest, on the song "Eternity”, there is also a musician known from The Flower Kings, Tomas Bodin.
The album is filled with mature compositions, where the climate is maintained in the spirit of epic prog rock, particularly expressed by lots of keyboards, which play the dominant role of this album. From time to time we get very fine guitar solo parts (such as the Gilmourian solos on "Hope" and "Innocence"), but there are powerful synth sounds throughout the reign of the disc. The result is that the whole album is a monumental overtone and is a great listening pleasure.
Do I have any favourite tracks? It is difficult to clearly identify, as the album "The Thrill Of Nothingness" presents itself as an excellent 55-minute complete body, but my favourites are these three: the opening song "Universe Inside" (though a few bars are stolen from Genesis’ "Watcher of the skies"), the ending epic "Eternity", and placed somewhere in the middle, "Innocence". I recommend it, but not only because of those 3 songs - fans will find mature, melodic and epic sounds, performed with vintage-oriented keyboard instruments that maintain the spirit of the 70s music.
PS. "The Thrill Of Nothingness comes in two versions: the basic single album, with seven, less than an hour ongoing works, as well as a special edition bonus double disc, which includes seven additional tracks with a total time of 42 minutes (including a 20-minute suite "Rhiannian Daëy).
"We wanted our new album to have a smooth and compact structure - Hansi Cross explains. - "I’m no fan of long albums, and even if it was somewhat of a headache deciding which songs should be reduced to the level of bonuses, because I like them all and do not treat them as discards and recordings of a secondary category, that I decided to give all my new material in this manner. If someone like a primary record, surely it will reach the two-CD version. If the contrary, it will have at least feel that they wasted too much time.”
I think that made it fair, Hansi. And once I add that I am a holder of an expanded version of this album. I know quite well all the previous work of Cross, I must emphatically state that the 2CD edition of "The Thrill Of Nothingness" is by far the most mature and most successful release among their works. Recommended!"
"In a typical CROSS manor the album opens with “Universe inside”. Keyboards laying out atmosphere leads the direction of the song while the hard and always dominant bass creates a counter point dynamic to, especially, Hansi Cross’s guitar playing, who I gladly could call “the Swedish Gilmour”. A gem on The Thrill Of Nothingness is the 12-minutes track “Innocence”, an almost instrumental tune with keyboards and guitar alternating between themes and solos. The sound is typical for Cross: the synth solo sounds can also be heard on Secrets and Playgrounds and becomes a trademark for the band. As a keyboard freak I very much like the tone quality. The short and calm, and very atmospheric, instrumental track “Hope” begins with a beautiful guitar solo, whose inspiration lies surely not far from Floyd. One note that there is plenty of working hours put in to the final album. There are small details to discover again and again. The large plus is however Hansi's ability regarding the art of composing. Occasionally it bends towards disharmonic chord sequences like, for instance, in parts of the instrumental song “Magnifico Giganticus”, just to be followed by a highly melodic guitar theme. With the varied epic track “Eternity” ends this 55-minutes journey. The limited edition contains an extra 42 minutes of music, whereby the most mentionable is “Bläckfisken”. The long track “Rhiannan daëy” is worth attention from all guitar fans. Indeed, the majority of the bonus tracks stands for themselves and gives the extra CD good value. The songs are good, but however do not completely live up to the quality of the “main album”. Result: Though The Thrill Of Nothingness probably do not invent the wheel again, it contains strong ideas and melodies. Again, a very convincing neo prog album that takes the lead before most of this years releases in the genre. I rarely rate albums with maximum score; however, with CROSS I happily do, as the music is very convincing. I highly validate Hansi both as person and musician. Shopping frenzy!"
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars.
"As if about the bodiless antagonist to the Never Ending Story, there are fantastical aspects interlaced into the binding of this music. Notwithstanding conceptual titles that hint to exciting voids in fairytales, the compositions do hearken to Atreyu’s adventurous themes. While all songs are either repetitive or accessible like Pop, it does incorporate some of Spock's Beard's and Pink Floyd's sound styling. Other bands that come to mind include Knight Area and Pendragon. With that said, keyboards are king in this album, whereas bass and guitars are the princes to their universe. The vocals, however, resemble synthesizers in most cases, so they too fall within the Neo-Progressive sphere of influence. Last but not least, the pitter-patter of the drums fruitfully fills remaining empty space. Parenthetically, the easiest peach to pick is also their sweetest. This juicy tutti-frutti is called "Hope”. Though simple in nature, the fact it's so reachable makes it the overall highlight. Regardless of what falls out when you shake Cross' branches, this is a wondrous album that's both engaging and consistent from start to finish, and there isn't a single rotten apple in the bushel. You can listen to it from the opener to "Eternity" without feeling as if your precious time got sucked into a wormhole."
Rating: 4 of 5 stars
"The Thrill of nothingness gives us traditional progressive rock, with strong keyboards and well thought arrangements. To the four permanent members of Cross add Bruno Edling on vocals, Tomas Bodin (Flower Kings) on mini moog and Kent Kroon on acoustic guitar. By alternating long compositions in the vein of the 70's with 4-5 minutes songs Cross is succeeding in obtaining a certain variety in tempo and arrangements."
"The Thrill of nothingness" actually should have been available at progressive rock shops already in May 2007. But Hansi Cross, main man of the band, suffered from a hearing loss and a terrible tinnitus (all kinds of tinnitus is terrible, but some are worse), which lasted for a long time, made him hypersensitive to all kinds of sounds, and abruptly terminated the work on the CD. Two years later he could begin, in short sequences, to finish the work with the new album.
The ninth album of the band is a completely logical continuation of "Secrets" (2000) and "Playgrounds" (2004). The typical, gentle neoprog sound is stronger and warmer, more like in the 70’s, showing some retro influences, which previously has not been so obvious. CROSS is still a neo prog act, which plays rather gentle, lyrical symphonic songs, which however, like in the 9-minute “Chameleons” mixes Alan Parsons Project style, but far less poppy than what is usual in that category, with long instrumental passages, throwing in disharmonic breaks and rhythmic time signature changes, which is typical for this bands inspired, creative musical language. On the ending song “Eternity” - one of two epic tracks -Tomas Bodin contributes with a mini moog solo, using somewhat Genesis related sounds reminding of “A trick of The Tail" or "Wind & Wuthering" and we get strongly Genesis related vocal parts and long instrumental solo trips. Here and there some Pink Floyd (Wish you were here-period) influences show up. Thomas Hjort’s drumming is excellent and always with substantial complexity. Lollo Andersson’s melodic, powerful bass playing and use of Taurus pedals is perfect and creates an alternative view to the neo prog. Göran Johnsson (keyboards, percussion, backing vocals) and Hansi Cross (guitars, lead vocals, keyboards) deliver their parts in a very dynamically and emotionally deeply balanced manor, and refers in melodies as well as dynamic playing to the classical symphonic era. A greatly composed and beautifully arranged album, and a long desired success on the prog scene."
"Here is one which will charm the fans of traditional progressive rock."
MUSIC IN BELGIUM
”The Thrill of nothingness” sounds as early Genesis and Camel and the fantastic opening track ”Universe inside” is beautiful, inventive progressive rock of highest calibre. “Animation” starts out in the best Genesis-vein around “Wind and wuthering” and also some Pink Floyd as well as Camel influences is to be found. One can not really say that Cross clearly has a style of their own, but embraces what once was great and the result is fantastic.
The long “Innocence” is almost fully instrumental, but the 11 minute plus feels shorter. The themes are pretty and melodic, and the musical skills of the four members are high. Also the next track, “Hope”, is an instrumental piece, one that leans more towards an ambient direction where Hansi does some solos over layersd of dreamy synthesizers. “Hope” is one of the albums weaker moments but nevertheless beautiful and relaxing.
“Chameleons” is yet another track which of floats along, coming close to 70’s band Camel with keyboards as the dominating instrument. Upon that follows a peculiar little tune entitled “Magnifico Giganticus”. It’s an instrumental with some odd themes, a bit like things Steve Hackett does when he’s in that kind of mood. The ending track “Eternity” is the albums longest track and on which Tomas Bodin (The Flower Kings) appears as special guest on mini moog. Kent Kroon, who also helped out with the mixing process, adds some acoustic guitar. “Eternity” is another piece placed in the land of Genesis and it is as beautiful and elegant as most songs on this excellent album.
A welcomed album for many, as it was delayed for so long time. The fans will get their share of 70’s inspired progressive rock and if you haven’t yet discovered Cross then this is a good start."
"Cross is a Swedish neo-progressive/ neo-symphonic band with excellent English vocals and an accessible style. “The Thrill of Nothingness” (2009) is their latest studio CD. The band feels this is a logic continuation of “Secrets” and “Playgrounds”, with a slightly more 70’s sound. The spectre of late 70’s Genesis is never far away though often the feel is closer to Mike Rutherford’s “A small creeps day” or Tony Banks’ “A curious feeling”. Song tempos stay in the moderate, Pink Floyd range, and there is a Pink Floyd influence in other aspects as well. Tomas Bodin (The Flower Kings) guests, and while Cross’ style is distinct, most of The Flower Kings fans will enjoy this album too, as well as fans of Galleon, Twin Age and Spektrum."
More reviews coming soon
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