Review by Gatot (Gatot Widayanto)
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator
— First review of this album —
Indonesian “first” prog band ..!
This might have been the greatest sin that I have ever made for the musicians of my beloved country, Indonesia, who named themselves under the banner of SHARKMOVE because I only got a chance to listen to their music decades after their debut and only album was released in 1970. My prog friend gave me a copy of “Ghede Chokra’s” album by Sharkmove from his LP collection. Because it’s just a CDR copy from LP, I could not get full information about the band. Only lately I knew that an international label company, Shadoks Music (Germany), was interested to remaster the album and release it in CD and LP format. The CD that I have on my hands is the one remastered by Shadoks Music, given to me by the band’s original member and founder: Benny Soebardja.
It’s interesting to review this album on the basis of “time” in which this album was recorded on January 2, 1970 or the very beginning of the year. This is very important to mention because by analyzing when the album was made we all can see what sort of influences the band adopted. My initial (and natural) reaction when I saw the cover artwork it was very similar with Gentle Giant’s “Octopus”. But, looking back the time, it’s impossible that Sharkmove copied the concept of Gentle Giant “Octopus” album because the latter was released two years later in 1972. Not only that, Sharkmove released an album before Gentle Giant debut album.
To put things into perspective, there were practically not so many prog albums available in the market at that time. Yes, for sure King Crimson did release “In The Court of The Crimson King” couple months before “Ghede Chokra’s” was released. But I barely identify any close similarity, musically, between Sharkmove and King Crimson. Prog masterpieces albums like Yes “Close to The Edge”, Yes “Fragile”, Genesis “Foxtrot” or “Nursery Cryme”, Pink Floyd “Dark Side of The Moon” were not born yet. Couple of releases in 1969 were : Yes debut album, Pink Floyd “Ummagumma”, and King Crimson. With this limited number of albums, we can simply conclude that there was practically not so much influence the band adopted from legendary prog bands. That’s the theory. And … the reality proves it.
My Life (9:04) starts mellow in ambient mood with traditional texture through the sound of flute played by Janto Diablo. Benny’s vocal line enters beautifully in catchy and memorable notes. The song moves beautifully with excellent melody through vocal line and it then flows in crescendo as drum work by Sammy Zakaria enters. Beny’s vocal quality is crispy and powerful and it reminds me to the vocal of David Byron (whom later formed a band called Uriah Heep). This song is to me very emotional because the overall tagline melody is very catchy, memorable, and it touches my emotion – deeply. Composition-wise, this is a masterpiece symphonic progressive rock offering which successfully blends excellent melody with challenging arrangement, especially knowing that it was written those days in 1970 when music was not that complicated and challenging in nature. (This is not to undermine a great album by King Crimson “In the court of The Crimson King” which is really masterpiece with its “21st Century of Schizoid Man”).
“My Life” also moves dynamically through its passages with changing styles and tempo from a mellow one at opening part and to heavy part with music riffs and vocal shouting (beautifully) by Benny Soebardja. One thing peculiar is the way Sammy played his drum (at approx. minute 2:01) which then being followed by Guruh Gipsy through its “Indonesia Mahardhikka” composition. Guitar work by Benny is stunning especially when it’s augmented by Soman Loebis’ hovering organ work that represents truly the 70s sound! The guitar solo during interlude that starts at 3:13 is really top notch! For sure, this is a masterpiece song that all of you, prog warriors, would definitely enjoy! AT the later part of the song, when the song in mellow passage, flute work makes its mark beautifully.
Butterfly (4:28) cools down the music a bit through an ambient organ sound played by Soman Loebis. This song can be considered pop with some progressive touches like Procol Harum even though there is no such thing similar, musically, between the two. Throughout the song, Benny sings nicely, backed by organ sound that characterizes this song, augmented by acoustic guitar rhythm section. Again, this song is strong in melody-line and it’s enjoyable for many ears, I believe.
Harga (2:51) is a mellow track with acoustic guitar serves as main rhythm section followed by organ in jazzy mood, augmented beautifully by flutework. This song features Janto Diablo on vocal as well as maintaining his role as flute player. The interlude part offers nice flute passages with acoustic guitar as rhythm section. This song is simple but it has a nice composition that makes it enjoyable listening to it.
Evil War (5:42) is another beautifully crafted song that features Bhagu Rhamchand on vocal. The unique characteristic of this song is its energy cast by Bhagu’s vocal line combined with its composition that comprises classic rock style of music plus some musical jamming (well, at least it sounds like “jamming”). From the start of the song, Janto has demonstrated his virtuosity in playing bass guitar which serves as main rhythm section throughout the song. The most challenging part of this song is during the jam session part that starts at minute 1:43 where Janto gives his bass guitar solo augmented by Sammy’s drum for approximately 1 minute, followed by Benny’s stunning guitar solo.
The remaining three songs are basically ballad with unique texture through flute work. “Bingung” starts with piano followed with guitar fills to accompany vocal by Soman Loebis. “Insan” features Sammy on vocal while Benny focuses on guitar and Janto provides nice flute work. “Madat” starts with nice piano work followed by vocal line performed by Janto Diablo. The lyrics contain social protest and the heroic spirit to fight against its enemies.
Overall, this is an excellent vintage progressive rock – classic rock music that successfully blended the elements of progressive music, traditional harmonies and nice melodies throughout the songs it offers. One thing I need to mention here is that this album is quite original in musical ideas as you can see from the music. It’s not totally a prog album as some songs are just ballads but the prog elements are quite significant. This album was a landmark and foundation of Indonesian progressive rock scene. It’s truly a gem. Highly recommended. Keep on proggin’ ..!
For Indonesian prog fans, it’s a good news that Sharkmove will perform a Reunion Concert on May 8, 2008 at Mario’s Place, Jakarta. Initiated and organized by i-Rock! – Indonesian Biggest Rock Community. Be there guys! It’s like dream comes true .. it’s like imagining Gentle Giant Reunion Concert! … sort of …
Peace on earth and mercy mild – GW