VITALIJ KUPRIJ – Forward And Beyond

VITALIJ KUPRIJ - Forward And Beyond


Lion Music
Release date: February 18, 2004

Guitars: A
Bass: B
Percussion: B+
Keyboards: A+
Recording Quality: A
Originality: A-
Overall Rating: A-

User Review
0/10 (0 votes)

It’s true; timing is everything. A few months back, I decided to go to the stereo store and purchase some new speakers. I remember searching through my inventory of music, trying to find those CD’s that would best challenge whatever high-end tweeters and subwoofers the sales people could throw at me. Too bad for me I didn’t know I should have waited it out until Forward And Beyond from Ukraine native Vitalij Kuprij fell into my itchy palms, because this CD will provide about as thorough of a test to any stereo system as is imaginable! From my school days, I recall learning the human ear can detect frequencies between 20 and 20,000hz…and, you know, I’m pretty sure Kuprij touches on each frequency within that range at least once in Forward And Beyond.

Kuprij, from the band Artension, is a classically trained pianist/keyboardist who developed a passion for music with an aggressive edge. In his 30 years, Kuprij has either been a student of, or has played with, the best musicians the world has to offer. In Forward And Beyond, Kuprij assembles some of the best guitar talent in the industry to complement his superbly accomplished keyboard skills and ingenuity. Mix all of this together, and you have one of the more enjoyable, skillfully written, and unique Metal instrumental albums in the history of the genre.

I’ve come across a number of Metal fans who are immediately turned off by bands that incorporate piano and keyboard compositions within their music – in all fairness, sometimes this sentiment is indeed justified. Kuprij, though, completely takes keyboard/piano composition within the framework of Metal music to a new level – even those with the most steadfast of keyboard/piano distaste in Metal should give Forward And Beyond a listen. Kuprij couples aggressively growling bass and guitar rhythms with unbelievably fast, diverse, and imaginative keyboard/piano work. Topping off the already impressive and enjoyable, is the phenomenal guitar work by some of the industry’s best. They say “winners” rise to the occasion when the occasion to shine presents itself. Clearly, Kuprij’s talents cause each of his guitar guest accompaniers to put forth likewise remarkable efforts. The result is Metal music with multiple, complex layers that demonstrates plenty of depth and delivers innovative stereo effects at every turn (best appreciated when listening with headphones, by the way).

The first track, the title track, features the talents of guitar teacher guru George Bellas. Anyone familiar with Bellas knows that he may be the absolute fastest axe-wielder in the land (yep, even faster than Yngwie Malmsteen). Kuprij matches Bellas’ guitar speed with exceptionally fast-paced keyboards. Kuprij also interestingly pairs up many of the guitar sounds with his keyboard sounds, causing the listener to have to listen closely, at times, to decipher which instrument is indeed responsible for the solo at hand.

The second track is “Piano Overture” and starts/ends with solo conventional piano pieces. In the middle, however, is a multitude of keyboard diversity, showing Kuprij is a master of all keyboard variations. Couple this keyboard assault with Michael Romeo’s guitar expression, and you have a second winner.

Track number three is “Time Will Tell” and features Michael Harris. Harris is also featured within the “Solar Impact” track. Overall, my take is Harris logs in the overall best guitar work of all of the virtuosos. It’s really like comparing Porsches to Ferraris, though, because each guitarist puts in unparalleled performances.

Fourth is “Variations in D Minor.” This song begins with a classical piano intro, but incorporates a punchy guitar rhythm that has an underlying growl to it very similar to early Malmsteen. Overall, though, this song is designed to primarily focus on Kuprij’s classical piano aptitude. Jeff Kollman provides the guitar accompaniment for this track.

Softer in tempo is the fifth track, “Far From Home.” Kuprij opts more to let his keyboard passages playfully dance here rather than sizzle like in the first four tracks. The slower interludes allow Javier Leal to shine when showcasing his accomplished guitar playing.

Kuprij delves into “impressionistic” keyboard play during the track “Illusion.” Unlike the other tracks, this song really has nothing to do with the Metal genre, and probably would have been better either left off of this album, or placed at the end to let the listener fade out with parting music. This Pink Floyd-ish track is only 2:57 long, so no real damage is done here to the overall groove of the CD.

Last is the track “Message Of Hope,” which kind of serves as the “grand finale” of the CD. If you’ve ever been to a fireworks show, you’ll recall the grand finale usually involves a multitude of rapidly delivered aerial bombs and the “best” aspects of the show that just transpired. Kuprij does essentially the same thing with “Message of Hope.” Roger Staffelbach, Borislav Mitic, and Francesco Fareri all take advantage of their opportunity to let their guitar talents shine at various intervals throughout the song. As has become customary by this point, Kuprij’s keyboard work is again beyond rational comprehension.

The European version of Forward And Beyond includes two bonus tracks, both involving Kuprij flying solo on his piano. Great stuff, but no apparent roots in the Metal genre. Unless you’re hooked by this time on the beauty of keyboard/piano solo music, you’ll probably find yourself no better off after hearing these added songs.

All in all, if you’re in the mood for aggressive music with a different edge and approach, check out this Kuprij release. If you’re not familiar with Kuprij from prior works, you definitely owe it to yourself to give this CD a shot and become acquainted. I think you’ll be both amazed AND glad you did!

Oh yeah, did I mention Kuprij also personally handles all of the percussion work? To be expected with the stellar production quality of this CD, the drums are powerful, drive the pace of the songs well, and simply rock…it’s hard to believe Kuprij has had the time to become such an accomplished percussionist amid his piano/keys training and performances…but I suppose I shouldn’t be all that surprised!


  • Dan Skiba

    Dan is a former partner at Metal Express Radio, and also served as a reviewer, photographer and interviewer on occasions. Based out of Indianapolis, USA he was first turned on to Hard Rock music in the mid-1970s when he purchased Deep Purple's Machine Head as his first album. He was immediately enthralled with the powerful guitar sound and pronounced drumbeat, and had to get more! His collection quickly expanded to include as many of Heavy Rock bands of the time that he could get his hands on, such as Ted Nugent, Judas Priest, and Black Sabbath, to name just a few.

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