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OVERGROUND MUSIC (BG CD 001) [1990-91]                             

MEGALAZOTTAK ES MEGSZOMORITOTTAK (QUI 906014) [1992]                             

FOLD ES EG (BG CD 002) [1994]

DE PROFUNDIS (BG CD 005) [1996]

ELSO EVTIZED (2-CD) (BG CD 006/007) [1996]

After Crying are one of the best examples of the continued vigor in the nineties of progressive rock. Coming out of Hungary, they draw upon that country's best musical resources, from cabaret to Bela Bartok. But they also make use of the entire pantheon of western music, including jazz and rock. Their most recent release, a double-CD, concludes with a live version of King Crimson's "21st Century Schizoid Man" (recorded in 1993).

Good progressive rock is good to the extent it is truly progressive. That is, good progressive rock can't be a stale retread -- of anything, even the best. By definition, true progressive rock must be progressive; offering an advance of some sort. Progressive rock reflects musical ambition. And if all After Crying did was to perform accurate covers of King Crimson material, they would not warrent this review. But in fact that cover of "Schizoid Man" is the only cover (the only non-After Crying piece) of another band's material to appear anywhere on these five albums, giving it a certain added significance. The inference I draw is that After Crying has a lot of respect for King Crimson (among others), and wanted to acknowledge that. But the band's own music has little obvious similarity to that of King Crimson -- except for a similar sense of musical ambition and originality.

It's hard to describe After Crying's music because, like most genuinely original groups, they don't really sound much like anyone else. They write gorgeous but melancholy melodies, drawing, I suspect, on the same Hungarian folk roots from which Bartok drew inspiration. But this is augmented and informed by driving rock rhythms and jazz breaks, as well as classical cello, viola, oboe and bassoon. Like many former "Iron Curtain country" bands, they have a thorough schooling in classical music -- but unlike many other bands they don't perform their own versions of actual classical compositions.

Most of the material on the first three albums is composed by Csaba Vedres "in collaboration with" Peter Pejtsik, but by the third album most of the other band members (especially Balazs Winkler) are also writing material. Vedres left the band after the third album, but the material on DE PROFUNDIS doesn't suffer from his absence. The original lineup of the band (which shifts a bit from album to album) had Vedres on piano, synthesizers and vocals; Pejtsik on cello and vocals; Kristof Fogolyan on flute; Zsolt Maroevich on viola; Judit Andrejszki on vocals; Pal Makovecz on trombone; Otto Racz on oboe; Aladar Tuske on bassoon; and Balazs Winkler on trumpets. (The last five are not on every track.) This is not your typical rock band instrumentation.

Each album has its own character. OVERGROUND MUSIC (the first album) is the only one in English; the rest are in Hungarian (including all written material). OVERGROUND MUSIC opens with the ambitious "European Things (Hommage a Frank Zappa)" which sets the pace for the album. Not obviously Zappaesque, it is nonetheless a marvelous encapsulation (almost more Gershwinesque) of a lot of musical styles, ranging from music hall to jazz and classical. The album has eight tracks and a lot of musical variety.


MEGALAZOTTAK [etc.] is the only one of the albums not on the Progressive Music Club label. It is on the Quint label; all are "Made in Hungary" however. This album has only five tracks, two of them long (the first track is over 22 minutes), and the other three quite short (ranging from just under two minutes to just over three). The character of the album is quieter, more brooding. It is also a very strong album.

FOLD ES EG, on the other hand, has eleven tracks, and something of a return to the more lively song orientation of the first album. By now the band's personnel has shifted: a guitarist, Ferenc Torma, has been added, Winkler has become a full member and is also playing other instruments (named in Hungarian).

DE PROFUNDIS is the first album without Vedres as a composer or performer, but its 15 tracks offer an undiminished compositional and performance range, and draw upon a small orchestra for augmentation.

ELSO EVTIZED is a sorta 'Greatest Hits' collection, but not really: there is very little actual overlap between its contents and those of the earlier albums. It's a two-CD set, and the first CD offers a few cuts from the earlier albums, but most of them are alternative versions -- such as Hungarian versions of pieces from OVERGROUND MUSIC. Mixed in are pieces which did not appear (in any form) on the earlier albums. The second CD is a "live" album, drawing most of its material (all but the first and last tracks) from a 1991 concert. Here is a live version of the "Hommage a Frank Zappa," followed by "Impromptu no. 7," an improvised cello solo by Pejtsik. And all of it sounds as accomplished as did the studio recordings; clearly After Crying's concerts are well worth attending.

After Crying impresses me with the breadth of their vision and the extent of their ambition, as well as their command of their instruments. This is a major band. I recommend all of their albums without reservation. Try one; if you like it you'll like all of them. I am concerned that (thus far) I've seen nothing new from them -- nothing has been released since 1996. The retrospective aspects of ELSO EVTIZED concern me; I wish I could read Hungarian. I hope Vedres' exit did not spell the end of After Crying -- but I do watch for his next project and I hope there is one.

FOLLOWUP: An official After Crying website at contains current release news and material about the band and its albums and provides the following translations: MEGALAZOTTAK ES MEGSZOMORITOTTAK translates to INSULTED AND INJURED. FOLD ES EG is EARTH AND SKY. And ELSO EVTIZED is FIRST DECADE.

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