If Aphrodite's Child was Greece's main prog rock calling card in the '70s, 25 years later La Tulipe Noire neglected to take note, deciding instead to walk in the footsteps of the British stars of neo-prog. Fronted by a gifted female vocalist (Ima), the group was first hailed or dismissed as a Marillion clone (depending on the reviewer's views on the subject of imitation), but with time the songs developed a firmer identity, although still faithfully abiding the genre's rules.
La Tulipe Noire formed in the mid-'90s under the guidance of a songwriter duo: keyboardist Alix and bassist Hyde. They took the name of the group from the French writer Alexandre Dumas, Sr.'s 1850 novel. It means "The Black Tulip," the Holy Grail of botanists (obtaining a true black color seems to be impossible), but Dumas' story dealt more with deception and conspiracy than crossbreeding tips, reflecting La Tulipe Noire's taste for stories of love lost and urban mal de vivre.
Completed by guitarist S. Kontakis, drummer Nick Kassavetis, and Ima, the group quickly recorded its first album In the Gates of Dream, released locally in 1997. At first the Marillion influence was enormous, almost overwhelming. The French label Musea signed the band and decided at first to play on this identification: Shattered Image, released in 1999, fronted cover artwork and a group logo that blatantly made a pastiche of its mentor's early albums. Yet, this second CD reached a wider, enthusiastic audience in Europe. A follow-up, Nostimon Hemar, was soon announced as being in the works, but after Alix and Hyde's vacation on a Greek island in the summer of 2000, the project was postponed to make way for Faded Leaves, released in mid-2002 once again by Musea. Less derivative, the album was well received and at the end of that year, the group was preparing to make its first appearance on North-American soil. ~ François Couture, Rovi