CD Reviews

Magic Pie - 'The Suffering Joy' Hot

Added by Central Electronic Brain     May 08, 2011    
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A joyous return from fine exponents of the Prog genre.

I have a rule not to write a review until I have listened to an album a minimum of five times, and this CD is a classic example of why. Had I plunged in after one cursory run through the review would have been lukewarm, whereas now this is undoubtedly an early contender for my albums of 2011.

Why, you may reasonably ask, would I have been initially less than enthusiastic? I think it's because of the length of time that has elapsed since their phenomenal 'Circus of Life' (COL) CD in 2007, (one of my all-time favourite Prog albums), and the completely unreasonable expectation that this was going to be COL2. The delay was partially due to a fire that destroyed their studio but the wait has most definitely been worth it and aside from a 30 second section of music (out of 71 minutes) that I dislike vehemently, this is an almost perfect representation of Prog in 2011.

The band have added an element of Prog Metal to the mix, without it sounding contrived like so many bands who have decided to follow an insidious trend and morph into Dream Theater (DT) in an effort to mirror their success. What Magic Pie has managed to do is incorporate this extra dimension into their sound with seamless grace that makes for a marvellous convergence of Prog styles. My notes on each track are so extensive that this review could easily take an entire page of this magazine and it has been a dilemma on how I can condense this.

We get an album of nine tracks bursting at the seams with wonderful melodies, recurring themes, sensational vocal arrangements and playing of the very highest order. The first four tracks are grouped into a concept piece ('A Life's Work') which encapsulates everything that is good about this release. Part one is a short melancholy piece with a delightful vocal over a mellotron theme before part two is an explosive instrumental with an initial early Spock's Beard feel before taking on the DT style and Kim Sternberg's guitar solo that is pure John Petrucci. The third section takes the pace back down with yet another superb melody and sensationally plaintive vocal. Part four is the title track and it's the first of several epics, clocking in at 17 minutes it touches so many Prog bases during its length. At times DT's 'Scenes From A Memory' came to mind and the introduction of a female vocal (courtesy of Maria Bentzen) is an absolute delight.

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'Headlines' is a sensational track, apart from those 30 seconds where there's a really annoying cascading section that is out of place within a song that delivers such beautiful refrains, that comes across like a SB, Flower Kings and A.C.T. hybrid. 'Endless Ocean' is a short song that has me in mind of Venice thanks to the vocal arrangement. 'Slightly Mad' has an Emerson Lake & Palmer feel due to the choppy Hammond Organ and some synth soloing from Gilbert Marshall that harks back to the early days of ELP.

'Tired' is another epic that opens in empathic style with a rousing theme and a vocal arrangement redolent of Styx in their pomp. This is a truly glorious song that ebbs and flows with terrific melodies tumbling forth.

Closing the album is 'In Memoriam' with its dark, brooding and bluesy theme. Eirikur Hauksson excels on vocals, as he does across the entire album, but hats off to fellow vocalists, Eirik Hanssen, Marshall and Stenberg for their contribution as the vocal arrangements are extraordinarily good.

A joyous return from fine exponents of the Prog genre.

Gary Marshall

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