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(46:02; Karisma Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. The Man Who Had It All 5:25 2. P&C 5:33 3. Table for Two 4:04 4. Touched by an Angel 8:02 5. The Hedonist 22:58 LINEUP: Eirikur Hauksson - vocals Eirik Hanssen - vocals Kim Stenberg - guitars, vocals Erling Henanger - keyboards, vocals Lars Petter Holstad - bass, vocals Jan Johannessen - drums
Prolusion. Norwegian band MAGIC PIE was formed back in 2001, and ever since they released their debut album "Motions of Desire" four years later they have been something of a household name in progressive rock circles, and gaining a reputation for being a solid and steady band both as recording artists and live performers. "Fragments of the 5th Element" is their fifth studio album, and was released through Norwegian label Karisma Records at the end of the summer of 2019.
Analysis. One of the strengths (and arguably also weaknesses) of Magic Pie is that you pretty much know what you are in store for whenever they release a new album. You know the album will be a good one, you know it'll be a mix of symphonic progressive rock and 70's hard rock, and you know you'll greet the album as a long time friend upon hearing the first few notes. They have their own style, so to speak, and they know how to explore it very well indeed. Diehard fans may point to subtle variations and alterations from album to album, as may well be the case for the band members themselves, but for others Magic Pie will strike them as a band that doesn't deviate all that much in the core aspects of their overall sound. That being said, with two original members leaving the band not too long after this album was released, changes may well be afoot as far as the future exploits of this band is concerned. On this latest album, we are given five songs that each focus in on slightly different aspects of their identity. Opening cut 'The Man Who Had It All' strikes me as being the part of the puzzle where the band explores and presents the width and scope of their music, ranging from late 60's sounding romantic material to late 70's hard rock and progressive rock. The following 'P & C' is a bit more of the same, but with less focus on the harder aspects of their sound and a stronger focus on the more expressive parts of their repertoire. 'Table for Two' is a lighter and more elegant affair, with some ballad like qualities, and the following 'Touched by an Angel' is something of a power ballad as far as this band is concerned, with a powerful and majestic striking chorus alternating with a much more delicate verse part. With a liberal amount of blues running as an undercurrent. Then at last we have 'The Hedonist'. A massive, sprawling epic lasting for almost 23 minutes. A smorgasbord where the band alternates between the gentle and the harder hitting, the more expressive and the more traditional. Kind of taking all the impulses from all the previous songs on the album and displaying them in a complete package. A four part prelude followed by a massive main course, complete with all the bells and whistles and a cherry on top. The key elements of the band's overall sound remain the same as on previous albums. Strong lead vocals and liberal amounts of vocal harmonies is the order of the day as far as the singing is concerned, while organ and guitar combinations is a core aspect of the instruments part of the totality - alongside liberal amounts of additional keyboards. The acoustic guitar adds a a gentler presence and a more delicate undercurrent on occasion, while the arrangements as such alternate between being tight, hard, layered and majestic; with frequent interludes into more delicate landscapes along the way. A plethora of instrumental interludes and elongated instrument solo parts a part of the package as well. A kind of Genesis meets Deep Purple type of music, if you want to present the band to new listeners in a short and concise manner, although the end result is quite a bit more than just that.
Conclusion. Magic Pie is firmly established as a quality provider of retro-oriented progressive rock of the kind that mix and blend elements of 70's style symphonic progressive rock and certain aspects of the more art-oriented hard rocks band from the same era into a tight, compelling and often energetic package. Their songs are of high quality throughout their career, their albums are very well mixed and produced, and their reputation as a rock solid band will be further emphasized by this latest album of theirs. If you aren't yet aware of this band, this latest album is as good a place to start with them as any other. And if you know and love this band, this latest production is more of the same. A rock solid production, and an album I suspect will hit quite a few top 10 lists that are published here and there these days.
Progmessor: December 20th 2019
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