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It is safe to say I enjoy a good mandolin, there is something about the instrument which cuts through whatever else is going on, but for some reason it isnít an instrument often associated with progressive rock although it has made an appearance in quite a few bands. Most people think of it as a folky addition, something which is very British, but it is safe to say they havenít come across the debut album by Florida-based Magnatar. The roots of the band can be traced back to the early Seventies when bassist Joey Costa and keyboard player were in a band called Hot City. Fast forward a million years and Joey teamed up with mandolin player Glenn Smith (who is Daveís cousin) to form a band. Over the years various people came and went, but drummer Reed Hayes and guitarist Ryan Rivas stuck around, and Dave was convinced to come out of retirement. So here is a band comprising three generations of musicians, but they sound young and fresh, and are here to make a point. Firstly, Glenn doesnít like playing a mandolin in the traditional manner, so instead of always playing complex runs of single notes he often strums it like a rhythm guitar. Then you have Joey who obviously grew up on the Chris Squire style of bass playing, and Reed used to be in a well-known Rush tribute act so is no slouch on the kit either. Ryan does know how to take a back seat, but also when to shred, and then we have Dave who often sits more in the background with either keyboards or piano, binding it all together. There are times when they do seem American, but there are others where they feel very English, producing a complex form of progressive rock which is somehow both dated and timeless. How this hasnít been picked up by one of the labels is beyond me, as this is complex, crafted, and extremely accessible progressive rock which is a delight from beginning to end. I still have problems understanding this is a debut, as there is confidence in every note, from a band who have a lot to say. All we have to do now is listen, itís worth it.
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