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(78:17, MALS Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Disarray 3:02 2. Faceless 7:56 3. Wither 9:22 4. Star Bound 4:42 5. Numb 4:05 6. Astral Dream 7:38 7. Delusion 4:06 8. Dance of the Elders 8:18 9. Take My Breath Away 14:13 10. Altered State 9:42 11. Reflections 5:13 LINEUP: Jeff Hamel – guitars, bass; keyboards; vocals Jessica Rasche – vocals Chris Nathe – drums With: Jerry Swan – bass John Wooten – drums Gregg Johns – guitars Jeremy Hamel – guitars
Prolusion. The US outfit MAJESTIC started out as the solo vehicle of composer and multi-instrumentalist Jeff Hamel, and prior to 2010 a total of three productions had been issued under this moniker. As this venture has evolved, additional musicians have been added to the roster of musicians present, and the current edition of the band has vocalist Rasche and drummer Nathe added to the list of permanent members. And it is with this revised core line-up and additional guest musicians that their fourth disc "Ataraxia" was recorded and subsequently issued by MALS Records in the fall of 2010, the third of their albums to be released by this label.
Analysis. Following the journey of Jeff Hamel and his Majestic band-project is an interesting experience. Debut effort "Descension" didn't really convince me, and due to that I never bothered to get round to experiencing the follow-up effort "String Theory" that appeared the following year. "Arrival" from 2009 was an unexpected delivery to my mailbox, however, and a highly surprising experience too. And while the high points of that effort were limited to two tracks, they still provided an hour's worth of excellent entertainment for those who have a soft spot for Pink Floyd-ian efforts. "Ataraxia" is in many ways a further step ahead for this band project, even if not convincing me as much as its predecessor. One of the many good points of this latest creation is the expansion of stylistic expression. While the foundation still seems to be set in the heartland of 70's Pink Floyd, Hamel and his cohorts expand the boundaries to some extent on this occasion. Gentle, ambient soundscapes have their place just as much as does symphonic art rock with dream-laden space-inspired keyboard textures, and those fond of themes of a more majestic nature will have their needs served as well. At times guitar riff cascades and soaring keyboards combine into a sound that might remind listeners slightly of Ayreon, although Hamel does prefer to dampen the sound of the guitars both in terms of a slicker, warmer sound as well as in the overall placement in the final mix. The technical aspects of this CD also appear to have been given an added level of polish, with a slicker and smoother overall sound in general, with warmth and a pleasant, organic edge to it. The compositions themselves also appear to be more dynamic, effortlessly and naturally evolving in a pleasant, free-flowing manner. Smooth and pleasant appear to me to be the main keywords in describing this production actually. As that description fits the technical aspects of the creation, it also fits my perceptions of the compositions explored. To my ears they lack a certain edge. I miss encountering the subtle contrasts briefly enhanced, the brooding synth texture adding a menacing atmosphere, the carefully inserted subtle dissonant element surprisingly appearing. And there aren't really any experiences of breathtaking beauty to be found either. The songs are nice and pleasant, with a certain ageless tinge to them that might or might not make this CD one that improves with age. On a couple of occasions I was suitably impressed, however, with second track Faceless and the following effort Wither the cases in question. Both these compositions feature intense themes and a dramatic edge that, in my personal opinion at least, enhance the listening experience a notch or two.
Conclusion. If you enjoy your art rock smoothly produced, find a Pink Floyd-inspired sound to be generally interesting and don't mind a band that adds in the occasional ambient or metal-tinged theme, Majestic's latest production "Ataraxia" is one that you'll most likely hold in high regard. In addition to followers of David Gilmour and company, I'd suggest fans of acts like Porcupine Tree to spend a few minutes sampling this artist, as I'd suspect quite a few of them would find him in general and this disc in particular to be rather appealing.
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