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Magenta - Metamorphosis CD (album) cover





3.70 | 199 ratings

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4 stars Metamorphosis indeed! The previous "Home" and companion "NY Suite" had some fine music on it yet there was somehow a spark missing, all pundits seemingly agreeing that this was a "down elevator" from the majestically ambitious "Seven". It's as if the solidification of the band's personality had homogenized the once overt Yes-isms and perhaps diluted the fire that burns inside all prog musicians. So, the metamorphosis occurred by refocusing on the three pillars of what makes or should make Magenta such a progressive force: the multi-instrumental genius of Robert Reed, the blistering fretwork from Chris Fry and the rather impressive vocal talents of Christina Booth, surely already among the top female progressive singers ever. When leafing through the deep red cover booklet and perusing the inner artwork, the change becomes self-evident: while this is a Magenta album, it could easily have been a Reed/Booth/Fry project, as these three components clearly make the project tick. That drummer Tim Robinson is an excellent time keeper there is no doubt and that Martin Rosser still provides "detuned guitar", they are now respected and trusted sidemen, while Reed takes over the bass duties once held by Matthew Cohen. For this rebirth album, the universally respected Troy Donockley of Iona fame makes a guest appearance on magical Uilleann pipes as well as a five piece string section of 2 violins, 2 cellos and a viola. So what have these musicians from Wales come up with? Lots of swooping vocals, tons of whistling synthesizers and massive doses of electric guitar sorties. A massively appealing "up elevator" opus that doesn't quite nail you to the floor right away, slowly weaving an intriguing spell that finally succeeds in willing intoxication. I guess when you kick off an album with a 20 minute slow burning epic, "The Ballad of Samuel Layne" (any relationship with Floyd's Arnold Layne, by any chance?), a three part suite full of painful lyrics about the dysfunction of war, Christina singing the role of a soldier's waiting girlfriend/wife, "the War Bride's Prayer", pleading for his safe return, fearful of the possible danger of her man's lost mind. The third part is the Soldier's Prayer, a solitary infantryman looking for some sanity in a desert gone crazy, desperately holding on to the concept of love, suddenly aware of its crucial importance. Musically, this has to be one of their finest moments, with a multitude of spirited expressions from all involved. The final minutes are orchestral and grandiose, to say the least. "Prekestolen" is a brief interlude, featuring Troy's bright Irish pipes, preparing the 23 minute whopping title track which is even better than the opener. "Metamorphosis" is arguably the best Magenta piece ever, a symphonic extravaganza that shimmers, glimmers, simmers and then explodes into a myriad of expressive moments of absolute gratification. The guitar work is splendid, at times bluesy and gentle, then suddenly veering into virulent and explosive, a little wah here and wah there. Rob contents himself in applying vast synthesized colorations, an occasional keyboard solo to keep the wild guitar at bay. His bass work is exemplary, keeping everything anchored quite nicely. Vocally, Christina slings a few exalted bellows into the mix, a very contemporary feel to a highly symphonic architecture. Again here, the final few minutes are breathtaking with a spiraling guitar swerve into space. The dreamy beauty of "Blind Faith" brings this masterful record, occasional harsh guitar riffs and all, to a conclusive and satisfying end, aided by some modern trippy beats, a slithering and dizzying vocal by the brilliant Ms Booth, perhaps pointing towards a more futuristic style, eventually. Consistent stuff from these proggers, please continue. Very close to "Seven", which remains a big personal favorite but with repeated listens in the future, it may just metamorphose into a 5 star classic. In the meantime, 4.5 purplish-red asteroids.
tszirmay | 4/5 |


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