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Neal Morse - Sola Scriptura CD (album) cover

SOLA SCRIPTURA

Neal Morse

 

Symphonic Prog

4.17 | 460 ratings

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Epignosis
Special Collaborator
Eclectic Prog Team
4 stars Sola Scriptura, Latin for "scripture only" is loosely based on the struggles of German theologian Martin Luther, who among other things, hated the way God's forgiveness was being sold and wanted people to understand the bondage of the human will, that is, without the grace of God, man is bound to sin and evil. This recording is largely progressive metal with symphonic overtones, which occasionally visit other styles. The music of Neal Morse corresponds very well with the subtitles, but I think this album would have been music stronger had those sections been split up into individual tracks. Having it all lumped together in such a manner is a bit pointless (since the music doesn't exactly flow anyway), and it makes the album that much harder to digest. The last piece tends to be a bit repetitive (I feel this album could have been much stronger if it were cut to between 60 and 70 minutes), but overall, this is a masterful effort from of progressive rock's greatest modern minds.

"The Door" The lengthy introduction is a musical onslaught, with Mike Portnoy's double bass drum attacks (that are thankfully restrained), Randy George's fantastic fretwork on bass, and Morse's frenzied classical piano skills. The music during this time is marvelously arranged, even though the vocal section begins abruptly. After some tightly executed music, everything suddenly becomes closer to contemporary Christian music, with bright acoustic guitars and worshipful lyrics. Eventually things morph back into the bitter and heavy sound, as Morse sings in a snide voice, taking the role of the religious leaders at the time. The next section is more like a modern-day Christian anthem, full of conviction. Afterwards, a drowsy Mellotron assumes control, while various instrumentation dances over it. In the end, Morse, singing as Luther, makes up his mind to take action against the heresy of the day, and this is followed up with a screaming guitar solo. The final major chord marks an air of confidence for the determined reformer.

"The Conflict" Heavy metal ensues, with blistering guitar soloing and heavy drumming. The music is very close to Alice in Chains (in fact, I almost swore I was hearing Layne Staley at one point). The convicting tone returns in the second part, where the music sounds closer to Spock's Beard than anything else on this album. The third section is a dim one, with melancholic but hopeful lyrics and a haunting Mellotron and vocal echo. What follows is a Spanish-style guitar piece courtesy of Paul Gilbert. It introduces a flamenco section that certainly adds variety and flavor to a really lengthy album, and for some reason, reminds me of "Senor Valasco's Mystic Voodoo Love Dance" from Spock's Beard's The Light, only not nearly as ludicrous. Morse's piano playing is smart during this section and very entertaining. A lightning-fast keyboard solo ensues during the fifth part. The guitar and vocals of the sixth and final section is inspiring and a highlight of the piece.

"Heaven in My Heart" An anomaly to this heavy effort, this beautiful song could stand alone and serve as an inspiration and encouragement to any Christian believer. It is piano-based, and has a similar theme to the climactic moments of Morse's ? album.

"The Conclusion" A cry to "Come out of her my people" (from Revelation 18:4) begins the final song. After some flashy keyboard work, George gets an opportunity to stand in the spotlight for a bit. Again, the music is heavy and tight, full of fast playing and a recurring theme that doesn't let up for quite a while. When it does, the very first vocal melody of the album is revisited. Everything eventually becomes uplifting and symphonic once more, with a stirring vocal performance from Morse (especially for those who know the scripture he is referencing). The third part of the first track is masterfully brought back (there really could not have been a better way to draw things to a close). I find the actual conclusion after the spirited guitar solo to be a bit weak (mainly because of Morse's vocals, which sound like they were recorded in a phone booth), but the truth that he sings is not lost on this weary but steadfast heart.

Epignosis | 4/5 |

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