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Nick Magnus - Hexameron CD (album) cover


Nick Magnus


Symphonic Prog

3.64 | 51 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars If you like progressive music, it's impossible to dislike the sound of the keyboard as it's one of the essential parts of what this music is all about. Prog fans aren't keen on solo albums of keyboard members of progbands. Rick Wakeman may be the exception but the solo outings of Geoff Downes, Don Airey, Richard Wright or Jordan Rudess and many others seem to please few ears. Some of these albums may come too close to electronic music which is a different kind of music. I suppose fans of prog don't like the way keyboards are used for replacing "real" guitars, basses and drums. Other releases may come to close to soundtracks as well.

"Hexameron" is not an exception to some of the mentioned diseases but nevertheless this is a fine effort. Years ago I bought "Straight on till morning" and it didn't impress me at all. I wasn't expecting a lot when I put this cd in my player but soon I had to revise my judgement on the music.

"Singularity" is a beautiful but soft opening track with a sound which holds many colours. In this track Magnus' keyboards are supported by the guitar and flute of the Hackett brothers. Hackett fans should immediately recognise some elements which sound familiar to them. Although the keyboards are the dominant instrument, the guitar solos are an essential part of the music. On Hackett albums you can notice the opposite. On "Dancing on the waters" it get's even better. The opening tones of this lovely track may give you the impression this is an album full of ambient sounds for relaxation purposes. Gradually the sound gets broaden by orchestral keyboards and a splendid female voice singing heavenly melodies. Eventually you would start to believe in life after death. The tracks of Nick Magnus could be described as an flower which opens inch by inch, gradually revealing moments of extreme beauty. Although no Hacketteers can be spotted on "Marduk", it would fit in on "Spectral mornings" quite nicely. The spooky sound of the mellotron is tributary to Hackett and the voice of the guest singer has some similarities with the voice of Peter Gabriel. I'm wondering if Magnus had the intention to revisit some of his glorious past but this is a great track anyway although it needs a few spins. Next track "Sophia's song" could be included on albums of the Irish folk band Clannad without noticing any difference; still this song is very good, sometimes reminding a bit of the main theme of the Titanic movie ; Yes that's right. The charting success of Celine Dion. It's not a coincidence this kind of music appears on this album. Magnus produced some compilation albums of Irish folk music in the past. It gives "Hexameron" an interesting alternative touch but this kind of romantics have nothing to do with progressive rock but I don't mind this at all. Many progressive music lacks emotion. "Double Helix" is a dreamy instrumental in the tradition of "Hands of the priestess" although Magnus wasn't there when the first Hackett was recorded.

Pete Hicks does the vocals for "Brother sun sister moon". He was another member of the Steve Hackett band in 1979 and 1980 but I never liked his vocals too much since it lacks a bit personality. On this album he appears on this less memorable song. A good melody for the chorus but on the musical side nothing excitable is happening. It's reminiscent to some tracks from "Cured". This brings us to the weak elements of "Hexameron". Keyboards are used for imitating drums, percussion and rhythm guitar. Even in 2005 I do prefer a good old fashioned drum sound especially for the rock tracks. The sound of a bass guitar is even more irreplaceable. Although it must be said that even if you're aware of that, it doesn't spoil the listening experience. Another critic I have is concerning the innocence spread all over the album. In the seventies prog music needed to be larger than life but it seems out of this world now. There are other prog artists who use some pastoral or ethereal atmospheres in their music but usually there is a counterpart present, here there is not. But maybe I'm word-splitting now.

Quite gracefully the ending of "Brother Sun Sister Moon develops into "Seven Hands of time" another instrumental track where we can spot Hackett playing some tremendous guitar parts. Again this could have appeared on a Hackett album but the atmosphere is different. On a Hackett album this would have sounded rather restless, here it sounds soothing. Maybe those computer rhythms aren't so bad after all.This is simply breathtaking music ; the perfect escapism. There's a church choir opening "The Power of reason". I never liked this kind of music too much but here it does sound great. It leads to the albums climax which is a reprise of the wonderful melodies of the opening track.

Let me get this right. Although not a masterpiece, "Hexameron" is an excellent album full of great melodies and excellent song writing. If you like "Spectral mornings" and "Defector" you should really check this one out, fans of Hackett will surely welcome back the musical elements that's gone lost in the Hackett albums of the 90's and 00. It may be inappropriate to compare his work to the efforts of Hackett but after hearing this album, it's hard to deny the influence Magnus had on the quoted albums. I was pretty surprised the material on "Hexameron" has the same level of quality of "To watch the storms" although musically there hardly is a comparison. "Hexameron" contains some elements of other musical styles as well like Irish folk music, Gregorian music or ambient. This makes it interesting album but you'll have to be in the mood for this kind of stuff. One of the finest prog albums of 2004.

Fishy | 4/5 |


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