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Magellan - Symphony For A Misanthrope CD (album) cover




Heavy Prog

3.12 | 100 ratings

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3 stars This is a difficult review to write. I've had a strange history with Magellan. The first several albums were more piss-take entertainment than anything... what crazy thing will Trent Gardner do next? Granted, it was *good* piss-take entertainment, with lots of excellent moments... but there was always the feeling that this was prog at its most humorous. Then came Impossible Figures, an album I'd have no shame in awarding 5 stars. It seemed that everything had changed, that everything was going right with Magellan...

On the strength of Impossible Figures, I purchased Symphony For A Misanthrope from Muse-Wrapped, without even stopping to preview the tracks.

It starts off strong... Symphonette is a fun, bombastic instrumental, just the type we've come to expect from Magellan. There are some questionable keyboard leads floating above the orchestration, but what Magellan album would be complete without questionable keyboard leads? I'd feel gypped if they weren't present. The guitar solo, which starts and then just drops away, is also quite welcome.

Less than three minutes later, we come to the first vocal track of the album, Why Water Weeds. It starts off in the manner of something from Impending Ascension, which is welcome in my book. Actually, it starts off *much* like Estadium Nacional. And then, it continues much like Estadium Nacional, without the vocal hooks from the track I enjoyed so dearly. I never thought I'd say this about a prog track, but I feel it runs a tad long. Repeated listens soften the edge, however.

Wisdom begins with lovely acoustic guitar. Could this be a good track? It could, yes it could. If it weren't ruined by the horrible lyrics. Jeff Curtis' lyrics are unwelcome here... Trent's social-commentary lyrics are often heavy-handed, but they're often witty, or at the very least funny and catchy. Here, however, a nice acoustic ballad is ruined with lines "This guy can't even write his name / that lady thinks she's going insane" and "One man killed and another held out / Stupid wisdom is what this world's about".

Next up is Cranium Reef Suite. Oooh, an epic! Nearly 20 minutes... and it's been a couple albums since we've had a true Magellan long-form. Starts off pretty damn well. There's the "ahhhhh" keyboard patch that was so powerful on Impossible Figures' "Killer Of Hope", which serves only to remind of what an excellent, nearly-flawless album that was. This long-form track could be the album's saving grace. The lyrics are trademark Trent Gardner silliness, using metaphors that no one would normally think of (...c'mon. Cranium Reef?), and there's even a section titled "Psyche 101". I like it.

Track 5 is Bach 16. Wait, no it's not... but it is. Pianissimo Interlude is a keyboard interlude that will have you think of Impossible Figures' Bach 16. I'm not saying this because they're both classical piano interludes. Pianissimo Interlude is credited as (Based upon J.S. Bach 1742- Goldberg variation #1). Bach 16 is credited as (Goldberg Variation #8 written by J.S. Bach - 1742). If my eyes don't deceive me, these are two variations on the same piece... and you'll hear that when you listen to it. I can only ask WHY?

Doctor Concoctor is the trademark "metal" track, nothing entirely remarkable. It just doesn't stick with me. It's a fun listen, but hardly memorable. For what it's worth, the lyrics are disturbingly stalkerish in tone.

Every Bullet Needs Blood is our finale for the evening. Jeff Curtis returns to write more lyrics, but thankfully, they aren't so painfully stupid as to distract from the music this time. Light symphonic prog-metal intro, excellent keyboard bridge into vocals. It's a funky track... this track would've fit in perfectly with pre-IF Magellan, maybe a great selection for Test Of Wills. Is this an album finisher, though? Maybe the limited edition's bonus instrumental will seem more climactic.

Now, this review seems pretty negative. Don't get me wrong, this isn't a terrible album... it's simply a poor followup to Impossible Figures. I rated it three stars, but that's really an average of the TWO scores it's earned. Four stars if you've never heard Impossible Figures, but enjoyed Magellan's previous output. Two stars if you were as enthralled with Magellan's sudden turn to great songwriting as I was with their previous album. This isn't a bad album by any means, but it doesn't rank among the classics. It's listenable, certainly, and has its great moments. The bands' chops are up to par, but it lacks a certain spark. And the inclusion of the Pianissimo Interlude is just terrible, considering its twin played a similar role (and a much better one) on the previous album.

So if you were into the serious silliness of early Magellan, this album's for you. If you became a fan with Impossible Figures... be careful.

| 3/5 |


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