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Neal Morse - Momentum CD (album) cover

MOMENTUM

Neal Morse

 

Symphonic Prog

3.94 | 325 ratings

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Flucktrot
Prog Reviewer
4 stars For all the talk about this album both being very mindful of not rehashing previous material and also bringing us back to the Spock's Beard days, it really sounds to me like a continuation of Neal's last solo album (Lifeline) and Transatlantic album (Whirlwind). I'm not hearing a new direction, and there are numerous places that take me back to recent material.

Having said that, I personally enjoy this album, particularly World Without End. With Momentum, Morse has indeed kept up his songwriting momentum, but this inertia has also led him in a very linear path from previous material.

Lifeline seems to split fans, but count me in the camp that thought it was a fine album, particularly So Many Roads. To me, World Without End is perhaps a bit more solid than Roads (which I think is a very solid track, though less "epic"), although the two are definitely in the same league. I'm perfectly happy when Neal rocks out for stretches, throws some metal in there for fun, and then also spruces things up with some fresh sections (such as winds/horns) before wrapping things up with an epic refrain. Aside from Testimony II, this is essentially what Morse has been doing for the past half-decade.

This strikes me as quite a formulaic approach, but it's a good formula, and I still like the results. The main limitation is that some of the insanely good, unforgettable moments from albums such as Testimony, One and ? are not present here. The upside is that is that the consistency is much better (especially given the Testimony comparison). The first 20 minutes of World Without End just fly by, as the melodies, pacing, transitions and instrumentation are expertly done, and the tempos (particularly the energetic opening verse) are nice and energetic.

My main gripes come with the last third of the piece. First, the metal grooving after the first slow down seems pointless. Perhaps if there were a killer guitar solo in there (if Paul Gilbert wasn't available, we know Adson Sodre could have laid something tasty down, given his work earlier in the song). If I had editing input, I would definitely have chucked that section. Second, the grand finale--while plenty grand--is not as high quality as most of the rest of the song. There's a good melody, strong vocals (the last note Neal hits proves he's still got it!) and harmonies, and a nice revisiting of the opening theme. This theme is not great, as it strongly reminds me of the melody from PBSs Nature. The closing also needs something more than a dramatic key change...perhaps a tempo kick or introduction of another theme, or both. Don't get me wrong: this is a high-quality epic, though it needed a stronger closing to really get into my top 25. Given that Neal and Mike have worked on epics that are on that list (Octavarium, Great Nothing, the ending of ?), I think they can still do it on future collaborations. I hope they want to!

As you may be able to tell, I was greatly looking forward to this album for the epic, although the rest is solid as well. Momentum and Weathering Sky are catchy and fun, although less proggy, while Neal explores his take on Eleanor Rigby for Freak. Thoughts is also good, although here is where I really miss Nick D'Virgilio, as his voice and drumming are missed. I also like Randy on bass, but he's just not on the same level of bombast as Dave Meros, and bombastic is what I love about the original Thoughts tunes.

Overall, this is a lean, fun, and energetic album. It's not this group's most creative output, but they've also set a very high standard in that department. It's my favorite Morse album since Sola Scripture, and that's a compliment, because I have mostly enjoyed the ones in between as well. As long as you don't have unreasonable expectations going in (i.e., perfect album, best epic of the last decade, etc.) you won't be disappointed.

Flucktrot | 4/5 |

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