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The Minstrel's Ghost - The Road To Avalon CD (album) cover

THE ROAD TO AVALON

The Minstrel's Ghost

 

Crossover Prog

3.71 | 83 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

AtomicCrimsonRush
Special Collaborator
Symphonic Team
4 stars Incredible synth and lead guitar solos with a compelling story retelling the legend of King Arthur.

The Minstrel's Ghost are a group that came to my attention simply due to the overpowering cover art by Ed Unitsky on their latest album "The Road to Avalon". Then on closer inspection I was more fascinated with getting hold of this album as it features an excellent lineup of musicians. Blake Carpenter is a multi- instrumentalist and vocalist and it is really his vision that got the band up and running. He is joined by Zoltan Czorsz Jr on drums, Marco Chiappini on keyboards, Colin Tench on guitars, and Troy James Martin on bass guitar. I knew of Zoltan from The Flower Kings, and was familiar with Carpenter and Tench due to their involvement with Corvus Stone recently among other projects. I always loved Tench's guitar style so was looking forward to that, along with Carpenter's gentle vocal delivery. This is also a concept album based on the tales of King Arthur and the legendary Excalibur, the quest that takes Arthur from the Lady of the Lake to Camelot and finally Avalon. It has been done before of course, we all know that with the likes of Mr Wakeman in the 70s and other artists in the past, but this is a new refreshing take on the legend.

'Part I The Design' is a 31:39 epic that is broken up into 6 parts, and they all seamlessly merge together as one long track. 'I, The Journey Begins (The Avalon Overture)' is a beautiful piece of music with some soothing keyboards and soaring lead guitar. It moves along ebbing slowly until it cascades into the glorious 'II. Avalon Part I', where some gentle vocals enter from Carpenter.

'III. Merlin' is an excellent song with infectious melodies and very relaxing piano along a measured tempo. It features a stunning lead break at the end from Tench and segues nicely into the next section with a narrative voice over, that really reminded me of the transitions on Kiss' "The Elder" humorously enough.

'IV. Lady Of The Lake' opens with mellotron, acoustics and clean lead guitar tones. There is a synth solo that creates a strong melody and a solid percussion throughout. The lyrics tell of how the protagonists find the Lady; "in this lake there is a lady, teacher of the old ways, bearer of the sword of steel, for the one true king, the time has come, its plain to see". Tench's guitars soar with mesmirising string bends and sustained tones.

'V. Excalibur' follows on with a mod tempo commercial sound, and expressive storytelling vocals. The lyrics outline how the sword is removed from the stone by the chosen king. The synths dominate on this track multi layered and with a retro sound. It sounds very much like a Flower Kings song with the over saturated synths and uplifting tempo. More dialogue ends this with "Hail Arthur King of Britain! Long live the king!"

'VI. Avalon Part II' is one I had heard on the online prog radio show Friday Night Progressive (12-07-2012), and it was nice to hear it again on this album in context. I liked it from the first time I heard it, with its swooping keyboards, acoustic vibrations and exuberant rhythms. Chiappini is a master on keyboards, and this song is augmented by a smooth vocal execution by Carpenter. The guitars are incredible, crafted with a lot of emotion and power by Tench.

'Part II The Life' runs for a mammoth 29:07, and again is broken into 6 parts. It opens with the sound of a clammer of voices, laughing as medieval music plays, apparently a scene from Camelot. A voice welcomes the King to Camelot and then a tirade of drums breaks out, a terrific solo from Czorsz Jr. Keyboards leap to the fray and a driving rock beat locks in; this is 'Camelot', a 7:26 minute track with some scorching lead guitar and accessible vocals that speak of rejoicing in the medieval splendour. There is a celebratory vibe and we hear familiar names spoken of such as Sir Lancelot and Lady Guinevere, reminding me of Wakeman's excursion into like territory with "The Myths and Legends of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round table", namely the songs 'Guinevere', 'Sir Lancelot and the Black Knight' and 'Sir Galahad'. I prefer the more upbeat tempo and heavy guitar work of The Minstrel's Ghost and they feature some fascinating soundbytes and dialogue.

At the end of this track we hear two malevolent voices speaking about betrayal, leading to 'I. A Love Betrayed' opening with gorgeous lead guitar playing. Martin's bassline punctuates the melancholy atmosphere and then some excellent vocals chime in from Carpenter. It has an infectious chorus; "the sky is red, there's no turning back, we can't stop the flood, our world is may, the queen is gone, she's deserted him, his heart is slain, he can't go on, the futures grim, for a love betrayed." After the lead break I love how it gets heavier with a metal distortion attack and powerhouse lead soloing.

We are now into track 'III. The Son', a genuine rocker with an outstanding vocal delivery and overall musicianship. The heavier rhythm with traditional metal chugging is awesome, and the album needed this and it came at just the right time. We then hear the clash of swords as fierce battle commences. It is like the soundtrack of Excalibur, complete with horses neighing and men crying out. It returns then to the heavy gallop of metal and the melody until again we lapse back to the battle, which is quite a fracas with swords clanging ferociously.

'IV. Avalon Part III' begins with an extended instrumental with the similar melody to the previous part. This was also played on the radio show Friday Night Progressive and the two parts segue well. This part has a heavier beat, and features lead and synth breaks trading off nicely over the driving rhythmic foundation. The vocals come in eventually with a solid performance from Carpenter; "this is Avalon". We are lead then down the valley to 'V. Le Morte d'Arthur', meaning that the end is in sight as Arthur dies as the legend foretells. The tempo is still moderate and there is a sadness in the vocals, yet there is a ray of hope as "his name will live on, he will return to us one day." I love the violin sounds on this creating a melancholy soundscape; it is beautiful music. 'VI. The End' closes this with an uptempo synthesizer driven piece, with pumping percussion and bass.

The music may remind one of The Flower Kings, Pendragon or Genesis, yet the band have their own style. The Minstrel's Ghost is certainly a band of accomplished musicians, and this visionary concept album works well on a number of levels. It features incredible synth and lead guitar solos; it features a compelling story retelling the legend of King Arthur; it includes captivating effects that add to the overall enjoyment and the vocals and lyrics are tastefully executed. I was captivated from beginning to end and found this album to be a pleasant journey into the medieval past. The musicianship is sophisticated and the melodies are infectious after a few listens. Strike this down as another album to wrap your ears around in 2012, that has been a very strong year for innovative prog rock.

AtomicCrimsonRush | 4/5 |

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