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Neal Morse - Momentum CD (album) cover

MOMENTUM

Neal Morse

 

Symphonic Prog

4.01 | 321 ratings

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AtomicCrimsonRush
Special Collaborator
Symphonic Team
5 stars

Neal Morse has been a very prolific artist of late with Transatlantic and producing a covers album with Portnoy and George. Somehow in the same year he has also managed to release this incredible album "Momentum". The main players are Neal Morse on keyboards, guitars, vocals, Randy George on bass, and Mike Portnoy on drums. The album is about one hour of solid prog with 5 songs followed by a colossal epic clocking 33:40 titled 'World Without End'.

Before we get to this let's explore the short songs. It opens with 'Momentum' (6:25) that begins proceedings with a standard Morse track, the vocals are pristine, the keyboards are heavy and the guitar rhythms have a distorted sound. It could be mistaken for Transatlantic, and of course Portnoy lends a hand as always, as welcome as ever.

'Thoughts Part 5' (7:51) is the odd title for a track that Spock's Beard have released with 'Thoughts Parts 1 and 2'. There is no need t wonder what happened to the other parts leading to 5 as that is one of life's little mysteries and Morse's inside joke and wink to the Spock's Beard fanbase. It is certainly one of the proggiest songs on the album and has a heavy rhythm and guitars revved up to the max. The stop start jaunty spasms are counterbalanced with some melodic vibes. This is one of the highlights of the album.

'Smoke and Mirrors' (4:38) is not the Symphony X song, but a delightful acoustic song about the hidden mysteries of maintaining face in the midst of hypocritical society, and how the truth is hidden. It speaks of Fantasy worlds, how we are being deceived from birth and conceived to die, misleading lies, born in to bondage, slaves to sin, "disillusioned souls causing bloody tears, the truth is masquerading with smoke and mirrors". These are heavy themes but Morse relishes in such things and it is part and parcel of his music, despite the dangers of offending. Christians will have no problem with these ideas but it may disturb non- believers, and Morse wants us to wake up and question things rather than taking them at face value. For me this is part of the drawing power of the music, and it makes a change from all the darkness inherent in music.

'Weathering Sky' (4:15) has a melodic riff that jams into the brain easily, and focuses on the calling in Morse's life, that may be an allegory to Jesus called into the desert. It is one of the best songs here due to the strong melodic chorus and very cool guitar work throughout.

'Freak' (4:29) is a fun song about the difficulties of being a Christian and the mocking that ensues with such a lifestyle choice. Then it ends with the clincher that the freak in direct contrast may be Jesus, who certainly went against the flow and was labelled as such in the days when the Gospel was being preached.

'World Without End' (33:39) is the one that has everyone talking about, an epic in the same vein as 'The Whirlwind' except this is not divided into specific sections. It takes an incredible amount of skill to compose something this ambitious but Morse is a master having spent some time with the Spock's Beard members and Transatlantic over the years. The epic begins with dreamy keyboards soaked in ambience until a majestic guitar soars over. It builds with fast paced virtuosos keys and guitars over a driving beat in an odd sig. Adison Sodre is incredible on lead guitar hammer ons and fret melters, joined by incomparable skill by Bill Hubauer who multi skills on clarinet, flute, guitar, and keyboards. The vocals are terrific by Morse and he is joined by Wil Morse. Despite the length of the epic it moves along quickly, with distinct segments and changes in mood, ranging from exuberant to reflective and melancholy. The melody is joyfully executed and the lyrics are profound; "there's a world in the blazing sun, I've got to find my life my way, to a world that will never pass away, in the heat of the day pushing midnight, I've got nothing to say? life's too short, the world is waiting on the other side, everyday in spiritual genocide, the desert sand, the days of the damned."

The keyboard solos along the uptempo rhythm and it locks into a slower pace at 10 minutes, a more soulful gentle approach. The melody is still there but much slower and more majestic in its measured cadence. Then a heavier riff opens up the soundscape, and some excellent guitar phrases are heard as much more aggressive vocals sing about the paparazzi, losing faith, losing hope, buying into lies and losing your soul. Again the content is heavy but it makes sense from Morse's point of logic; a man who has been through it all and finally found salvation. His music is an evangelical tool, and it is one of the best musically; uplifting, thought provoking and innovative. The epic features an incredible lead guitar solo that has breakneck fingering and chilling string bends; one of the best from Morse's catalogue. This is a mind blowing epic and then it goes up another notch with the adventurous riff to follow at 15 minutes. It ends on a grand cresendo in an uplifting finale. This is undoubtedly one of the finest pieces of music from the Morse canon and it absolutely seals this as a masterpiece.

Morse never fails to please but this time around has created something very special with masterful compositions. I look forward to the covers album with the same line up, but in the meantime this 2012 album caps off a great year in prog.

AtomicCrimsonRush | 5/5 |

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