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Magic Pie - The Suffering Joy CD (album) cover

THE SUFFERING JOY

Magic Pie

Symphonic Prog


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5 stars Magic Pie's new CD's title could have just as easily referred to the making of the CD itself since they suffered so much while making this joy for the ears. While they were recording this CD, they suffered a fire which destroyed their recording studio along with all of their equipment. Talk about a major loss! Luckily the session tapes were stored elsewhere and they persevered and The Suffering Joy was born.

Magic pie bills themselves as "Classic Rock meets Progressive Rock in a conglomerate of influences from the 70's and from today's progressive scene" I don't think they could have hit the nail on head any truer then with these words. Listening to The Suffering Joy You can't help but hear influences of Kansas, Uriah Heep, Triumvirat/ELP, Yes, Deep Purple, Styx & more from the 70's while also hearing sections that will remind you of Shadow Gallery, Flower Kings, Spocks's Beard & others from today's scene. Oh how I wish there were more bands out there like Magic Pie. Music like it should be.

A very happy day is when a new Magic Pie CD arrives and I get to surround myself with their music. Consequently these days are also the saddest because I know I'll have to wait another 2 to 3 years before I can get another piece of the pie. I guess perfection takes time. If you're a fan of any of the bands I mentioned, you should run out now and buy this CD (or all of Magic Pie for that matter). You can easily find samples on their MySpace page if you need further proof. I just don't see how anyone can not fall in love with their material.

I won't do a full track by track running of this CD since there are so many available already but I'd like to make a few points. The first track (in 4 parts) really sets the tone for the CD. Part II highlights the instruments, Part III the vocals, and the 17 minute+ part IV puts it all together. The next 3 songs can all be found on their MySpace page and every one of them is a gem. The final 2 tracks seem to be getting mostly glossed over in the reviews and that is a shame because they are fantastic. While it is easy to love Headlines or Slightly Mad after a single listening, I think it takes Tired and In Memoriam a couple of listening before they can be fully appreciated. Tired is a true progressive song in that the middle is not like the beginning which is not like the end. My favorite part is the jam from about 8:30 to around the 12:00 minute mark. In Memoriam on the other hand is very sinister sounding. Quite possibly the darkest song Magic Pie has done to date. I absolutely love Jan's drumming near the end of this song.

Magie Pie changed singers with this CD and I'm not sure they could have made a better choice. Eirikur fits them like a glove. I think he shines best on Slightly Mad. Kim is riffing arpeggio's all over the CD and with Gilbert the 2 are simply amazing to listen to. Underneath it all is Lars and Jan keeping the rhythm going and in true progressive fashion make it seem all flawless. I recommend you give the CD a listen too while concentrating solely on the bass and drums. They do some amazing stuff that sometimes can go unnoticed. On top of the great musicianship you have some really nice vocal arrangements and harmonies. Add in an occasional wonderfully sounding voice from Maria Bentsen (I wished they user her a little bit more) and you have here a true masterpiece. Take Another Bite, Just a Little Bite? of Magic Pie and you'll be full for days!!

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Send comments to jayzeb (BETA) | Report this review (#391052)
Posted Monday, January 31, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars I must admit I was behind and discovered Magic Pie just a few weeks ago. But it took me only a few listenings to their two previous albums (Motions of desire, 2005 & Circus of life, 2007) until I was hooked. This third album immediately satisfy my hunger for true energetic progrock with lots of dynamics and complexity. I now already know one 2011-album that will make a great play-count on my laptop the next months. And I hope on a great deal of others as well. Wondering how on earth is it possible to be be a Norwegian music interested consumer reading lots of Norwegian music reviews and discussions but still not see or hear anything from any Norwegian person, newspaper, TV- or radio-channel about such an amazingly skillful band like this? It feels almost like being fooled by someone trying to keep the best candy to him self. Don't bee fooled like me. Check out this inspiring album and enjoy every second.

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Send comments to leifel (BETA) | Report this review (#391346)
Posted Tuesday, February 01, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars Well I have to admit that Magic Pie with their new album "The Suffering Joy" has come as something of a surprise to me. Two weeks ago I had never even heard of Magic Pie, then recently their name started appearing on Progarchives popular artists list and as I always do, I decided to take a look. Their biography sounded good, Scandinavian band's playing Symphonic prog have something of a good reputation over recent years.

I immediately searched spotify and the earlier albums show up. A few spins of those albums and I they start to grow on me. I soon bought the latest album which I am yet to be disappointed with.

The album kicks off with "A Life's Work", a multi part epic which sets the tone very nicely for the rest of the album. Each segment has it's own identity with the final part a clear stand out, there are some excellent hooks in this.

The next track "Headlines" follows the high standard of the first epic. An equally varied track with a great melody. This is perhaps more standard fare and some great lyrics and vocals.

"Slight Mad", it's easy to see how they got the title. This starts with some excellent keyboards, before morphing into some Deep Purple style, perhaps its the vocals that make it sound this way to me. There is some standout guitar playing towards the end of this track.

Another mini epic follows. "Tired" doesn't reach quite the heights of "A Life's Work" but is none the less excellent. Shades of Shadow Gallery in places, which is no bad thing.

The final track "In memoriam" is a nice way to close, although not quite up to the standard of the previous song.

All in all this is one great find for me and I can certainly recommend the album. I would rate it as 9/10 so I'm going to round upto 5*.

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Send comments to Skyperion (BETA) | Report this review (#392038)
Posted Tuesday, February 01, 2011 | Review Permalink
EatThatPhonebook
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Usually, modern Symphonic Prog artists aren't exactly my first pick. Many times they tend to do too much; the songs are way too long, the instrumental parts sometimes can be excessive. But "The Suffering Joy" made me look at all these bands in a different point of view, maybe just because this is one of the best and most refined Symphonic Prog albums released in these last two three years.

Magic Pie is a Norwegian Symphonic Prog band that started out in 2005-so it's clear from the start that this is a NEW band- and has released, in the beginning of February 2011, an amazing, mind blowing album.Maybe it's too soon to say, being this the first 2011 album I listen to, but I think "The Suffering Joy" will be remembered as one of the best releases this year. Certainly I'll remember it when this year ends. It's fresh, dynamic, hopeful, energetic, with an excellent album structure, definitely a true piece of art. Sure, many times they sound like the best of Transatlantic, but what's original about this is the massive use of guitars, used even more than keyboards. You hear synth riffs or many piano playing, but the guitars are the true soul of the music, even in the shorter songs (Endless Ocean). This doesn't prevent at all to the album of having an epic an utterly solemn tone, especially in songs like the title track or the final "In Memoriam". I do have to say something about the musicians: even though I highly praise this work, I do think everybody here has really overdone themselves, in fact, these musicians don't sound particularly good or talented. In a way, I think "The Suffering Joy" is a miracle, a beautiful mistake, and I don't think this band will able to go further than this. Unless of course I'm wrong.

The buck of the album is obviously the opening suite divided in four songs, "A Life's Work", the first three parts very short but fantastic, all openers to the fourth part, the title track, a massive seventeen minute epic, a true masterpiece. We have then songs like "Slightly Mad" or "Headlines", that almost reach ten minutes of length, very energetic and powerful, and quite original in many parts. What else? "Endless Ocean", a brief three minute interlude, very haunting and meditative, the excessively long "Tired", IMO the least appealing track of the album, that opens the final track of the album and my personal favorite "in Memoriam", an amazingly haunting but somewhat tense piece.

I think this album should be highly regarded, having all the winning cards for a great modern prog rock album.

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Send comments to EatThatPhonebook (BETA) | Report this review (#398195)
Posted Friday, February 11, 2011 | Review Permalink
3 stars More like 3.5 stars, really.

Never having heard of Magic Pie prior to a couple weeks ago, I was curious due to the number of high ratings 'The Suffering Joy' has been receiving here at PA since its release. I have to say, the accolades are well-deserved for the most part. 'The Suffering Joy' is a pleasant surprise. The "meat" of the album is obviously the 4-part 'Suffering Joy' saga, which is a complex & varied series of compositions. Of the remaining tracks, "Going Slightly Mad" stands out above the others.

Magic Pie is definitely a symphonic prog group, but there are just as many prog-metal influences here. So as a warning to symphonic prog fans who aren't favorable towards metal, you may want to steer clear of this particular album.

No need for a song-by-song breakdown as others have done that already, and likely better than I could have.

I will say I do have ONE reservation about this album -- and it is the ONLY thing that kept me from giving 'The Suffering Joy' a 4-star rating (or even higher). The band's guitarist, while possessing brilliant (and sometimes scary) chops, can be quite overbearing at times.....almost to a fault, really.

Please note this is a personal preference and NOT a knock against the guitarist's or the band's musicianship. I am simply not a fan of the "play fast for the sake of playing fast" approach to guitar. I honestly believe the album would have had a stronger impact on me if the guitarist had chosen his soloing a bit more tastefully. It's just as important to know when NOT to play as it is to have good technique and phrasing. There are many times on this album where it feels as if the songs are nothing more than a vehicle for the guitarist to play 2-minute long scalar runs on the fret board. Sadly at times these constant solos are so up front in the mix that it is difficult to focus on the music behind the solo.

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Send comments to Disconnect (BETA) | Report this review (#400561)
Posted Monday, February 14, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars "The Suffering Joy" is the third album by Norwegian proggers, Magic Pie. The first two albums, "Motions of Desire" and "Circus of Life" had moments of brilliance, but oftentimes did not seem to have the same high quality throughout the entire album. But, when they were performing at the top of their abilities, they really played some fantastic music on those albums. With their third album, I feel they have taken the best of their previous two albums and created a truly consistent, great album that is among the best that modern symphonic prog has to offer, and is an early contender for album of the year.

The album kicks off with the powerhouse epic that is "A Life's Work." Following a similar structure that Neal Morse sometime employs, there is a soft intro introducing some of the lyrical themes of the album over some delicate keyboard washes, before the rocking overture kicks in, which really showcases how great this band is at playing their respective instruments. This moves into a slower section with some beautiful harmonies before finally getting to the meat of the epic where the musical themes from the overture can be heard to full effect. This epic has everything you could want from progressive rock: inventive keyboards, soaring guitars, stunning harmony vocals, and a great backbeat of powerful drum and bass work. There are even some female vocals that are used to great effect over some chugging guitar. If I have any criticism for this wonderful track, it is perhaps that it is a tad long and could use trimming a few minutes to keep it more interesting. But, that is really a minor complaint because by and large this is a fantastic epic that includes head bopping heavy prog moments that allow the keyboard and guitar to play off of each other and a huge sing-along style chorus. There is just a ton of fun to be had here.

The album continues with "Headlines," which is another fun track. There is some great acoustic guitar, more harmony vocals, and a fun, almost bouncy melody that brings to mind early Queen at times. There is some great guitar work and very dramatic vocals. There are also some fast paced instrumental sections that are a lot of fun. "Endless Ocean" is a short ballad that is a nice break from the intensity of the tracks that precede it. There is some great acoustic guitar, piano, and once again, beautiful vocals over what sounds like strings. It is a beautiful shorter track, which is quite different for a band that is used to long-form progressive rock pieces.

Things get fun again with "Slightly Mad" which is one of my personal favorite tracks on the record. The opening is quite chaotic, which fits perfectly with the title and meaning of the song. Keyboards and guitar go crazy against a powerful rocking drumbeat. There is some impressive acoustic guitar that leads into the vocal section. This track is just pure fun to listen to and is really well done. One of my favorite sections of this song is where it breaks down into an almost funky and jazzy section complete with wah wah guitar. The guitar solo is very impressive here. This whole track is just a blast to listen to, and is amongst my favorites from their entire catalogue.

"Tired" took a while for me to warm up to. It is a fifteen minute epic that begins with some great majestic guitar and keyboards. There are some interesting keyboard sounds used here that are interesting to me. This track is a lot more laid back than the rest of the album for a good majority of the song length. I think that was why I was initially not excited by it. I had come to expect fast, heavy sections due to the previous songs. But, just because it is slower paced does not mean it is bad. It actually has a majestic beauty to it. About nine minutes into the song comes a typical fast paced, instrumental section that is a sort of trademark of the Magic Pie sound. In this section fast guitars and keyboards intricately play against one other. Once again, this is just so much fun to listen to and I enjoy it immensely. This track has gone from being a little overlong and boring to being one of my favorites on the record.

The album closes with "In Memoriam" which is actually kind of a somber note to end the album on. This one took some getting used to as well, but I like the almost eerie mood of the track. For me it is the mood and vocal performance that makes this track work. I like the ending that has a somewhat intense buildup that really works well. It is a fine closer to a really excellent album.

I love this album and consider it to be Magic Pie's best album by far. They have really come into their own sound on this release. This album is one of the finest examples of modern Symphonic Prog. There is some great playing, the musicians seem to be having fun and the concept and lyrics are really good. I think this is a strong contender for best album of the year. Magic Pie has truly grown into a great band with this release and I look forward to see what they are capable of in the future. If they keep this up, I think they could become one of the leaders of Modern Symphonic Prog.

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Send comments to natewait (BETA) | Report this review (#401558)
Posted Wednesday, February 16, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars Perhaps you've seen this album doing quite well in some chart or other, and you're skimming these reviews to see if it's something you should invest in. The quick answer is 'yes, yes you should'.

The songs on this album are fairly complex and rich, with beautiful melodies and a confident range of styles. There are some very effective and understated vocal harmonies. The main singer sounds quite like Tobias Sammat (Edguy, Avantasia) on occasion, but it doesn't appear to be a deliberate aping.

There is some very classy keyboard playing, and when guitar and keyboard play stunning runs together it's reminiscent of DT or Sonata Arctica.

But for me it's the guitar that steals the show. Ye godz, these guys can play! Touches of Brian May, Steve Vai, John Petrucci, Michael Angelo Batio, Roine Stolt and Carlos Vamos and goodness knows who else. But it never feels like widdly bits tacked on to otherwise serviceable tracks. The solos and embellishments are there for a reason .. and fortunately the reason is to enhance the pleasure for us, the listeners.

Mixing and production sounds first class to my old ears. Everything is clean and nicely balanced, the song order is well judged, the performances exemplary. The songs are beautifully crafted. The cover art is enigmatic and well executed. This is workmanship of the highest order.

But it has that extra something too; that oomph and passion and artistry that makes an album a life- long friend, and definitely worthy of 5 stars.

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Send comments to moochie (BETA) | Report this review (#401578)
Posted Wednesday, February 16, 2011 | Review Permalink
Tarcisio Moura
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars This one is definitly a grower. When I first picked up Magic Pie´s third studio offering on the store without even bothering to listen to a single note beforehand I soon had the feeling I had made a mistake. Upon hearing it at home I found It to be by far the less accessible of the band´s albums. I specially disliked the opener, the four part massive title track (over 27 minutes in total). I thought it was too heavy and not inspired enough. Thank god I know prog long enough not to be taken by my first impression. The more I listened to it, the more I liked it. The remaining tracks are easily better, however, and I wonder if they should start the CD with the excellent Headlines instead. But the Suffering Joy is a fine epic, if you have the patience to listen to all its subtleness and layers upon layers of sounds.

This band from Norway reminds a lot of their swedish neighbors, The Flower Kings. Like TFK. Magic Pie uses a lot of retro prog to forge their own sound. Their vocal harmonies are great (with the new addition of singer Eriikur Hauksson replacing Allan Olsen), but the instrumental parts are simply fantastic: great keyboards runs (lots of vintage Hammonds and moogs). excellent guitar lines provided by the skillful Kim Stenberg and a very strong and versatile rhythm section. As usual, the songwriting is top notch, the group using their main influences (Yes, ELP. Gentle Giant and the like) to produce something that sounds at the same time quite modern and unique, while still familiar and respectfuil to their masters.

Like I said before, this is a more complex affair than their previous ones, but equally satisfying in the end. There are no weak tracks on this CD. It may take more then a couple of hearings to really get it, but once you do, it´s highly addictive. The production is very good and the arrangements as tasteful as ever. If you´re into the old scholl of symphonic rock (with lots of elaborated parts but still very melodic and pleasant) you can´t miss this one.

Magic Pie might not be one the most original bands in the world, but they know their trade very well, and they do that thorugh fine songwriting and passionate performances. Rating: somewhere between 4 and 4.5 stars. Highly recommended .

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Send comments to Tarcisio Moura (BETA) | Report this review (#407282)
Posted Thursday, February 24, 2011 | Review Permalink
J-Man
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars The latest outing from Norwegian progressive rock band Magic Pie has been garnering rave reviews in most prog circles, and after hearing The Suffering Joy for myself, it's not hard to understand why. I have no hesitation in calling Magic Pie's third full-length album one of the best progressive rock albums of the "new"-era. Although my interest in the modern symphonic prog scene has waxed and waned over time, Magic Pie's third effort is one of the best things I've heard in a long while. My first listen to The Suffering Joy left me speechless, and every other consecutive listen further increased my enjoyment. This was my introduction to Magic Pie, and I think it's a great place for anyone to check out these Norwegian behemoths.

The music on The Suffering Joy is symphonic progressive rock with obvious influences from The Flower Kings, Spock's Beard, IQ, Transatlantic, Genesis, and Yes. Although one could criticize Magic Pie for wearing their influences on their sleeve, the end result is still unique and (most importantly) expertly crafted. The frequent vocal harmonies especially remind me of The Flower Kings, and Magic Pie pulls off these harmonies every bit as excellently as their Swedish neighbors. In the music itself, there are melodic neo-prog sections, jazzy electric piano and guitar bits, and even some borderline-metal riffs. This is a fairly unique and eclectic album, and never does Magic Pie come across as a "clone band" of any sort.

The album opens up with the monster 27-minute, 4 part epic titled "A Life's Work". Filled with everything that a prog fan could possibly dream of, this epic could really give Transatlantic a run for their money. The next track, "Headlines", has a bit more of a neo-prog flavor and is another highlight. The short acoustic "Endless Ocean" is a beautiful track and actually one of my favorites as well. "Slightly Mad" is a heavier symphonic piece that even hints towards the heaviness and complexity of Echolyn. "Tired" is a softer song that nods especially in the direction of IQ or Pendragon. This 15+ minute epic is yet another brilliant highlight. "In Memoriam" is a stellar conclusion to this masterpiece, and yet another expertly crafted song from Magic Pie. This is an album with "all filler, no killer", so to speak. Try as I might, finding a weak spot is a difficult task.

One of the best things about Magic Pie is their talent as musicians, vocally and instrumentally. In addition to the breathtaking vocal harmonies I've mentioned earlier, the band is one of the most musically gifted out there. Add in a terrific production with a professional sound, and you have one of the most aesthetically pleasing prog rock albums in recent memory.

I was blown away at first listen by The Suffering Joy, and my satisfaction has only increased over time. Magic Pie is a relatively new band to me, but this masterpiece assures that they won't ever fall off my radar. The Suffering Joy can honestly be considered one of the finest modern prog albums I've ever heard - and I've heard more than my share of those! I'll give this a 5 star masterpiece stamp and an "essential purchase" label for any prog rock fan. Expressing my excitement about this album in review form is difficult, but the only thing anyone needs to gather from this review can be summed up in one word - MASTERPIECE!

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Send comments to J-Man (BETA) | Report this review (#408510)
Posted Saturday, February 26, 2011 | Review Permalink
Menswear
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Déjŕ Heard.

Aw man, I had higher hopes for Magic Pie. I expected more originality, more exploration. Don't get me wrong, they are good at what they're doing. I mean good. Good guitars, good vocals, good keyboards and so on. But everything here has been heard many times before: the Dream Theater time breaks and arpeggios, the Spock's Beard vocal tone and the whole Flower Kings shebang.

Nicely done, and I could say very nicely done, and some songs seem to part from the heard; so it's not entirely lost! On the other hand, I spawn a question mark for the remarkably high level of 'metal'. They stepped on the gas, to say the least.

Good, but lacks 'wow factor'.

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Send comments to Menswear (BETA) | Report this review (#411129)
Posted Friday, March 04, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars This is an excellent album, and in my view one of the best symphonic releases over the last years.

In The Suffering Joy you can hear something of the golden age (that would be the 70s), different styles (symphonic, neo, metal... even some jazzy elements that is neatly fused into the more rocky grooves), beautiful vocal harmonies and great craftmanship blended into a modern, Scandinavian (mostly Swedish, although the band is Norwegian), style that is the band's own. And the result is just what it is supposed to be ? A Magic Pie.

Yes, you may recognize the formula and the ingredients here. The 24 minutes "A Life's Work" in four parts is clearly "symphonic" for instance. The formula may be Genesis, but it sounds a lot like Dream Theater. This also has the careful intro, the keyboard and the guitar, the powerful riffs, the solos, the really difficult parts, the more melancholic parts, the timebreaks, the different themes returning, and the grand finale. But it has different and better vocals, more creativity and more beauty. DT may be the best musicians in the (prog)world, but Magic Pie is not far behind and they are just better composers. A masterpiece this one.

The other five songs are also good to great, varied and a little less complex. They may also remind you of DT and other, not so metallic, bands, some mentioned in other reviews here. Indeed, the whole album does not really explore a lot of new territory. But what is covered and how it is done should grab your attention nevertheless.

For this magic pie is not just clever use of known ingredients. Instead, it stirs your emotions and makes you FEEL. And like all magic it may be just outside your reach and point to something beyond itself that opens your imagination. It is YOU who become the interpreter and the creator of the actual experience. The mindstuff may be threads of history, or it may be the contemporary, but it may also be emotions and feelings and stories and thoughts and images, in a vast space that can be explored again and again.

On the weak side, the production is not perfect, the drums sounding a little muted and some of the riffs sounding a little pale. But unless you are a hifi-freak, these are minor complaints. Some would argue with some lack of originality, but let history be the judge of that. On the stronger side the musical ability is excellent, the vocals (three bandmembers plus one female guestvocal) perhaps being the strongest. And then of course comes the music itself?

This album is beautiful, it is powerful, it is complex and varied, it is light and dark, suffering and joy, it takes influences from the past and blends it (successfully) with the now, in a way that is relevant today. And the album makes an integrated whole.

For me, that blend is what symphonic prog is all about. A highly recommended album. 4,5 stars.

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Send comments to stig (BETA) | Report this review (#413652)
Posted Wednesday, March 09, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars A group I've followed with interest for several years now. Like TRANSATLANTIC, SPOCK'S BEARD, THE FLOWER KINGS, THE TANGENT and KARMAKANIC, Magic Pie seems to have some very high standards of technical proficiency and can create some awesomely complicated songs that are fun to listen to (and pretend to be able to play). BUT, also like the above listed, they seem to be doing, saying, or offering anything really new that YES, RUSH, IRON MAIDEN and other classic rockers haven't already said. It just seems a lot of show and not enough magic, melody and heart (though these guys may be a step up [a baby step] from the aforementioned groups. I particularly enjoy "Headlines," "Endless Ocean," the acoustic guitar (always the acoustic guitar work!) on "Slightly Mad" and "TIred" (as well as the vocals) and "In Memorandum." 3.5 stars graded up for consistency of the level of composition and performance.

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Send comments to BrufordFreak (BETA) | Report this review (#417991)
Posted Friday, March 18, 2011 | Review Permalink
3 stars While I'm writing this review, I am listening to the album. I've rated this album in the beginning with 2 stars, because I don't like the direction the group is going, in this case the hard rock/metal style. The vocals of the new singer are not bad, but I must get used to it. Technically everything is well played, but I miss the feeling in it. I like the melodic parts of the band and they are now a bit lost and played in a fast turbo style. Well enough said about it, it's getting better when I'm listening more times to it, so the 2 stars are becoming 3, but the pie is a bit rough and the magic is almost gone. I hope in the future they will return to their old style, the symphonic one.

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Send comments to Hogweed Returns (BETA) | Report this review (#434460)
Posted Saturday, April 16, 2011 | Review Permalink
Conor Fynes
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars 'The Suffering Joy' - Magic Pie (5/10)

Have you ever listened to a record that you knew was very good, excellent even, but no matter what, it just does not click with you? For me, much modern traditional prog falls into this category, and while I can quietly respect it for its musical virtuosity, there is very little excitement in it for me, and next to impossible to foster an emotional bond with the music. Scandinavian progressive rock band Magic Pie's latest album is a perfect example of this sort of album, and as I dive into the seventy minute work that these Norwegians have created here, I see that I really have reasons for being unable to feel the music on anything more than an academic level.

Undoubtedly, this is not the most positive way to open up a review, but see it as something of a disclaimer; while I can certainly appreciate 'The Suffering Joy' for its vintage flair and complex approach, I usually have an averse reaction to the whole scene of prog that tries to revive the sound of the '70s. Indeed, if anything, that is one of the things that Magic Pie do best. Looking past a professional and modernized production varnish to the sound, the core of the band is based in the same sort of prog that was going strong in the early 70's. Of course, there are many who can still appreciate the music for what it is, and if I could look past the fact that this sound has been recycled again and again over the course of forty years, I could see myself loving what Magic Pie do here.

A fairly long album, Magic Pie barrages the listener with prog epics left right and center. The first four tracks here comprise the 'A Life's Work' suite, although for all intents and purposes, the fourth track is the one that people will be talking about; a seventeen minute section where Magic Pie pulls out every trick from vocal harmonies to crunchy guitar tones to a variety of vintage synth sounds. Then there are a number of mini-epics to trail the centerpiece, including the fairly heavy 'Slightly Mad', or 'In Memoriam'. It is made very clear what the band was going for here, and for the most part, they are able to pull off the sound very well. There are many ideas in each epic, and especially in the guitar solos, a sense that Magic Pie is out to impress.

All this time, it feels evidently clear that Magic Pie are taking themselves far too seriously. That is not to say that they should not be pursuing their music with as much focus as they do, but the emotion in their music seems to be blocked by a contrived sense of songwriting and performance that seeks to dazzle rather than really touch the listener. This even shows in the album's length, and there are several points in this album where 'The Suffering Joy' may have ended quite nicely, but they decide to throw in another fifteen or nine minute long epic into the fray to keep the train running along. While only the guitar solos (which are admittedly incredible) really astounded me from their technical brilliance, the sheer amount of ideas in each track does not hide the fact that the ideas are not used well. The lyrics are fairly bad, reverting to using single syllable rhymes, and plodding on with rather mechanical takes on fairly human things like emotions and philosophy.

Really, in the end, what can I say about this album? It is a perfectly capable piece of '70s prog rock, released in 2011. Although there are still better bands doing the same thing out there- Transatlantic and Beardfish come to mind- Magic Pie really do nail the sound down, and there are ideas aplenty here to keep the vintage prog afficionado up for many a night. But as unfortunate as it is, when there is nothing new being offered, it is difficult to recommend this over any progressive music that is actually doing something new, rather than looking back on the old masters. End rant.

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Send comments to Conor Fynes (BETA) | Report this review (#489565)
Posted Saturday, July 23, 2011 | Review Permalink
Anthony H.
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Magic Pie: The Suffering Joy [2011]

Rating: 5/10

The Suffering Joy is the third album from Norwegian progressive-rock band Magic Pie. Although I am an avid fan of symphonic progressive-rock, Magic Pie's metallic approach to the style hasn't managed to do much for me. The band's first two albums seemed forced and sterile to me, and this third effort doesn't correct these problems. Instead, it compounds them. The Dream Theater worship that took center-stage on Circus of Life continues here, to the point where the band seems to have lost a portion of their symph-prog sound in favor of a more metal-oriented approach. The first two Magic Pie albums weren't exactly exercises in restraint, but The Suffering Joy makes those look subtle in comparison. Just when you think that the album has run its course, the band throws another 15-minute track at you. I have absolutely no problem with long albums, and I love epic songwriting. However, this grandiose style seems to be a bit too much for Magic Pie.

"A Life's Work (Part I) - Questions Unanswered" opens the album with soft keyboard and some cheesy lyrics. "A Life's Work (Part II) - Overture" is a short instrumental with some nice keyboard work and heavy guitar, but it's almost criminally derivative of Dream Theater. "A Life's Work (Part III) - A Brand New Day" is short acoustic interlude that leads into the 17-minute grandiosity of "A Life's Work (Part IV) - The Suffering Joy." There are some undeniably impressive moments on this track, and the musicianship is spectacular. However, it's quite by-the-numbers overall. "Headlines" is one of the stronger tracks here. The synths sound excellent the guitar work is well-executed. Regardless, nothing terribly special is happening. "Endless Ocean" is a pleasant acoustic piece with very good vocals. "Slightly Mad" is the definite highlight of the album. The keyboard work is superb, and drumming is top-notch. Most importantly, however, the songwriting is cohesive and interesting. The guitar solo is a bit too shreddy for my tastes, however. "Tired" is the album's low-point. At 15 minutes, it's massively overlong and overblown. I was quite "tired" of this track by the time it was over. "In Memoriam" ends the album on the same unremarkable note.

Magic Pie are obviously a talented band, but their instrumental skill doesn't stop The Suffering Joy from being a tedious release. There simply isn't very much compelling or memorable material to be found here. It's a middle-of-the-road album in every sense of the term; there's nothing to be offended by, but there's also nothing to get excited about. Most of these tracks plod on past their conceivable capacity, with the band pulling the same tricks over and over again. There are high points, but they're not nearly as pronounced as the highlights of the previous two albums. This is a homogenous and fairly mediocre release that can easily be passed by.

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Send comments to Anthony H. (BETA) | Report this review (#586865)
Posted Sunday, December 11, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars Let me make it clear from the beginning that I am a lover of modern symphonic and melodic progressive rock. There are two proponents of prog that border on being a little too heavy for me. One is Dream Theater, (when Dream Theater make melody a secondary concern to booming metal riffs) and the other is Magic Pie. Where Magic Pie consistently wins out, however, is their focus on the melody, which, in spite of the heaviness of this album, still shines through. Vocals are excellent and musicianship is superb. In the thankful absence of growling vocals, this is a complex and captivating album that grows in stature the more you listen to it. To me, this is the sign of a great album. Magic Pie are definitely on my 'purchase without question' list and I hope they continue on the same creative path, but perhaps with slightly more focus on the melody. Easily four stars.

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Send comments to Richens (BETA) | Report this review (#647008)
Posted Monday, March 05, 2012 | Review Permalink

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