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The Morrigan - Masque CD (album) cover


The Morrigan

Prog Folk

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5 stars Extremely beautifu, lyric, gentle and then so strong and progressive. This music captures you and won't let go until it ends. And even after you are in other worlds. World of dreams and joy and majesty. This is Ketish folk prog at it's best. Beautiful melodiers sung with a beautiful voice. If you know and like Blakmores's Night you will Cheriss this. But if you afre more for metal you will find music for you too! This is not metal but at times strong like good old symphonic prog used to be. I'll deskribe this ans symphonic keltish folk prog. I cannot give this less than 5 stars.
Report this review (#86275)
Posted Wednesday, August 9, 2006 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Team
3 stars Hidden beauty

Only a couple of years after their previous album, Wreckers, The Morrigan released this album, which was their fourth album overall since their formation in 1984. In some respects Masque can be said to be a continuation of what they did on the previous album, but in other respects it is quite different. Wreckers featured some very good Folk Rock songs, but the band seemed slightly unsure about in which direction they were heading. On Masque they present a more confident and original brand of Celtic/medieval Folk Rock. Like the previous album, this one too alternates between folky ballads and raucous, electrified Celtic dance numbers, but the present album flows a bit better. It also reintroduces some of the progressive aspects that were more evident on the excellent Rides Out album from 1990. This music might perhaps not fit everyone's definition of Prog, but it is certainly not your regular Folk Rock affair.

Steeleye Span and similar bands still seem to be a major influence on The Morrigan but no longer to the degree that the band could be confused with such traditional British Folk Rock bands. The electric guitar sound of Collin Masson often strongly evokes that of Mike Oldfield (this is especially true of the opening track) and Oldfield's music (especially in his folky/Celtic moments) seems to be an influence on the band's music as a whole too. Because of the strong female vocals of Cathy Alexander, Mike's sister Sally Oldfield might be a good reference point as well (think of her Water Bearer album, for example). There are though some quite heavy, rocking parts here as well alternating with the acoustic, folky ballads, but it never rocks as hard as, say, Jethro Tull or Tempest (the US-based Prog Folk band not to be confused with the British Heavy Prog band). Jazz influences might also be detected in some parts. But even though the tempos and styles change, the mood remains basically the same throughout; the music here conveys a rather mellow atmosphere. They never degenerate into merry bar sing-a-longs or straightforward Rock 'N' Roll on this album.

The line-up remains the same with Colin Masson on guitars and vocals, Cathy Alexander on vocals, Mervyn B. on bass, Dave Lodder on guitars and Archie (no last name?) on drums and various percussions. Several members provide backing vocals, keyboards, flutes and other instruments. There are also a few guests on this album including ex-member Cliff Eastabrook on bass and three others adding accordion, violin and banjo respectively. Despite this large array of instruments, the music never comes across as cluttered. The mix between electric and acoustic and between traditional and modern elements is appealing. The songs alternate between female and male lead vocals on different songs which makes the album a bit less coherent than it might have been. The compositions might not be very elaborate standing on their own, but the album is best heard as one piece.

Overall, Masque is an improvement over Wreckers and will probably please Prog-fans more. It is, however, not my personal favourite Morrigan album. Masque is less energetic and rocking compared to the earlier Rides Out album and the subsequent Hidden Agenda.

Report this review (#306596)
Posted Monday, October 25, 2010 | Review Permalink
Conor Fynes
4 stars 'Masque' - The Morrigan (7/10)

The fourth album by this UK progressive folk band, 'Masque' shows The Morrigan's style developing, if even only a bit. After a strong album with 'Wreckers', the band returns another few years later to give another solid album, this time pushing the traditional Celtic jigs they built the first three albums up upon, and diversifying their catalogue. There's no doubt that 'Masque' is the most progressive album The Morrigan had done up to this point, although not every change the band makes here is for the best.

Although changes have been made, the sound here is still explicitly Morrigan in nature. Still here are the pastoral acoustic guitar segments, soaring traditional vocals of vocalist Cathy Alexander, and the very Celtic vibe that really defines what the band's music is all about. At the sacrifice of the Celtic saturation, there are now greater roots in progressive rock, and even such disparate sounds as Gregorian chant singing and the more martial sounds of neofolk. All of this makes 'Masque' feel like The Morrigan's strongest work when compared the the three that had come earlier, but in terms of the enjoyment factor, it is on par with 'Wreckers'. Gone are much of the energetic recorder-driven jigs that were always very fun to listen to, and authentic feel of the folk elements. Instead, there's something here that hasn't quite been heard from the band before.

'Masque' opens up with its title track, which seems to bring the listener into a sort of prog rock feudal feast hall, with guitars and keyboards blazing with whistles sounding in between. While it may turn some off on first impression, there is also something of a religious vibe that the album gives. Be it through the Latin chants or traditional European spirituals The Morrigan puts to use here, there is a Christian based theme on the album, as first impressions go. However, it is put to a good use here; instead sounding as if it is meant to enhance the feudal sound of the album rather than convert anyone.

Easily the most rock-based Morrigan album I have thus listened to, not to mention the most musically complex and ambitious. While it doesn't have the sort of charm that 'Wreckers' did, it shows the band taking steps in the right direction.

Report this review (#423736)
Posted Sunday, March 27, 2011 | Review Permalink
Prog-Folk Team
3 stars I had suggested earlier that the MORRIGAN were a superior Celtic rock band if only because they employed a female vocalist without coercing her to levitate in the mists a la ENYA, later CLANNAD, LOREENA MCKENITT, IONA or myriad others. I suppose it was just a matter of time before Cathy Alexander became part of a marketing plan, as she does on "Masque", but we are lucky in two ways: she sings a lot less than normal and her intrinsic value pierces the aforementioned mists often enough.

Another aspect of the group that is evolving is COLIN MASSON's subscription to the MIKE OLDFIELD school of lead guitar, most in evidence on the fascinating title cut with its imposing blend of moods and eras. It also returns on the much weaker "Demon Lover", which sounds nothing like the well known trad song on which it is based, and is none the better for it. Mervyn B hoists the lead microphone on "Moonghost", and it works wonderfully as a part sea shanty part driving prog cut. Cathy Alexander's peak moment is the mysterious "Lykewake Dirge", which is much in the style of a moody STEELEYE SPAN circa "Below the Salt", but even more medieval sounding. The instrumental highlight is "Dribbles of Brandy", which is an exuberant romp that includes brass and accordion and a worthy successor to MOVING HEARTS' and ALAN STIVELL classics from a decade or two earlier. In contrast we must cope with the overdone and half baked "She Moved through the Fair", the lukewarm grasp at mid period RENAISSANCE in "The traveller", or the pleasant but forgettable "Blarney Pilgrim", which clearly fail to leverage the MORRIGAN's clout.

While superior overall to "Wreckers", "Masque" cannot disguise the band's occasional tendency to spread itself a bit too thin as well as choose questionable material or arrangements. Still, it's easily recommended to fans of Celtic rock with progressive leanings.

Report this review (#1057184)
Posted Wednesday, October 9, 2013 | Review Permalink

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