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3 stars This is a difficult review to write. I've had a strange history with Magellan. The first several albums were more piss-take entertainment than anything... what crazy thing will Trent Gardner do next? Granted, it was *good* piss-take entertainment, with lots of excellent moments... but there was always the feeling that this was prog at its most humorous. Then came Impossible Figures, an album I'd have no shame in awarding 5 stars. It seemed that everything had changed, that everything was going right with Magellan...

On the strength of Impossible Figures, I purchased Symphony For A Misanthrope from Muse-Wrapped, without even stopping to preview the tracks.

It starts off strong... Symphonette is a fun, bombastic instrumental, just the type we've come to expect from Magellan. There are some questionable keyboard leads floating above the orchestration, but what Magellan album would be complete without questionable keyboard leads? I'd feel gypped if they weren't present. The guitar solo, which starts and then just drops away, is also quite welcome.

Less than three minutes later, we come to the first vocal track of the album, Why Water Weeds. It starts off in the manner of something from Impending Ascension, which is welcome in my book. Actually, it starts off *much* like Estadium Nacional. And then, it continues much like Estadium Nacional, without the vocal hooks from the track I enjoyed so dearly. I never thought I'd say this about a prog track, but I feel it runs a tad long. Repeated listens soften the edge, however.

Wisdom begins with lovely acoustic guitar. Could this be a good track? It could, yes it could. If it weren't ruined by the horrible lyrics. Jeff Curtis' lyrics are unwelcome here... Trent's social-commentary lyrics are often heavy-handed, but they're often witty, or at the very least funny and catchy. Here, however, a nice acoustic ballad is ruined with lines "This guy can't even write his name / that lady thinks she's going insane" and "One man killed and another held out / Stupid wisdom is what this world's about".

Next up is Cranium Reef Suite. Oooh, an epic! Nearly 20 minutes... and it's been a couple albums since we've had a true Magellan long-form. Starts off pretty damn well. There's the "ahhhhh" keyboard patch that was so powerful on Impossible Figures' "Killer Of Hope", which serves only to remind of what an excellent, nearly-flawless album that was. This long-form track could be the album's saving grace. The lyrics are trademark Trent Gardner silliness, using metaphors that no one would normally think of (...c'mon. Cranium Reef?), and there's even a section titled "Psyche 101". I like it.

Track 5 is Bach 16. Wait, no it's not... but it is. Pianissimo Interlude is a keyboard interlude that will have you think of Impossible Figures' Bach 16. I'm not saying this because they're both classical piano interludes. Pianissimo Interlude is credited as (Based upon J.S. Bach 1742- Goldberg variation #1). Bach 16 is credited as (Goldberg Variation #8 written by J.S. Bach - 1742). If my eyes don't deceive me, these are two variations on the same piece... and you'll hear that when you listen to it. I can only ask WHY?

Doctor Concoctor is the trademark "metal" track, nothing entirely remarkable. It just doesn't stick with me. It's a fun listen, but hardly memorable. For what it's worth, the lyrics are disturbingly stalkerish in tone.

Every Bullet Needs Blood is our finale for the evening. Jeff Curtis returns to write more lyrics, but thankfully, they aren't so painfully stupid as to distract from the music this time. Light symphonic prog-metal intro, excellent keyboard bridge into vocals. It's a funky track... this track would've fit in perfectly with pre-IF Magellan, maybe a great selection for Test Of Wills. Is this an album finisher, though? Maybe the limited edition's bonus instrumental will seem more climactic.

Now, this review seems pretty negative. Don't get me wrong, this isn't a terrible album... it's simply a poor followup to Impossible Figures. I rated it three stars, but that's really an average of the TWO scores it's earned. Four stars if you've never heard Impossible Figures, but enjoyed Magellan's previous output. Two stars if you were as enthralled with Magellan's sudden turn to great songwriting as I was with their previous album. This isn't a bad album by any means, but it doesn't rank among the classics. It's listenable, certainly, and has its great moments. The bands' chops are up to par, but it lacks a certain spark. And the inclusion of the Pianissimo Interlude is just terrible, considering its twin played a similar role (and a much better one) on the previous album.

So if you were into the serious silliness of early Magellan, this album's for you. If you became a fan with Impossible Figures... be careful.

Report this review (#34345)
Posted Monday, April 18, 2005 | Review Permalink
2 stars Well this time you could also give it an inferior score,especially if you're not completely into the modern progressive metal genre!! Sorry, but for me this is not an improvement of ideas in comparison to "Impossible figures": in fact rather than develop their music harmony better-even though always within their usual bombastic progressive metal style- Gardner & C. prefer to look for a new style: that's their attempt to make the classical music an affair for prog metal fans and such consideration let me be disappointed so much!!Perhaps Trent Gardner tries to emulate Mr Jordan Rudess, but at the end the result is not so remarkable...ok the keyboards of Steve Walsh in "Symphonette" (the first instrumental of the album) and also the modern approach in the execution of a few melodic songs, but in all the other circumstances the epic style suffers from a reasonable lack of depth , above all inside the plot of their mini -suite divided into three parts.Therefore I was expected to find excellent pacthes at the keyboards, as I'm not in the habit to accept the lack of dynamics and music colours...but this is my personal idea and I don't like to affect the opinion of the common listener. "Wisdom" is an obligatory ballad (another common place inside the "metal" music)and it's disappointing, as well as the track "Why Water Weeds?", full of annoying patches and poor ideas...probably the fans of bands such as Arena will be attracted by this work;otherwise you could remain a bit irritated, cause of so many tiresome solos!!

Make your own choice!!

Report this review (#34346)
Posted Saturday, April 23, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars I've read both the previous reviews of SFAM and frankly, I don't know what the two previous reviewers here are talking about... There's not much use in comparing the albums with Magellan's previous work because true to form they never put out the same sounding album twice. For people who don't care for change (i.e. progress) this is a bad thing. For me, it's good. Very good. Magellan's first disc, "Hour Of Restoration" was one of the few bombastic/heavy prog/prog metal albums avaiable in 1991. It hovered around number 40 in Japan's pop charts for a few weeks (according to the band that is!) and I guess some people still want to hear the same music the comprised their debut. Again, true to form, Symphony For A Misanthrope is quite different than 'HOR' or any other Magellan disc. The first track, "Symphonette", is a keyboard only collaboration with Kansas front man Steve Walsh, T. Gardner, and Dave Manion (never heard of him before) It's around 2 plus minutes and has the bombastic keyboard intros Magellan is known for. For me that's a good thing, I love it. Others may disagree. "Why Water Weeds?" clocks in nearly 9 minutes and at times sounds abit like IQ. The guitar track was not played by the usual axeman Wayne Gardner but by Robert Berry, another prog man that seems to get around quite a bit. I've never heard them do any track like this before which is exactly what I expect when I listen to any Magellan disc. This crap that I've read about the next track "Wisdom being "the obligatory ballad" (in a review here as well as two other sites) is just total idiocy in my opinion. I know every Magellan CD and out of 6 official Magellan discs there's a grand total of three true ballads! The last one, "Walk Fast, Look Worried" was off of "Test Of Wills" from 1997. For Magellan a mellow tune like this is more of a rarity than anything. It's also another one of my favorite tracks from SFAM. The highlight of the album in my humble opinion is the 18 minute epic, "Cranium Reef". The first few minutes is instrumental, with more than a hint of classic Genesis thrown in the mix. It also has one of the most unusual choruses I've ever heard in my life! I defy you to find any other band with the unique vocal phrases, chord changes, arrangements, and rhythms that Magellan employs not only on this tune, but on any of them. The uniqueness of their sound is what tends to make Magellan a bit controversial as welll. I personally love their different ways of doing things. Others absolutlely loathe their sound. I think this is why it's easy to find many glowing reviews of their work as well as quite a few scathing ones. To each their own I guess! The last three songs are all short, including a two minue piano piece by Bach. Just a short little Pianissimo Iintermission" performed by guest artist Stephen Imbler and composed by Bach. That's followed by the heaviest track, "Doctor Concoctor" and the Rush like closer, "Every Bullet Needs Blood". Every song on the incredible album is one of a kind. I only wish it were a bit longer. Magellan doesn't sound like Dream Theater, Spock's Beard, Flower Kings, IQ, Porcupine Tree, or any other well known or lesser known prog band today. They've accomplished a gigantic tasks in developing a distinctive sound of their own. Whether you love their one of a kind style or not, a least their in their own category. "Symphony For A Misanthrope" is another great addition to the ever evolving catalog of original progressive works. Highly recommended.
Report this review (#34347)
Posted Sunday, April 24, 2005 | Review Permalink
3 stars Actually this is the first Magellan's album which I can enjoy in its entirety, and it is their best so far. All previous were rather dull and boring, with only one or two good tracks per each album, and Trent's vocalises can be just annoying. This one is different, and the first track (which is absolute highlight - probably due to Steve Walsh participation) sets a listener in such a great mood that one can easily swallow the rest of the album and enjoy what he hears. It is amazing that Trent Gardner is making absolutely wonderful side projects where (as he mentionned himself) he is using material which is no good for Magellan, and these side projects (Explorers Club, Leonardo) turn out to be much much better than Magellan's outcome. Anyway, "Symphony" deserves 3 maybe 3.5 solid stars, which makes it really good album but not really essential.
Report this review (#34348)
Posted Tuesday, May 31, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars I`m going to take a bold step and rate this CD a little higher than its average star rating. The lyrics are some of Trent Gardners best to date. His social comentry is poeticaly sarcastic and very profound to which I fully enjoy! There is a good variety of songs each differant and after Five plays I found this CD to be progressively brilliant! What makes it even better still is that I like it so much and most of you don`t ! this makes it for me a personal CD (lets face it you don`t take the progressive rock path to be popular) I think Symphony For A Misanthrope is a masterpiece and the best Magellan release since Test of Wills. So don`t let the average reviews you read fool you they are only somebody elses point of view and it would be a shame to let them stop you from experiencing the joy but remember five plays no less before making up your mind.
Report this review (#43272)
Posted Thursday, August 18, 2005 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars American prog mastermind Trent Gardner has been releasing quality albums for almost 15 years now. If it's not with his multi-instrumentalist brother Wayne, with whom he already issued 5 albums under the Magellan moniker, it's with one of the giant projects he set up during the years, such as Leonardo and Explorer's Club. In 2003, when "Impossible Figures" followed only a year after "Hundred Year Flood", the Gardner brothers increased their album releasing tempo, which is still at full force in 2005, as they have just delivered their sixth album. Poetically entitled "Symphony For A Misanthrope", the disc builds further upon the traditional, ultra-solid Magellan foundations of complex and original progressive rock with a straight link to the seventies. Gardner, mostly singing and playing keyboards himself, has worked with the greatest on earth including the likes of James LaBrie (Dream Theater), Steve Walsh (Kansas, Streets) and Tony Levin (King Crimson) and is never too shy to gather guest musicians for a new album. This time he came up with the following list: Robert Berry (3, Alliance, Hush and now Ambrosia) on drums and guitars, Joe Franco (Widowmaker, The Ladder) on drums, Steve Walsh on keyboards, Stephen Imbler on piano and Dave Manion on keyboards. The song material is typical of Magellan, but always versatile enough. The only negative thing I can think of is the length of "Cranium Reef Suite", with its 18 minutes and counting a bit too long and repetitive in my opinion. Among the other tracks there's something for everyone: the melodic and complex "Why Water Weeds?", the thoughtful ballad "Wisdom", the instrumental "Pianissimo Intermission", the quite heavy mouthful "Doctor Concoctor" and finale "Every Bullet Needs Blood", which - just as "Why Water Weeds?" - leans towards traditional Magellan. If you're acquainted with the Gardner's work and like it, you can consider "Symphony For A Misanthrope" a definite purchase. If you still have to get into the band, you might want to start with one of their earlier albums. A good effort but not essential,3 stars.
Report this review (#54460)
Posted Wednesday, November 2, 2005 | Review Permalink
3 stars Trent Gardner, popular through masses of projects, e.g. "Explorer's Club", released, in cooperation with his brother, Wayne Gardner, who played the guitars, bass and added some backing vocals, a new studio release for the band Magellan, founded by the 2 brothers. Different from their last album "Impossible Figures", this is a much more symphonic album. I wouldn't call it progressive metal, I think it's symphonic prog reaching the edge to the metal sometimes. The opener "Symphonette" is a fast bombast piece with lots of different keyboard themes. "Why Water Weeds?" starts heavy but symphonic at the same time. That's what I meant with "the edge to metal", the guitar can't pierce the wall of symphonic synths! Trent Gardner's vocals are strange when you first listen to them, as well as the sarcastic lsyrics could be. The song crosses different themes but the highlight for me is the keyboard solo verse (yes, you are right : A keyboard solo is the accompanist for the vocals)! A very atmospheric and beautiful song. The next track "Wisdom" consists of a repeating guitar arpeggio and some deep piano chords. During the refrain the guitar play some chords, which are clouded by the synthezisers. The following track is "Cranium Reef Suite", a nice epic, but in my opinion not very varied, of course it's made up of different themes, but they all resemble to each other, and I think an epic should have a high diversity to avoid boredom, but nevertheless you can listen to the songs a few times, it depends on your taste if you evaluate it boring or consider it as interesting. " Pianissimo intermission" is a piano only piece based on a popular goldberg variation, of one of Bach's works! "Docotor Concoctor" has again a very heavy guitar, which goes down after the mass of synthezisers join. What I don't like about the track is the repetitive guitar during the verse, but overall it's a nice track. The final is the track "Every bullet needs blood", with a nice progressive interlude reminding me a bit of Dream Theater, some keys and a guitar, sound really good. After that it gets some kind of a techno vein during the verse, but has a beautiful chorus and is quite symphonic again, as well as the whole album! The cd is well produced, but is kind of bland and really short, I think there could have been more tracks on here. Overall I think it's a good album, but not essential!!
Report this review (#61168)
Posted Wednesday, December 21, 2005 | Review Permalink
3 stars Symphony for a Misanthrope is my first Magellan CD. I must say I was surprised by the sound, very symphonic, and the only metal part is in "Doctor Concoctor". Because of what I heard on this album, this is not prog metal, for me, it's symphonic prog.

The record has some good moments, like the first instrumental "Symphonette" (it should be longer). Also "Why water weeds" is the best song of the album, and I must say this CD has excellent vocal melodies, very remarkable. The acoustic "Wisdom", well, it's a good song, as it's the next mini-suite "Cranium Reef suite", which has an excellent intro. The second instrumental "Pianissimo intermission", wow, it's very very good. I haven't got into classical music yet but I think this is excellent, very great piano, well done!!! But the two last songs, "Doctor Concoctor" and "Every bullet needs blood" bring down the album... It's a bit crazy that they made symphonic songs and that pure metal opening riff on "Doctor Concoctor", that is used also on the chorus (I'm a metal fan). The last one reminds me pop music, as in parts of the previous one.

Also, the record is too much sang. It would be so much better if they had more instrumental parts, and there are almost no solos!!!

Well, it's a good album but surely not essential. Reccomended to symphonic prog lovers, and some metalheads would like it.

Rating: 3/5

PD: My english is poor, sorry.

Report this review (#69334)
Posted Tuesday, February 14, 2006 | Review Permalink
3 stars There are moments here that make you feel good. There are moments when the music really works. But unfortunately they are short moments and there are too few of them. Mostly this album is just too loud. Too must of everything allthetime and together. There is no air to breath. This is exhausting music. Actually this kind of a collection of prog cliches: loud singing, classical parts, an epic song, tempo changes... this is really symphonic but what for?

For the rare moments of delight: 3 stars.

Report this review (#73925)
Posted Monday, April 3, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars Trent and Wayne GARDNER and its brother create a disc as or it hoped that it was, different from his predecessor this is not the exception in his previous works EXPLORER´S CLUB or LEONARDO, which the more I like is the combination that obtains the Trent GARNER, that combination that can be obtained between the progressive one, the metal and good musicians, "Symphonette" is beautiful melodía of three keyboards, sounds impressive is one more a sample of than MAGELLAN this to the vanguard this good could be a piece of modern classic music, moment is it. "Why Water Weeds" and "Wisdom", in these songs very calm both, first sounds to a little to THE TANGENT, in fact obtained very boinitas feet enough good, with sufficient adjustments. "Cranium Reef Suite" without a doubt a suite either obtained, a very calm beginning with aNeo-Progresivo sound enough rather, a good work in the quite atmospheric and reconfortantes keyboards, much people criticizes to MAGELLAN, so that it does not have a good work of voices, to which I will say that it is the more important to have a joint very or made as in this it is the case of something enough or done, in fact I am noticing who sutes am very good so that the majority exceeds the 10 minutes as minimum reason why the bands they have the time sufficient to remove his talents to the maximum, it see "Dogs" or "Ritual" of PINK FLOYD and YES, respectively clear that in this rouble there are many examples and many very good, in this the mixture begins later with the continuous liabilities and until the melódico and with a more hard stepped system. "Pianissimo Intermission" a sample very to the YES of its disc "Fragil", this case I am called on to Bach, later to continue with a completely different rate and efusivo with "Doctor Concoctor", it is without you doubt a very good piece that it remembers much the bands to me that occupy sequences I say it by the sound of the battery if it is that it is it, the conclusion it comes with "Every Bullet Needs Blood", is a end adapted for a disc very varied of rates and cadences. It is really a disc that that it did not like to fans of MAGELLAN, but either did not dislike much to them, recommended for which they look for the recommended variety and for which we respected the works of Trent GARNER.
Report this review (#88646)
Posted Friday, September 1, 2006 | Review Permalink
Prog Folk Researcher
2 stars Well this thing was kind of a disappointment! The brothers Gardner deliver another slightly awkward blend of artistic prog and lukewarm metal that ends up not satisfying either camp. The trappings are all there – great cover art, promising title, and an all- star cast featuring Widowmaker’s Joe Franco, Steve Walsh of Kansas, Ambrosia’s drummer, and Dave Mannion (okay, I have no idea who this guy is, but considering Trent Gardner’s ability to attract star talent to his many projects, the guy must be someone important).

I’ll admit I only bought this as a completion piece for my ridiculous collection of all things featuring anyone who ever was associated with Kansas - that’s how I ended up with Explorers Club and December People albums too :-o

But Walsh makes only a brief (though excellent) appearance, and that only on keyboards. That opening track is an auspicious beginning, but the rest of the album grows progressively bland and long before it ended the first time I played it I already knew I wouldn’t be leaving it in my disc changer for very long.

About a third of the album consists of the clumsily arranged “Cranium Reef Suite”, an epic length but unimpressive vocal and two-chord dirge that seems to go on forever (and I don’t mean that as a compliment). This is a track that could have benefited by both Walsh’s keyboard skills and his voice, as Trent Gardner has never been what I would consider a dominant vocal presence. There are several buildups with the guitar and keyboards throughout this song, and all of them are building to nothing and for no apparent reason. Instead of musical explosions, most of these climaxes culminate in more of Trent’s tepid vocals. I really can’t even figure out what this song is about, and have no desire to actually work my way through the lyrics sheet to find out.

The rest of the album is comprised of mercifully shorter works, including the eighties throwback “Doctor Concoctor” and the unbelievably bland “Every Bullet Needs Blood”. To be honest I could use a bullet right about now myself.

The only saving grace besides Walsh’s keyboards is the slow number “Wisdom” with its languid but appealing guitar and suspiciously Everlast-sounding tempo.

This is the quintessential “for collectors only” album as far as I’m concerned. Gardner fans might like it, but probably nobody else. Two stars and not recommended.


Report this review (#126565)
Posted Friday, June 22, 2007 | Review Permalink
2 stars After have a string of mostly excellent to above-average albums dating back to 1991, I had high hopes that Trent Gardner would turn things around with Symphony for a Misanthrope, their sixth studio album. Their previous album, Impossible Figure, had its moments, but it was far less appealing then the previous four albums. The cover art and the track listing were really cool looking before I even popped it into my CD player. But you can't always judge something by the look of its cover, and sadly, that's just the case with Symphony for a Misanthrope.

At its best, this album sounds like a poorly mixed Jadis or Pallas album. I'm serious. This sounds more like those two bands than it does prog metal or even prior Magellan efforts. I'm glad to see more keyboard work on a Magellan album, but the performance is sub-par for Gardner and the choice of sounds used is bland and not mixed very well into the overall sound of each song. Gardner had shown some improvement in his vocals over their first four albums, but on Symphony for a Misanthrope he must have regressed to mediocrity. Further, his voice is often overwhelmed by the instrumentation and it seems he can no longer soar his voice at the moments it should (or maybe he just forgot?). It's true that his voice is not the most glamorous, but I always thought he did a fairly nice job, admitting that it takes some getting used to. But on this album, it's more of a distraction. The repetitive verses are also an annoyance. These songs may have been better off as instrumentals.

Again, guests make appearances. These include Steve Walsh (Kansas), Dave Manion (keyboardist and engineer who has worked with Kansas and Seventh Key), Joe Franco (Good Rats, Twisted Sister, Widowmaker), Stephen Imbler, and Robert Berry (Hush, 3, Ambrosia). None of these guests contributed anything that would have brought this album out of mediocrity. Steve Walsh only contributed keyboard work on the short intro and doesn't even perform any kind of vocals. For me, the only interesting track is Pianissimo Intermission which was based Bach. Strangely enough, the entire track is performed by guest pianist Stephen Imbler. Is Trent getting lazy in his older years?

A very poor effort this time and quite a disappointment. At best I can only give this two stars, although a one-star rating had crossed my mind several times. For collectors/fans only.

Report this review (#158581)
Posted Monday, January 14, 2008 | Review Permalink
3 stars From the begging i could say easily this is weaker than Impossible figures, the prefious one. So the music from here is good but less captivatig than previouses releases. Not very much to add but some of the pieces stars very good, example is the longest piese from here Cranium Reef Suite - the intro from this piece is realy awesome, symphonic music at the best but after 3-4 minutes is absolute a desaster, only boring moments and to much bla -bla, sad. Other ex is Doctor Concoctor, again a total boring piece. Some good pieces are by far from this album Why water weeds and the last track Every bullet needs blood. All in all i can say this is a good album but with fillers, Not among Magellan's best albums, in stad of this one i could easy choose Impossible figures or Impending ascension as the best albums of Magellan. None of the albums of Magellan stands as masterpieces or something close, but for sure some of them needs attention, So for this one 2.5 rounded to 3, steel enjoyble in places, but not recommanded at all.
Report this review (#180765)
Posted Monday, August 25, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars Apparently this one of those intriguing albums that causes all kinds of ratings and opinions. I like that because it's always interesting to let people know where you stand. But what mainly surprises me is that none of the prog reviewers can really appreciate it. With this statement I'm already revealing what my opinion is and that is a very postive one.

But first something else: This is my first album from this band and when I heard it a few times I was sure this band had to be placed in the heavy prog category (maybe that also had to do with Explorers Club, a Trent Gardner project) but they appeared to be in crossover. Later on I bought two other albums by Magellan and I have to say: crossover is the right category in the end. What I'm trying to say is that this is probably their haviest album. And that is actually caused by the impressive and dominant epic on this release. Cranium reef suite (4,25*) is over 18 minutes pretty rough stuff, one of my favourite epics from recent years. And guess what: it isn't even my favourite track on the album. That honour is for the second song of the album, Why water weeds (4,5*). What a terrific song this is ! Probably the best Magellan song ever although I have to achieve a lot of their other albums to know that for sure of course. But I think this song can only be evened by another, not surpassed. I dare say that. Two other (short) songs are more or less classical, the opening Symphonette (3,5*) and the Pianissimo Intermission (3,5*) both sounding very nice as well. Wisdom (3,5*) and Doctor Concoctor (3,25*) are good songs as well so that leaves the final song to be my least favourite one (3*).

So anyone who can do a bit of maths know what this means. It can only be 4 stars, be it rounded up (3,65).

Report this review (#185117)
Posted Thursday, October 9, 2008 | Review Permalink
2 stars The early days of the band were quite alright ("Hour Of Restoration" and "Impending Ascension"). The long pieces from these albums were quite well achieved and were really attractive. What came after was much less performing.

What would this sixth album (in fourteen years) delivered?

Some classical introduction (somewhat ELP-ish) that can be easily skipped ("Symphonette"), a "Kansas" oriented song ("Why Water Weeds?") but lacking in some splendour of the great model (of which Steve Walsh is playing during the opener).

The best number so far is the short "Wisdom": it features aerial (almost symphonic ) keyboards and some very and convincing vocals. A simple and straight forward song but which consists of some fine elements.

As I have mentioned earlier, epics like "Magna Carta" or "Estadium Nacional" were their best songs ever written and I was quite interested to know if they could perform at the same level with "Cranium Reef Suite". An eighteen minutes epic which opens as a short pop tune will do. I was quite suspect after this short intro to say the least.

What follows in this "Cranium?" is very much of a neo-prog affair. But there is nothing wrong in playing neo-prog, right? At least if a band can take some distance from the glorious predecessors and sound somewhat original.

This song is throwing a bunch of basic keys tones combined with average vocals. Not quite a thrilled mix alas. Again, "Kansas" is the reference apparently. But not the best of this great band, unfortunately. Such eighteen minutes are quite long even if some parts (like the closing guitar) are quite decent.

"Symphony For A Misanthrope" holds many more neo prog aspects (even symphonic ones with the short and classical "Pianissimo Intermission") than heavy prog or metal ones. What I would say though, is that there is a great lack of originality on this album. " Doctor Concoctor" is a real pain to my ears.

Some heavier lines can be experienced during the closing track whose title is not an example of subtlety: " Every Bullet Needs Blood". Again, the "Kansas" feel is much present. Almost pastiche even if the song isn't bad at all.

I don't feel like rating this album as a good one. Average is more the trend. Two stars.

Report this review (#250640)
Posted Saturday, November 14, 2009 | Review Permalink
Andy Webb
Retired Admin
3 stars This is progressive rock alright

Magellan and its frontman Trent Gardner are interesting figures in the history of progressive rock. Gardner has been writing and releasing music with his band (along with his bandmate brother Wayne) since the early 90s, and all of it has been relatively similar, with strong and obvious influences from pretty much all of the big prog bands, which makes much of Gardner music quite cliché in the scheme of prog rock, as Symphony for a Misanthrope exemplifies. Taking strong elements of progressive metal, symphonic prog, and various other tidbits of prog, Gardner crafts one of the most well-crafted typical prog albums of the last decade - the album contains its fix of symphonic grandiosity, cruising technical riffing, complex structures, huge synths and keyboards, and the essential epic 18 minute long track. The album's lyrics are also quite typical to prog rock, with a loose concept which, as the title of the album makes apparent, is a rather cynical and dark view on humanity and its future, which raises philosophical and even political questions throughout the album. Overall, the album is in no way bad, with Gardner executing one of his great progressive projects superbly; the album's only real flaw is it's quite cliché!

The music ranges from lighter symphonic prog-based rock to heavy Dream Theater-esque progressive metal, making the album a true exemplifier of prog rock at its most pretentious. The songs are meticulously composed with numerous shifting moods and sections within songs, changing time signatures, and more which I'm sure any fan of progressive rock could just guess and get it correct. The 18 minute "Cranium Reef Suite" is typical in its linear structure, pretty hectic mood shifts, and various movements within. The boys even tip their hats to Back with the lifting of the "Pianissimo Intermission" from his composition archives. The other songs each have their own unique little qualities, with the Adrian Belew- esque intense "Doctor Concoctor" or the Dream Theater-esque "Why Water Weeds" (a personal favorite of mine). Overall, the entire album is a wonderful tribute to the vast world of progressive rock, which Gardner shows his obvious affection for with his innumerable contribution with other projects, collaborations, and tributes.

In the end the album is very good. It may have already been done by countless other progressive artists, but Magellan certainly knows how to put an interesting Gardner-esque spin on it. Gardner still used his cheesy keyboard voices to execute his symphonic excesses (the worst showing is on the opening "Symphonette," which exemplifies his obsession with pretending to be an orchestra). Other than that, the album has very few flaws, with the music being some of Gardner best songs, as the album contains two Magellan favorites of mine - "Why Water Weeds" and "Every Bullet Needs Blood." Although the album may not be their best in originality, the album certainly is a wonderful showing for the San Francisco-based heavy prog act. 3+ stars.

Report this review (#491741)
Posted Thursday, July 28, 2011 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars I started to know Magellan when they released their Impending Ascencions album which I recalled it as a discrete music as so many sudden changes throughout its composition. But this album released in 2005 sounds differently especially with many uses of keyboard played in a symphonic style. Even though I find it difficult to find differences in styles from one track to another but this album is an enjoyable one to listen - especially the keyboard punch. The Gardner brothers tend to use the keyboard as rhythm section instead of inventive solos.

The opening Symphonette (instrumental) is captivating and quite long duration-wise. It does not actually transfer smoothly when it enters into Why Water Weeds? even though it's quite not fit with the opening instrumental - but the second track is quite enjoyable, relying much on keyboard-drenched style. The one that actually should require much attention is the epic Cranium Reef Suite which comprises three parts: "Youthful Enthusiasm", "Psych 101", and "Primal Defense". Well, this epic is really worth for having this album as prog collection as it flows nicely from one segment to another and nice transition from one part to another. The piano solo after the epic "Pianissimo Intermission (instrumental)" is an interesting classical outfit. "Doctor Concoctor" might be considered as progressive metal track as the opening riffs indicate this kind of music. The album concludes nicely with relatively medium tempo track "Every Bullet Needs Blood"- followed with energetic singing.

It's a good symphonic prog album with not so complicated arrangements and it makes it accessible to many ears. Keep on proggin' ...!

Peace on earth and mercy mild - GW

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Posted Saturday, April 28, 2012 | Review Permalink

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