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Neal Morse

Symphonic Prog

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Neal Morse Sola Scriptura album cover
4.20 | 717 ratings | 59 reviews | 45% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 2007

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. The Door (29:14) :
- a) Introduction
- b) In the Name of God
- c) All I Ask For
- d) Mercy for Sale
- e) Keep Silent
- f) Upon the Door
2. The Conflict (25:00) :
- a) Do You Know My Name?
- b) Party to the Lie
- c) Underground
- d) Two Down, One to Go
- e) The Vineyard
- f) Already Home
3. Heaven in My Heart (5:11)
4. The Conclusion (16:34) :
- a) Randy's Jam
- b) Long Night's Journey
- c) Re-Introduction
- d) Come Out of Her
- e) Clothed with the Sun
- f) In Closing...

Total Time 75:59

Line-up / Musicians

- Neal Morse / vocals, keyboards, guitar, producer

- Paul Gilbert / lead guitar (1-f,2-a), flamenco guitar (2-d)
- Randy George / bass
- Mike Portnoy / drums
- Chris Carmichael / violin, electric violin, viola
- Rachel Rigdon / violin
- Hannah Vanderpool / cello
- Michael Thurman / French horn
- Wil Henderson / additional vocals
- Debbie Bresee / backing vocals
- Wade Browne / backing vocals
- Revonna Cooper / backing vocals
- Richard Morse / backing vocals
- Amy Pippin / backing vocals
- Joey Pippin / backing vocals
- April Zachary / backing vocals

Releases information

Artwork: Thomas Ewerhard

CD Metal Blade Records ‎- 3984-14612-2 (2007, US)
CD Inside Out Music ‎- 0502752 (2010, Germany)

Thanks to Marko Gildenlöw for the addition
and to projeKct for the last updates
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NEAL MORSE Sola Scriptura ratings distribution

(717 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(45%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(35%)
Good, but non-essential (12%)
Collectors/fans only (4%)
Poor. Only for completionists (3%)

NEAL MORSE Sola Scriptura reviews

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Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Windhawk
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Another strong one from Neal.

This time around, he uses the birth of the protestant church and Martin Luthers role as the conceptual story, and has written songs trying to reflect that story.

Each of the 4 songs on the album has a slightly different sound to them, a nice effect to underline the progression of the conceptual story.

The music as such is varied, dark and almost harsh when negative aspects of the story is told, uplifting and gospel-inspired in the more religious moments. Styles varying from 70's inspired prog to something not too far away from prog metal. More detailed descriptions is a hard thing, as there's just too much variation here.

No moments of pure brilliance here, but a generally strong, well crafted release. And clearly worth checking out.

Review by Zitro
4 stars 4.5 Stars

What can I say? Neal Morse has done it again!

Neal Morse has divided fans after his decision to leave Spock's Beard and Transatlantic, two modern prog bands that were highly respected by many. Afterwards, while he did not end up being very creative and progressive in his solo career, all of his solo albums (excuding the worship CDs) were mature, sophisticated, and professionally done, with plenty of hooks, melodies, and heartfelt vocals and lyrics always based on some christian theme, whether him accepting God, the relationship of Humanity and God, The tabarnacle, and now the controversial figure Martin Luther. Like the previous albums, he hired extremely talented musicians to play in his album, as he can't play all instruments and is not a virtuoso on the keyboard and guitar either. The result is a highly technical, melodic, accessible, and dynamic work of art that brings Martin Luther's actions to life with rock, pop, soft rock, heavy metal, prog, blues, gospel, latin, classical, jazz, and any other genre I might have forgotten.

The Door has everything any prog fan can ask for. It is really the prog fan's wet dream: a monstrous 30-minute long, multi-segmented epic full of feeling, melody, musicianship, and variety. This song, which starts with a heavy fashion (rarely explored by Morse) introduces an anthemic "In The Name of God You Must Die" section and what follows is full of twists and turns. You have something delicate, heaertfelt and gorgous as "All I Ask For" ... the unexpected musical explosion that follows his words "Look Out! What's coming for you!", the Vocal harmonies after Neal screams "How can I keep silent, when I know the truth!", mellotron, a wonderful guitar solo finale. I can go on and on about how magical this piece is. The sound is typical Neal Morse with a heavier edge, more prominent hammond organ and less complex and symphonic, verging on the Neo-Prog sound. The Conflict , while it doesn't top that masterpiece that opens the album, it maintains the high quality. This is a heavier and more bombastic piece, with one section going on a spectacular and desperate guitar/synth alternating with male chorals. This second epic also surprises with a classical acoustic guitar solo and even more with something that sounds like Cuban dance music combined with Santana. Heaven in My Heart is a breather that follows the two gigantic epics. It is Neal Morse with his piano and Orchestra, creating a simple ballad with its orchestra to add a bit of bombast and symphony so that the piece matches the style of the album. The Conclusion features a very heavy jam with mad synth soloing by the Morse himself. Overall, this piece requires a bit more patience as it is a bit drawn out and reprises past melodies, bringing the album to a satisfying conclusion.

I highly recommend this album. The only faults I can give about this album is that the conclusion could have been a bit shorter without losing meaning and that there's a bit of self-plagiarism around this disc which could be a turn off.

Bravo Neal!

Review by Chicapah
5 stars If for any reason you've avoided partaking of Neal Morse's progressive music, with the release of "Sola Scriptura" you now officially have no legitimate excuse. Over the last year I've been collecting some of his work (both solo and with Spock's Beard) and have come to admire his impressive talent. Not only is he proficient on keyboards, guitar and vocals he's a gifted songwriter and arranger. But on this album he manages to surpass even himself in melding metal, hard rock and contemporary influences into a total package. He has an uncanny ability on epics like this to see the "big picture." By now the trio of Morse, Mike Portnoy and Randy George know each other so well as musicians they sound like a group that rehearses day in and day out even though they only get together to record specific projects like this one. Yet they've never been more cohesive than they are here.

The first movement, "The Door," begins with an exhilarating, spectacular overture. They waste no time plunging right into metal riffs with drummer Portnoy bedazzling your ears. Without even realizing it you've moved into the first song, "In the Name of God," a hard rock tune where Morse's voice has improved over the gravelly vocals he delivered on his previous album. The gist of the lyrics is that organized religion, no matter how spiritually pure at the beginning, becomes elitist and corrupted when it is left in the care of human beings. In Martin Luther's case the church had become just another political system that set up a hierarchy the common people had to bribe for salvation. And if they didn't go for that scam then the priests would inform them that "In the name of God you must die/All that's not our truth is a lie." Pretty harsh stuff. So ML felt compelled to do something about it. The song slips into some very intense metal riffs, then we get the noble "All I Ask For" which is a terrific song of praise. Here ML, in his devotion, only wants God's will to be done in his life. The chorale work is great, then Morse introduces a major musical theme that will reappear from time to time. Yet another hot metal passage takes you to "Mercy For Sale," a strong rock tune wherein the concept of the prophesized false teaching that has possessed the church is addressed with "If you think the whore is only history/Are there those who teach her lies?" The instrumental afterward is a showcase for Neal's impressive skill on guitar. Without a hitch you find yourself in "Keep Silent," a bluesy but trendy song that expresses ML's understandable dilemma of knowing things have to change yet "I don't wanna be the one/to bring the curtain down/I'd much rather stay at home/and keep what I have found." Morse uses a studio orchestra at the end and it's highly effective. Piano and strings play beneath the first two verses of "Upon the Door" that describes ML's famous, revolutionary act of heresy. The guest guitarist, Paul Gilbert, strikes like a bolt of lightning with some awesome shredding here, making the full-band final verse a fitting end to the first movement.

Part Two, "The Conflict," also begins with some serious prog metal riffing with Gilbert once again parting the sky with his licks. "Do You Know My Name?" has a devilish, sinister feel and it serves to illustrate the despicable egos of the church honchos with lines like "I'm your priest/I'm your king/I'm a saint/This 'love your enemies' thing's down the drain." Next comes a conversation between the elders and ML in "Party to the Lie" whereupon they threaten ML with "Father we must crush him/and he never will be found." It's straightforward rock that transitions into a tightly structured instrumental section where Mike Portnoy plays his buns off as they roar through intricate changes and accents. ML wisely lays low in "Underground," a calmer change of pace tune, then you hear some precise acoustic guitar from Neal that leads to a flamenco rhythm on "Two Down, One to Go." The words describe how ML's petition spreads like wildfire across the world. Morse's piano solo and Portnoy's amazing brush work (Yes, Mike can play anything!) are a delight. The church big shots are now in panic mode and they burn all the books in the rocker "The Vineyard" that spotlights Neal's keyboard expertise on a Hammond organ and synthesizer ride. You'll swear you'd somehow switched CDs to one by Santana when you hear Morse's guitar and the backing percussion at the start of "Already Home" but it soon settles into an easy blues tempo. Here ML expresses that even though "I stand accused/I'm beaten, used and tired" his unwavering faith comforts him, as if he's already home with his maker.

Part Three is just one short song, "Heaven In My Heart." Neal usually includes a pretty song or two on his albums and this one's a power ballad with plenty of huge orchestration. It's a well-composed reaffirmation tune (but I doubt he'll ever top his exquisite "Cradle to the Grave" from "One.") The fourth movement is aptly titled "The Conclusion" and it bursts out of the gate with "Randy's Jam" that "gives the bassist some" in a furiously paced instrumental interspersed with staccato lines and featuring a full-chord descending piano progression. Morse brings us back to the 21st century with the Tom Petty-ish sounding "Long Night's Journey," a catchy rocker with super orchestration. An instrumental where the theme recurs and Portnoy tears up his kit once again takes you to "Come Out of Her." Here Neal pleads for today's congregation to escape the hypocritical clutches of modern money-mad evangelists and "like Martin did before us/let the scripture be our guide." It has a slow rock feel and more of the brilliant chorale. "Clothed With the Sun" is a stately return to earlier moments including "All I Ask For" and it is a true emotional release for the listener. The counter melodies sung by the full chorale emphasize uplifting hope that the church will right itself once again. "In Closing" is just piano and vocal as Morse asks, "who will stand up for (God's) truth?" and adds, "Maybe it is you he's looking for."

I know. It's a long review. But, hey, there's an hour and sixteen minutes of quality prog here and I'm excited about it! I think it's Neal Morse's best so far and that's saying quite a lot since his previous music is nothing to scoff at. You will certainly get your money's worth, that's for sure. What makes this one stand out from the others is the incredible blend of styles that he presents seamlessly without one single glitch or awkward second. It gets straight A's across the board in every category.

Review by maani
4 stars Rather than going track by track (which others have done as elegantly and eloquently or more so than I might), I would like to offer just a few general comments.

Neal Morse continues to be a master at writing a certain unquestionably identifiable and enjoyable style of progressive rock music, combining often hyper-complex instrumental and/or vocal segments with often painfully beautiful melodies and choruses. And his ability to interweave his deep faith with his musical and technical prowess (as vocalist, guitarist and keyboardist) - especially in such a broadly palatable fashion, never condescending or making non-believers uncomfortable - is unique in prog, thus making him (if not his entire style) unique in prog as well.

I have only one quibble: that his style has a certain "sameness" after a while, in which themes and motifs "blend" together in a (admittedly brilliant) "pastiche" of classic prog bits, not simply from song to song on an album (after all, the repeated theme/motif is a critical element in extended prog compositions, as well as in classical music), but also from album to album. This is admittedly truest of the (admittedly brilliant) extended instrumental sections, but it is also revealed in some of the more "straightforward" melodies and songs.

Still, in the grand scheme of all things Morse, this is a minor quibble. As with all his solo work, this album is all but a must-have, with a slightly more "controversial" subject matter (i.e., the lamentable state of mainstream Christianity, with which I agree), and the continued masterful technical support of Mike Portnoy on drums and Randy George on bass (as well as the usual array of excellent guest musicians).

Given that this is Morse's fourth (arguably fifth) perfect or near-perfect "concept" album in a row, one gets the feeling that he will never write a bad album - and, indeed, that he will continue to be in the front of the pack in creating prog to be proud of, to own, and to enjoy.


Review by Prog-jester
3 stars Never been a fan of either SB, TFK or TRANSATLANTIC, but chanced to pick this one from a friend. We have EVERYTHING here, from METALLICA to gospels, from MARILLION and PINK FLOYD to latina grooves. Nice, but predictable as hell. I wouldn't complain that much if melodies were the same way good as they were in first 2 tracks (which are top-notch in parts, especially when Portnoy shows his REAL things!), but the last sound as a 20-minutes long climax. Who would endure that? And that lyrical concept as usual...sweet Jesus, you know what I'm talking about. I can partly turn my ears off as I ain't English native speaker, but it still slips through...

Anyway, it is good 52-minutes long 2-tracked album. Forget about cheesy "Heaven..." and pompous "The Conclusion", there are better tunes. Recommended for New Symphonic Prog fans, but be sure you support Neal thoughts and ideas... ;)

Review by TRoTZ
4 stars "Sola Scriptura" is surprisingly one of Neal Morse's most achieved efforts. With the help of Dream Theater virtuoso drummer Mike Portnoy, the album is conceivably dynamic and compelling even at first listen. Assenting much on instrumentations and stunning time/rhythm changes very Dream Theater-like, Neal Morse manages however not to fall in the mistake of the last period of his adored band and offers as also some substance to the music. The symphonic orchestration is nice and modern, but obviously not particularly original. In fact, some arrangements and the way the music flows are predictably in the same way of his previous works.

One thing we have to forgot completely (it can be difficult at times), at least if you're not an effusive Christian, is the subjective and personal lyrics of the album. We can not care less with Neal Morse's ideas, but he seem to be compelled to annoy us with his somewhat pretentious "Messenger-Guy" beliefs. The album is very varied, assented on his natural gift for creating compelling melodies and rhythms, and majestic moments. Sometimes, as usual, he ruins a bit the overall atmosphere with some exaggerated dramatic passages a la popular music. More again, If we could say he is a genius for songwriting, we can not say the same for the way he balances things. But there are also some good slow moments as well, particularly the acoustic guitar interlude on "The Conflict" is subtle and well conceived.

While not being totally vague, it does not reach the solemn and subtle profoundness of the classic symphonic prog works, nor is particularly original. Still, manages to be musically a very inspired and overall enjoyable album. 3,5 stars.

Review by Gatot
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars This album blew me away at first spin when by that time I was actually having so many CDs which would be reviewed. Once I got this album, I practically only played this album everyday in any activity that I had - relaxing at home, cycling to work, in the car ... basically everywhere I go, I always have this album with me. I think this album measures up for any dimension of good prog album from composition, musicianship as well as production. On composition, I always use the following points to review: melody, arrangement, harmonies, and structural integrity / cohesiveness. While on musicianship, I use songwriting, intrument virtuosity / skills, contribution to the music and performance as points of review. There are two things on production: sonic quality of the CD and the packaging.


Judging this album from composition, I have basically no issue at all because everything has been crafted with excellent attention to details by Neal. I sometimes wonder how come Neal is much better doing solo job than his tenure as member of Spock's Beard. Sorry to say, I come to think, how come one person (Neal) can outrule four persons (Alan, Dave, Nick and Ryo) where Neal's solo albums after he left the band are much better than Spock's Beard without Neal. Even worse, I personally love Neal solo than Spock's Beard when Neal was still in the band. I do not intend to demean the existing Spock's Beard because they are inferior than Neal's solo, even though I love "Octane" very much. Spock's Beard latest album (2006) is not measuring up to my expectation. But this "Sola Scriptura" by Neal is almost perfect!

The melody is really excellent where Neal is skillful in selecting correct notes to form touchy melody. The arrangement is also masterpiece because it contains great balance of ups and downs, demonstrating good contribution of each musician in the music. The opening track "The Doors" has an opening track's intro which demonstrates much on drumwork by Mike Portnoy.Usually I got problem with harmonies for Spocks Beard music during Neal era. This time the harmonies are really good in terms of vocals as well as music. There is good flow of music in the opening epic as well as how each song connects one to another, so I would say that the album has an excellent structural integrity.

The opening epic "The Door" (29:14) is a great music by any measure. It kicks off dynamically with a great combination of stunning keyboards and dynamic drumwork backed with grandiose orchestra. The music moves dynamicallly from one segment to another. Neal explores his talent by making the intro part quite long (approximately 5 minutes) before lyrical verse enters the music. This 5-min piece helps elevate the music and sets the tone of the whole album. This is really brilliant! The first piece of introduction is very critical to sell the music in the mind of the listeners.

This opening epic does produce music that tells the whole thing about this album. It s very obvious on who have influenced Neal, musically. There are musical segments which remind us to the music of the Beatles (especially I Want You) as well as those influenced by classical music - especially thru piano work. It is so stunning. The vocal line is also stunning even though this time Neal enters with distorted voice, nicely. The keyboard portion which accompanies his singing is also excellent. The organ solo is also stunning. Neal gives Paul Gilbert quite a long duration to perform solo during interlude. It is so rockin guitar with blues taste. You won't regret at all with this opening epic!

Second track "The Conflict" is another rockin' epic with energetic and powerful guitar solo and riffs. The riffs at the intro part.remind me to Zeppelin-like Kingdom Come especially song called as "17". WOW! This track is a true masterpiece! It combines the power of rock music with blues and moves forward with latin music and jazz. The use of flamenco acoustic guitar work and keyboard helps elevate the music textures. The music is so powerful because it varies from one segment to another without distorting transition pieces. Everything moves smoothly and swiftly from one style to another. Well, I dont think I am able to describe the beauty of the music composition unless you listen to it directly.


With such a long write-up about composition, you will definitely agree with me that Neal Morse is really an excellent.and talented musician. He has approached his composition by exploring all his skillful songwriting and through creating a story line for the album. There are very few musicians that can match Neal songwriting capability. He is not only good as songwriter as he sings and plays keyboard really well. Not only that, he selects the best musicians for his solo albums.


It's highly recommended album. You would find varied styles in the music, blended nicely by Neal to produce axcellent music. The album production is also excellent. "Sola Scriptura" is at par excellent with Neal's previous effort "One". Keep on proggin' ..!

Peace on earth and mercy mild - GW

Review by Flucktrot
4 stars Despite all logical reason, the Morse train still hasn't run out of gas--sure, there may be some fumes, but overall this is a very creative and originally themed piece. I happen to think that writing extended prog epics about Martin Luther is a cool thing, and even with the definite potential for cheesiness, Morse again takes the engaging (rather than beat-you-over-the-head-with-a- hammer) approach, and remarkable does so successfully. The meat of this album is carried in the first two massive, multi-part epics, but they are cohesive and rocking enough to overlook some of the limitations of the final two songs.

The Door. As a nice new twist, there is no build-up for this one--it hits you right in the face and keeps chugging from there. Great use of synths (though some of the riffs become a bit redundant), EXCELLENT incorporation of strings, and of course always heavy and notable drums from Portnoy dominate this track. It's good throughout, but the highlights are definitely the closing sections: Keep Silent and Upon the Door. There's a great pensive build-up with the strings as Luther is preparing himself for what he must do, and then we have an absolutely chathartic, blistering solo from Gilbert just as the theses are nailed. This is just a great example of storytelling in music, and one of my top 25 epics.

The Conflict. Very solid epic, but not on par with the first in my opinion (admittedly a tough act to follow!). It sure starts well, with a heavier rocking groove that transitions nicely into a tension building synth segment. Then things die down into a Latin-flavored bit, which is good, though momentum is lost and the transitions are a bit extended. It cranks back up just in time for a mellow finish...but I find this a bit anti-climactic, uninteresting and repetitive. I really could take or leave the final ten minutes or so.

Heaven in My Heart, The Conclusion. As far as Morse praise songs, Heaven in My Heart is one of the better, and not quite as cliche as others, but don't expect much prog here. Regarding The Conclusion, I'm all for variation on central themes, but I like them to get better the second time, which is not what I get here. The new sections are nice (Randy's Jam and Come Out of Her), but the rest has a been-there, done-that feeling. It's certainly good, but for me excessive after the opening epics.

If you like Morse and wouldn't mind hearing more of his heavier side, this is your album. The arrangements are excellent, there are numerous catchy and captivating melodies, and there's a nice balance of virtuosic playing and storytelling that add up to very solid music. It all just falls short of masterpiece status.

Review by The Pessimist
5 stars Give me one reason why i should not vote this a masterpiece. I personally can't see any reason. Every song is great on this astounding record, everything a progger needs, this is Morse at his best. The weakest track howeveris obviously the ballad Heaven in My Heart, however it's still very listenable. The Conclusion I would say is the greatest track Neal has ever produced. The other two are excellent also. Album of 2007? yeah, i would say that, although some may disagree. overall rating - (9.2/10).
Review by Moatilliatta
5 stars Somehow, despite keeping close to the same sound, each album by Neal Morse is a new experience. And ever since his Transatlantic days, the man has been churning out masterpieces almost every time he enters the studio. With Sola Scriptura, Neal more than bounces back from the shaky ? and has yet again reached new heights. Not since those Transatlantic albums have I been so moved by an output of his.

Interestingly enough, the album's format harkens back to the glorious supergroup's Bridge Across Forever, containing two epics between 25 and 30 minutes, another around 16 and then a 5-minute ballad. The difference is that the shorter epic is at the end, and the two long ones are both at the top of the lineup.

The sound here, varied as it may be, leans toward a darker Morse atmosphere. I'm sure the art helps invoke that thought, but this is the first Morse album to bear a strong metal influence, and the lyrical subject is not a hopeful/happy story like his testimony, for instance, but rather about Martin Luther and the birth of the Protestant church. Of course, there are plenty of major keys, peppy riffs and vocals and positive messages, but in general, the feel seems to be a bit more reflective of the hard times and struggles of the era. And that only attests to Morse's artistic prowess.

Again, Mike Portnoy and Randy George lay down great performances on this disc, possibly their best yet (hard to say considering how great they've done already); it's a shame they don't tour with Neal, because they seem to be the perfect fits for his work. Neal's vocals are more impassioned than they were on the last disc (his only weak output this decade), and of course he puts down a solid performance on the keys and guitars. A real treat here is the appearance of Paul Gilbert, who gives us some fantastic solos in the powerful "Upon the Door" movement of "The Door", the metallic "Do You Know My Name?" and the awesome flamenco section "Two Down, One to Go," both from "The Conflict."

The aforementioned "Two Down, One to Go" is the greatest surprise of the disc, mixing flamenco guitars with what seems like music that belongs in a James Bond or Mission Impossible movie. It would be useless to list other sections as highlights, because each one is a gem in its own right, and they all manage to flow together thanks to the adroit craftsmanship of Mr. Morse. Even the ballad, "Heaven in My Heart" proves to be worthy of being mixed in with those wonderous epics.

Neal continues to work wonders, and Sola Scriptura currently stands as his finest solo output yet.

Review by LiquidEternity
3 stars For the most part, Sola Scriptura is a relatively average album.

As far as Neal Morse's music goes, he often ties brilliant fun with tacky ballads, and often ties a lot of those sequences together into really long songs. Any fan of his from his Spock's Beard or Transatlantic efforts should not be surprised by the track listing. The dude likes his long songs. And, in truth, it seems that long songs really like him right back.

The Door is a pretty standard opening, with some killer overturial doodlings in the first four or so minutes. The rest of the song is pretty good, without nothing really standing out except the chorus of In the Name of God. Oh, and there's the closing solo from Paul Gilbert. It's easily the highlight of the album. This is the kind of solo you buy the whole disc for. This is the kind of ending to an epic that gives Neal every right to retire from writing 30 minute songs. Not that he would consider retiring from that, but the man has earned the right with this alone. The solo makes the whole song, no matter how rambling or disjointed it ends up feeling, seem like the perfect epic. You'll see, if you listen to it.

The Confrontation starts off with some serious metal guitar and Alice Cooper vocal work. The experimentation with this dark and heavy feel is another strong point of the album. The middle of the song is punctuated by a Latin-acoustic sort of piece, and while I love both Neal's acoustic pieces and his Latin vibes, it doesn't exactly fit the mood of a Reformation theological/political debate scenario. It sounds really, really neat, though, and almost makes up for the fact that it really doesn't make any sense for it to be in there.

I pretty much always skip Heaven in My Heart. Neal has written an overabundance of these ballads, and while a few are good, one or two or eight every album adds up to a lot of weak tracks that drag his discography down. I think the album would be better if this track had been left off entirely. If you've listened to Neal's music, there is nothing here you haven't heard before.

The Conclusion reprises a lot of stuff from The Door, with some excellent bass guitar and some crazy keyboards. It's a pretty standard album wrap up.

In all, I enjoy listening to this album. It's fun, it's epic, and it's got its progressive chunks of noodling like it's supposed to. However, there really is not that much to be offered by this album that can't be found elsewhere.

Review by AtomicCrimsonRush
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars One of the finest efforts from Morse, full of progressive elements that would satiate the pallete of any proghead (like myself).

It begins with the blistering 29 minute epic The Door which is broken into many parts like a multi movement suite in classical music. This is an incredible sophistocated piece of prog that thunders at times with awesome guitar riffs and at other times there is a solitude of acoustic and mellotron beauty. Portnoy on drums is at his best as usual, but it is Morse's vocal performance that gives this a majestic quality outside the realm of the type of material he was doing with Transatlantic or for that matter Spock's Beard. His heart and soul is poured out on this CD in 76 minutes of musical virtuosity par excellence.

The Conclusion is a mini epic running for about 17 minutes. It is a worthy addition to the Morse catalogue with complicated tempo changes and metrical patterns that range from Adante to Presto time signatures - 4/4 standard to complex couplets or triplets in 9/8 and beyond.

Heaven in my Heart is a beautiful ballad in true Morse style with emotional depth about his pure faith in God. Listen to that heavenly guitar for a great example of accomplished musicianship.

It ends with the wonderful 16 minute The Conclusion. What else? The concept of theological church history is strong but never overbearing towards the music as a whole. I appreciate how Morse has not sold out his prog roots even though his music has changed direction from the SB years. In fact the material on this album is some of the heaviest Morse has performed - including crunching guitar riffs and a very dark tone overall.

This is definitely an Excellent addition to any prog music collection.

Review by Mellotron Storm
4 stars Back in the Middle Ages the only people who had access to a Bible were the leaders of the Catholic church. Church and State were closely linked back then, and the population at large were at their mercy and had to follow their rules and orders. Martin Luther challenged all this solely on what the Bible said, stating that "Salvation" was a free gift of God paid in full by Jesus Christ's death, and received soley by faith, not by obeying the church or religion. Luther would be ex-communicated for telling the truth. He would become the father of the Protestant church, and he also translated the Bible into the language of the people.The printing press had been invented by then so the common people finally had access to God's word. Thankyou Wikipedia for the information.

Once again Morse teams up with George and Portnoy. One significant guest is guitarist extraordinaire Paul Gilbert who offers up a variety of jaw dropping solos. By the way "Sola Scriptura" means "Only according to the Scriptures", how appropriate.

"The Door" opens with bombast and Portnoy is especially outstanding here. Check him out before a minute ! Killer organ 3 1/2 minutes in followed by mellotron as it settles somewhat. It kicks back in as mellotron storms in again with more furious drumming. The first 5 minutes of this song are incredible ! Vocals then come in as it calms down. The song kicks back in before 8 minutes and powerful organ joins in the all out assault. GENTLE GIANT-like vocal section follows. A lighter melody takes over before 10 minutes. Here we go again 14 minutes with ripping guitar and chunky bass as drums pound. Great instrumental section after 17 1/2 minutes. Scorching guitar solo too. Another mellow section and mellotron is back 25 minutes in. What follows is spoken words, piano then reserved vocals. It's that over one minute guitar solo from Gilbert though that brings tears. My God !

"The Conflict" is heavy like the intro of the first track only Gilbert is here setting it on fire. Blistering guitar work as Morse comes in spitting out the lyrics in defiance.This is killer ! This is complete bliss until it lightens 4 minutes in. Actually this section is also pretty amazing. Another change after 7 minutes as the tempo picks up and we get male choirs that come and go. The organ is ripping it up 9 1/2 minutes in. It stays fairly laid back until before 17 minutes when it gets heavy and Morse gets passionate on vocals. This ends before 19 1/2 minutes as it ends with a moving section. I like the lyrics. "Heaven In My Heart" is a ballad of piano, strings and reserved vocals. I would have rathered it wasn't on here. "The Conclusion" is the 16 1/2 minute closer. More fantastic drumming and instrumental work here.The bass is huge ! They contrast the heaviness with mellow sections throughout to great affect. The mellotron is loud and proud as well.

The three longer tracks are all outstanding, this is what Prog is all about.This is my second favourite Morse solo album after "?".

Review by Epignosis
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Sola Scriptura, Latin for "scripture only" is loosely based on the struggles of German theologian Martin Luther, who among other things, hated the way God's forgiveness was being sold and wanted people to understand the bondage of the human will, that is, without the grace of God, man is bound to sin and evil. This recording is largely progressive metal with symphonic overtones, which occasionally visit other styles. The music of Neal Morse corresponds very well with the subtitles, but I think this album would have been music stronger had those sections been split up into individual tracks. Having it all lumped together in such a manner is a bit pointless (since the music doesn't exactly flow anyway), and it makes the album that much harder to digest. The last piece tends to be a bit repetitive (I feel this album could have been much stronger if it were cut to between 60 and 70 minutes), but overall, this is a masterful effort from of progressive rock's greatest modern minds.

"The Door" The lengthy introduction is a musical onslaught, with Mike Portnoy's double bass drum attacks (that are thankfully restrained), Randy George's fantastic fretwork on bass, and Morse's frenzied classical piano skills. The music during this time is marvelously arranged, even though the vocal section begins abruptly. After some tightly executed music, everything suddenly becomes closer to contemporary Christian music, with bright acoustic guitars and worshipful lyrics. Eventually things morph back into the bitter and heavy sound, as Morse sings in a snide voice, taking the role of the religious leaders at the time. The next section is more like a modern-day Christian anthem, full of conviction. Afterwards, a drowsy Mellotron assumes control, while various instrumentation dances over it. In the end, Morse, singing as Luther, makes up his mind to take action against the heresy of the day, and this is followed up with a screaming guitar solo. The final major chord marks an air of confidence for the determined reformer.

"The Conflict" Heavy metal ensues, with blistering guitar soloing and heavy drumming. The music is very close to Alice in Chains (in fact, I almost swore I was hearing Layne Staley at one point). The convicting tone returns in the second part, where the music sounds closer to Spock's Beard than anything else on this album. The third section is a dim one, with melancholic but hopeful lyrics and a haunting Mellotron and vocal echo. What follows is a Spanish-style guitar piece courtesy of Paul Gilbert. It introduces a flamenco section that certainly adds variety and flavor to a really lengthy album, and for some reason, reminds me of "Senor Valasco's Mystic Voodoo Love Dance" from Spock's Beard's The Light, only not nearly as ludicrous. Morse's piano playing is smart during this section and very entertaining. A lightning-fast keyboard solo ensues during the fifth part. The guitar and vocals of the sixth and final section is inspiring and a highlight of the piece.

"Heaven in My Heart" An anomaly to this heavy effort, this beautiful song could stand alone and serve as an inspiration and encouragement to any Christian believer. It is piano-based, and has a similar theme to the climactic moments of Morse's ? album.

"The Conclusion" A cry to "Come out of her my people" (from Revelation 18:4) begins the final song. After some flashy keyboard work, George gets an opportunity to stand in the spotlight for a bit. Again, the music is heavy and tight, full of fast playing and a recurring theme that doesn't let up for quite a while. When it does, the very first vocal melody of the album is revisited. Everything eventually becomes uplifting and symphonic once more, with a stirring vocal performance from Morse (especially for those who know the scripture he is referencing). The third part of the first track is masterfully brought back (there really could not have been a better way to draw things to a close). I find the actual conclusion after the spirited guitar solo to be a bit weak (mainly because of Morse's vocals, which sound like they were recorded in a phone booth), but the truth that he sings is not lost on this weary but steadfast heart.

Review by SouthSideoftheSky
4 stars More about religion than in religion this time, thank God!

Neal Morse is a quite recent encounter for me and I do not know any of his work with Spock's Beard or Transatlantic (yet?), but I have heard his three most popular solo works: this one, ? and Testimony. Of these three albums I like this one the most, and compared to the other two, Sola Scriptura is darker, more aggressive and intense, it rocks harder - at times flirting with Prog Metal sounds and there are far more instrumental workouts. In that sense at least, I find this more 'progressive'. There are still the sweet Beatles-esque melodies, but they are more finely woven into a much bigger tapestry and the long compositions are more complex in structure.

What's perhaps best of all is the fact that this album comes across as much less 'preachy'. Like on Testimony and ?, the subject matter is still religion, but Sola Scriptura is more about religion than in religion (a useful distinction I learned while studying religion at the university for two and a half years); it is more of a historical portrait than a personal 'testimony'. This time the religious praising (and cursing!) comes out of the mouths of Martin Luther and the Catholic Church respectively and not, like on Testimony, from Morse's own. This helps a lot to make the album's message more acceptable for me as a confirmed atheist and secular humanist. I feel much more sympathy for Martin Luther's very real struggles against the authoritarian Catholic Church in the 1500's than for the 'spiritual struggle' a Rock musician in LA in the new millennium.

With the presence of piano, synthesisers, electric and acoustic guitars and violin, the sound here often evokes Kansas and Morse seems to have picked up more than a few tricks from Kansas' main songwriter Kerry Livgren who also happens to be one of my own all time favourite songwriters. Morse is walking in the foot steppes of Livgren in more than one way as Livgren is also a born again Christian. They know each other too we may assume as Livgren played guitar on Morse' Testimony album. However, this is no Kansas clone or any clone at all for that matter, Morse has found his own style here within the framework of Symphonic Prog. This may not be groundbreaking music, but it is also not derivative in any objectionable way in my opinion.

Overall, I find this album highly enjoyable with strong compositions, great instrumentation and interesting tempo and mood changes. Highly recommended!

Review by Rune2000
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars I've been listening non-stop to this album for at least a week and that's a lot considering the fact that I never made it once through Testimony.

Originally I was skeptical that Neal Morse could make a great solo album. Note that this was before I heard his previous album ?. But all that changed after a friend of mine made me listen though this album's first track, which I found to be amazing. And since the first track is pretty much 40% of the album, I thought that no matter how the other songs turned out, it would still be a decent purchase.

The album is structured just like the second Transatlantic album, Bridge Across Forever, but this time around there is conceptual story to back it up! All of the three lengthy compositions go through many different sections where the music ranges from every style like Progressive Metal to Spanish guitar section. The album's highlight for me would be the acoustic guitar-jam that transitions into Two Down, One To Go, which sounds something like the Spanish guitar from Spock's Beard debut album The Light.

The great variety of styles and transitions between the different sections gives each composition its share of great but also lesser moments, still it come up on top in the end. I have to agree with a previous review by Flipper, where he said "I'm not a Christian, but if someone is preaching like this, I really don't have a problem". Sola Scriptura is a very enjoyable listen from start to finish, Neal Morse never seizes to amaze me!

**** star songs: The Door (29:14) The Conflict (25:00) Heaven In My Heart (5:11) The Conclusion (16:34)

Total Rating: 4,00

Review by progrules
5 stars Just about a year ago there was a forum poll about Neal Morse asking readers what they thought of Neal Morse. There were about 5 or 6 answers to choose from and one of them was: he is too religious. I chose that answer but added in the comment post that I nevertheless had the highest respect for him as a musician and mostly as composer. That is indeed how I feel and the best example of his greatness as a composer is this fantastic release called Sola Scriptura.

The reason why this is Morse's magnum opus to me is the wonderful balance between beautiful melodies and energetic approach. Some of his other works tend to become drenched with over religious utterances turning almost into cheesiness. From his point of view I can understand this is happening but personally I have a hard time coping with it. But on Sola Scriptura the "in the clouds" moments are limited and more attention is given to the musical aspect. And combined with highly impressive and energetic playing the whole thing turns into a wonderful piece of musical art.

My favorite piece is The Door but in fact all songs are great if not outstanding maybe with exception of Heaven in my Heart. And even that song isn't bad at all, just less. The rest scores in between 4,75 and 5 stars to me which results in the perfect score. Hats off for mr. Morse !

Review by jampa17
5 stars Brilliant in every single aspect!

Don't know why I never checked this guy discography and a big friend of mine insisted me by years to do it. He said that I played keyboards in the style of Morse, that I should check him out, but I'm too lazy to do it. Finally I get this album and stay in my library by a month or some time before I actually get to him. The thing was that I don't like too much the Christian lyrics in rock, but one random day I give it a spin and I didn't believe what I was hearing?

This guy has an incredible talent to approach music with a lot of sense and bringing out good melodies as well as great instrumentation and a lot of different moods and styles. He is really over the top as a songwriter. He's a man with sense and soul and his music is technically elaborated but never miss the point, the music has always a clear focus and you cannot get bored with a material like this.

The musicians are great (the almighty Mike Portnoy and the gifted Paul Gilbert were there) and even at their level the music doesn't get overshadow by those impressible guest players. The focus is always the music and it all makes sense. For me, the keyboards are really the deal here. Morse has a very unique style very eclectic and is shown in this album.

The story is about Luter and his issues with the Church during the Reform. I like that he didn't talk about God but about the humans struggles about religion and the search for answers.

There are only four tracks in the album. From The Door until The Conclusion the album has a very dynamic flow through all the different styles, time signatures and moods that makes this album one masterpiece that you can't miss if you like symphonic prog or prog music in general. This is one of the best albums I've heard in the last decade. I hope you can dive in and discover a wonderful songwriter, as well as a unique album.

5 stars without doubt.

Review by octopus-4
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR RIO/Avant/Zeuhl,Neo & Post/Math Teams
5 stars I heard discussions about the religious contents of Neal Morse's music, but I think that when one listens to a love song, he can appreciate it even if he doesn't love the same woman or man, so even if I'm atheist, I'm not disturbed by the religious contents of Neal Morse's songs, until he's honest and I think he is.

Said so, Sola Scriptura is not a collection of religious hymns. It's a real concept album that uses Luther to speak about religion. This makes it interesting under all the aspects.

But this album contains before anything else, everything a progressive fan looks for: two long epics made of several different sections from folk to prog-metal very well played and arranged, a serious concept and long instrumental passages, even if some of them were already used by him with Spock's Beard, so I felt like I've already listened to them and in some cases I was expecting exactly the same melody but it was a little different.

The two epics, are great. The Door is a masterpiece, but also the two "short" songs (if a 15 minutes song can be called short") are above the average.

This is one of the albums I'm listening to more often and I can't rate it less than 5 stars.

Review by b_olariu
4 stars 4.5

Sola scriptura released in 2007 find Neal Morse in a excellent form, delivering, at least for me, the best he can give, this is his masterpiece work and one of the best albums I 've heard in last years. Absolute great from first to last second. This album worth to be investigated only for the stunning opening pieces The door, 30 min of high class musicianship and excellent ideas, one of the best pieces I've heard from progressive rock zone, excellent. Helped again by the monster drumer Mike Portnoy, Neal Morse gives to the listner one of the top album from last decade and not only, his druming can easy be recognazible because of the uptempo and crazyness he infuse in the pieces, here is stunning. I also like how Morse use the lyrics here, even I'm not the biggest christian ever existed, I'm not bothered about his lyrics or how he used in his music, each one can compose and as he want's, Neal Morse here is great. The album has 4 pieces, 3 are very long and one is more mellow just to diverse the wholness of the album, each track specially the longer ones has a lot of instrumental passages, the keybords are well melted with the guitar, invited guest here on this instrument the legent among rockers Paul Gilbert from Rated X fame. So another stunning release from Mr. Morse, to me his best work so far and one of the best from prog rock in last years, the complexity and the overall arrangements are top notch. Very entertainig album with a lot to offer, doesn't matter if you like neo, prog metal, symphonic or other genres, this is a kick ass album from stars to finish. Recommended.

Review by Andy Webb
4 stars Mix Dream Theater and Spock's Beard...

In 2002, Neal Morse, celebrated prog musician from Spock's Beard, Transatlantic, and Yellow Matter Custard announced he was leaving the prog world to pursue his recent conversion to Christianity. Through the 5 years since then, Neal has gone on to become a solo artist, his primary genre being Christian Rock. However, every once in a while he slips back into his comfy shoes and makes a tasty prog album. Fist with Testimony, then with One, then with ?, and now with this epic masterpiece, Sola Scriptura. The album consists simply of 4 songs... but runs for nearly 80 minutes. Long epics pepper the album, consisting of Neal in all his prog (metal) glory. Whipping out his amazing song writing skill, he has no problem writing 30, 25 and 16 minute long tracks, each of which are essentially amazing. Of course Neal mixes in his faith with a concept of Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation. Also he manages to slip in a little Christian rock, but it barely detracts from the album.

The Door is the 30 minute epic of the album. But, unlike most massive epics, the song does not take a minute or two to build up. This track right up and slaps you in the face in the first couple seconds. No, it's not some insane technical death metal riff, but neither is it a slow lap steel guitar solo. Neal shows off his ability to wow a crowd with his amazing overture, as any lengthy epic should have. With plenty of tricks, the song easily modulates from major to minor to major to haunting to happy to epic to fast to slow to melodic to metal and about 35 other feels. Overall, the simple overture is purely amazing. And we still have 25 minutes left. With contributions from Mike Portnoy also, the music is given a great fusion feel - mixing the symphonics of Spock's Beard with the metal of Dream Theater. The only negative point is the cheesy qualities of both "In the Name of God" and "All I Ask For," both of which have some..... not-so-preferable qualities, with some overbearing Christian rock influence and some really cheesy melodies. But, the rest of track, including quite a few infectious little proggy sections, balance this song into stardom. Overall, The Door kicks Sola Scriptura into hight gear, making this a highly recommended release already.

The Conflict opens right off with a heavy metal riff and a totally bitchin solo courtesy of Paul Gilbert. The intro has strong Alice in Chains and other alternative metal influences. Throughout the song, we see a few themes explored by the overture furthered, and some great ideas blossoming into beautiful sections. Although the song does slip back into a little bit of Christian rock again, the song sticks to it's prog metal guns for 90% of the time. The song has one of the strongest Spock's Beard influences, with some cool jazz fusion feels going along with it during "Two Down, One to Go." Overall, this song presents yet another amazing furtherment of Neal Morse's incredible songwriting ability.

Heaven in my Heart is the downer of the album. Only 5 minutes long for one thing, it is essentially a pure Christian rock song, consisting of mainly just piano, strings, and some drums. Compared to the two amazing prog epics preceding it, it presents a less than satisfactory effort from the good man Neal. Of course, the melodies and piano work is nice and pleasant, as are the string quartet work. However, the overall feel of the album isn't exactly what I was looking for in the album.

The Conclusion is, well, a really good conclusion. Smashing open with a crazy instrumental jam between the three main members of the band, it also finishes all the main themes of the introduction, as well as re-introducing the album.... again. It does have some cool riffs though! This song really picks up what Heaven in my Heart left off, because it left a lot. A lot of this song functions mainly as just a cap to Martin Luther's story and then after that a massive instrumental jam where all the guys show off what they can do - which is a lot of stuff. The Re-introduction is a crazy and infectious prog jam, which reprises a lot of the material covered in the previous two epics. Overall, this song is a fantastic conclusion to a fantastic album, summing up an epic concept and ending the album with one of the better riffs of the album. Bravo!

ALBUM OVERALL: This album really sums up what Neal Morse can do. Consisting of 3 long epics and one shorter track, the whole album oozes genius. Form sweeping prog rock and metal riffs to simplistic melodic sections, the whole album has an aura of a musical genius at work. Neal Morse can easily dish out just about anything after this album. However, the album has its serve of negative points also. The songs dip into Morse's Christian tendencies, detracting from the overall feel of the album considerably. However, overall the album does present an absolutely amazing ride of music, and I highly recommend it for any experienced prog head who isn't afraid to listen to a 30 minute long track - it's worth it! 4+ stars.

Review by Tarcisio Moura
4 stars Nice surprise again. I was never a big fan of Neal Morseīs former band where he gained so much fame for (Spockīs Beard), so it did take a long time to actually hear his solo works, specially when one knows he abandoned that group when he became a reborn christian. In most cases this fact means that the lyrics will be about his (or hers) newly discovered religion and/or adoration, acccompanied by fitting music (i.e., gospel music). Fortunalty Morseīs case is quite different (see below). I was enthralled by Transatlanticīs Whirldwind and since that work is much his baby as was Roine Stoltīs, I decided to give a shot at his solo output at last (the fact that those records were highly praised here on PA did help, though).

If anything, his new faith boosted his inspiration, for One and now Sola Scriptura show a great improvement of his songwriting skills. Both albums are way better than anything I heard from Spockīs Beard, and quite closer to Transatlanitcīs, which is a compliment as far as as I īm concerned. Sola Scriptura is a conceptual album of sorts, telling the story of german reformist Martin Luther and his struggle with his issues with the leaders of Catholic church. Usually I donīt like those albums since very few musicians are able to tell a whole story through an album without sacrifying the music over the text. There are a few notable exceptions to that rule (Pete Townshendīs name springs in mind), and now I can say that Morse is one of those few. The lyrics are well written and heartfelt, but the music is always very well done and can be appreciated alone, if you donīt follow the storyline.

Musicly speaking, what surprised me was the several heavy parts included here, a few of them could be well on any Dream Theatre CD (the presence of ex DTīs Mike Portnoy on the drums is no coincidence). There are only four tracks, and only one,the beautiful ballad Heaven In My heart, is around the 5 minute mark. All the other 3 are above 25 minutes of duration. The music is quite varied, going from typical symphonic prog loaded with excellent keyboars to pretty heavy passages filled with blistering guitar solos, with a few jazzy passages and even a little spanish-like guitars on The Conflict. Although long, those tracks are very well done and melodic. The record flows evenly and is really a great tribute to Morseīs talent both as songwriter and performer. The arrangements are very trasteful and precise. Itīs a long CD (almost 76 minutes), but it didnīt give me a boring moment me at all. Morseīs vocals abilities were never his strongest point, but he does sing with passion and conviction, making the singing parts very emotional and fitting to the music.

Production is excellent, with all the instruments very well balanced. Itīs hard to believe that such complex and well performed CD was a result of so few musicians (basicly a the trio of Morse on keys and guitars, Portnoy on drums and Randy George on bass, plus a some guests on strings and, most notably, Paul Gilbert on guitar).

Conclusion: another excellent work of Neil Morse! One and Sola Scriptura are brilliant records that should be heard by anyone interested in fine symphonic prog music (regardless of their faith). Iīm looking foward to hear more of his solo output.

Review by Warthur
4 stars After spending 2006 concentrating on non-prog endeavours - putting out more worship music, a collection of cover versions, and a singer-songwriter album - Neal Morse put out his next prog album in the form of Sola Scriptura. As with his previous prog solo album, "?", this avoids the all-too-common pitfall of explicitly Christian-themed music by actually doing a deep dive on some subject from the rich history and literature of the faith, rather than just harping on the same limited set come-to-Jesus themes that all too many "Christian rock" bands limit themselves to.

This time around, he's offering a concept album about Martin Luther's theological confrontation with the Catholic Church. This is a thorny subject - in the liner notes Neal mentions he almost reconsidered the project after he learned about some of the virulently antisemitic writing Luther put out, but then decided to go ahead since that isn't the aspect of Luther's career the album is about, merely adding the caveat that Luther was a flawed man trying to reform a flawed system.

That shows a level of nuance which suggests a thoughtful approach to the subject matter, and largely that's what you get here. The album doesn't flinch from criticising some of the stuff the medieval Church said and did in very stark terms, but I don't think this extends to being knee-jerk anti-Catholic so much as it involves portraying the central conflict (and it would be disingenuous of Neal to try and be "both sides"-y about this when he clearly believes that on many of these questions Luther was in the right). Also, it should be remembered that the Catholic Church of today isn't the Church that Luther was rebelling against - they actively implemented a bunch of reforms since then in part to shift away from some of the excesses he was objecting to.

So much for the concept: what about the music? Well, Mike Portnoy's on drums, as he had been for all of Neal's prog solo albums to date, and Randy George is on bass again as he had on the previous two prog albums from Neal; having cemented themselves as Neal's regular rhythm section, they accompany Neal throughout the album, with other instrumental offerings from a pool of the usual suspects (the string section have all appeared on past Morse albums, as has Michael Thurman on French horn, and the backing singers include a number who also sang on "?").

With personnel like that, you'd be right to expect that this is more or less business as usual for Neal - indeed, he's shifted back to the sort of long songs he likes to tackle, after "?" was made up of shorter songs (though those could be seen as short sections in one long piece).

As has been the case since the earliest Spock's Beard material, he goes broad when it comes to the range of influences he throws in, rather than focusing on one approach exclusively, which is helpful: there may well be bits here and there you don't enjoy (for instance, All I Ask For drags on a little long to my taste) but you at least have the consolation that it won't be like this throughout, and if some of the sections go on for a bit Neal at least does a good job of using them to build to appropriate emotional climaxes.

There's the odd touch from gospel here and there, especially in terms of the use of the backing singers, but this is quite tastefully done (and it's not like Neal hasn't been dipping into the worlds of gospel or musical theatre from time to time to add a flavour to his prog material that other prog artists don't touch on so much.) For instance, Keep Silent feels a lot like a somewhat more upbeat take on Pink Floyd's Dogs combined with a gospel chorus, which works surprisingly well.

Some of the material also hits harder than much of Neal's prior solo material, Neal making good use of Mike Pointer's talents to work on some heavier and more metallic sections. Do You Know My Name? has this dirty-ass funk metal air to it, which then lurches into a sort of prog metal transition section as it shifts into Party To the Lie, which has this sort of jaunty Kansas-esque note to it, or perhaps a whiff of Genesis circa Trick of the Tail.

Taken as a whole, the album is another solid effort in the same general style that Neal had been working since he left Spock's Beard, and whilst some of the individual moments are somewhat shaky, he pulls off the trick again of bringing it all together in a big emotional conclusion right at the end. I'd certainly put it on a par with "?", and whilst I don't think it quite gets the fifth star, it comes awfully close.

Review by Neu!mann
2 stars A word of caution to oversensitive theists: it can be hard for a freethinking Proghead to review a Neal Morse album without a little tongue-in-cheek cynicism. But at the same time his musical sermons present an irresistible challenge to any halfway decent critic, and nowhere in his solo discography was that gauntlet flung down with more force than in this year 2007 concept album: an Arena Rock interpretation of Martin Luther's 16th century Protestant Reformation.

To recap, for those of you who slept through high school: Luther was a Catholic priest in late medieval Germany who famously nailed his ninety-five theses to the door of All Saint's Church in Wittenberg, challenging the omnipotent Papal hierarchy and its mercantile practice of selling 'indulgences' to contrite sinners shopping for inexpensive penance. In today's vernacular, as explained by Father Guido Sarducci, "stealing a hubcap might cost you $100. Masturbation is's a small sin, but it adds up."

The ex-SPOCK'S BEARD leader is of course no stranger to blockbuster Prog Rock mega- productions, and it's nice to hear him attempting something with real narrative ambition. But I'm not sure Luther makes the best role model, in life or in music. And Morse's take on the subject is predictably shallow, bringing anachronistic 21st century attitudes to a far more complex historical record. "There is truth that I'm feeling / Love full of healing" says his protagonist in the song "Already Home", but that's Neal Morse singing, not Martin Luther. He's putting Sunday School platitudes into the mouth of a bigot who once wrote "To be a Christian, you must pluck out the eye of reason." And I won't even repeat what he said about Jews and their "wanton blasphemy".

To his credit, Morse actually considered scrapping the project after learning about his subject's rabid anti-Semitism. But he was able to avoid that ethical roadblock by simplifying the facts to fit his own rosy superstitions, and expressing them in poetry more consistent with Dr. Seuss: "God can change the world with just one willing soul / Who will stand up for the truth and give him starring role...Maybe it's you he's looking for!"

Neal's Divine Plan is uncomplicated: believe, and be long as it's his own narrow brand of Protestantism. Hence the need to protest "false religions" (his own words, in the CD notes). That not-so-hidden agenda prompted a lot of mildly entertaining religious pillow-fighting in the nerdier corners of the blogosphere, all of which underlines a point I'm sure Morse didn't intend to make: dogma is always man-made, never divine. To paraphrase another Prog Rock apostle (C of E skeptic Ian Anderson): God created Man in his own image...and Man, being polite, merely returned the compliment.

I've rambled on at length about the insecure concept behind the album to suggest that its author was out of his depth and treading rough theological waters: surely a moot point if the music itself reached as high as his idealism. And fortunately the trio of main players is on more comfortable ground, albeit trying a little too hard, as always. A composer this gifted and prolific sometimes doesn't know when to restrain himself, and here the results only reinforce every unfair knee-jerk bias ever brought against Progressive Rock: gratuitous virtuosity; performance overkill; arbitrary 30- minute suites; you name it. From the busy GENTLE GIANT syncopation to the big symphonic crescendos, it's business as usual for the workaholic Morse. Expect yet another sappy ballad ("Heaven in my Heart"), one more recycled Spanish interlude ("One Down, Two to Go"), and the same jazzy piano solo from Transatlantic's "All of the Above", copied almost verbatim.

Additional anti-Prog ammo is supplied in the epic musical arrangements, presented with all the ersatz flash and dazzle of a Sin City stage extravaganza, minus only the topless showgirls (alas). But I might have liked it even less without the Technicolor bombast and pomposity, a saving grace when applied like gaudy wallpaper over the album's obvious thematic shortcomings. Musically, Neal Morse is the Thomas Kinkaid of Prog Rock. And if you don't know the late, self- promoting 'Painter of Light', here's a passage from writer Joan Didion that might have been describing a typical Morse album: "A Kinkaid painting was typically rendered in slightly surreal pastels. It typically featured a cottage or house of such insistent coziness as to seem actually sinister, suggestive of a trap designed to attract Hansel and Gretel. Every window was lit, to lurid effect, as if the interior of the structure might be on fire." Hallmark card sentiments and heavy power chords...not exactly the most compatible blend, but hard to resist as a guilty pleasure.

You don't have to share his beliefs to recognize that Neal Morse has expressed them more effectively elsewhere in his career. Ten years earlier, while still in Spock's Beard, he penned a song clairvoyantly named "The Doorway". But that open invitation ("You are the doorway", he sang at the time) was replaced here by the object itself, now locked tight against incursion and bluntly titled "The Door", upon which Mr. Morse would try to nail his own musical theses. Unlike Martin Luther's Reformation it wasn't, however, a purely spiritual epiphany: quite the opposite, one could argue. What he's selling is only a new form of indulgence: 76-minutes of Prog Rock redemption, available with a nopCommerce account direct from his own on-line store.

Too bad there isn't a name-your-own-price option. The album is certainly worth the small mercy of Father Sarducci's 35-cent fee.

Latest members reviews

5 stars I have been listening to this album for years, and have heard nearly all of Neal Morse's discography. This one is by far my favorite of all of his work (from what I have heard so far). This is the album I would definitely use to try to introduce people to Neal's style. In my opinion this album ... (read more)

Report this review (#2945161) | Posted by PriestOfCyrinx | Sunday, August 13, 2023 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Sola Scriptura is without a doubt Neal Morse's best album. Lyrically we a have a concept album based on the life of Martin Luther and his conflict with Catholic Church. Musically its the heaviest Neal's album with great guitar riffs, acoustic segments, bombastic and pompous keyboards. It is a stron ... (read more)

Report this review (#1816481) | Posted by emisan | Thursday, October 26, 2017 | Review Permanlink

5 stars This is without any doubt a true masterpiece and one of my absolute favorite albums in the contemporary "symphonic prog" genre. The album mixes jazz elements with heavy prog and emotional and highly beautiful melodies. You can, with all right, have opinions about the lyrics - but when it comes ... (read more)

Report this review (#1068853) | Posted by Sol Invictus | Wednesday, October 30, 2013 | Review Permanlink

5 stars This is Neal Morse's best album and a masterpiece of modern prog rock/metal. The two epics "The Door" and "The Conflict" are heavy, coplex, yet melodic with great personal lyrics even though it is a concept album on the life of an old dead dude (Martin Luther). I'd call the style heavy symphonic pro ... (read more)

Report this review (#951943) | Posted by Friday13th | Tuesday, April 30, 2013 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Sola Sciptura is Neal Morse's heaviest and most chaotic album to date. At only four songs, it contains some of the longest epics he's ever composed. But unlike Testimony and One, this is one of his more consistent works. Each song brings something new to the table, while still relying on the classic ... (read more)

Report this review (#771398) | Posted by Mr. Mustard | Friday, June 15, 2012 | Review Permanlink

5 stars As a progressive metal fan and a Christian, Neal Morse has been an incredible recent discovery for me thanks to Prog Archives. I love both this album and '?' Sola Scriptura has all the elements to satisfy my tastes. Throughout the album it is full of excellent composition both in terms of melo ... (read more)

Report this review (#547688) | Posted by bassgeezer | Monday, October 10, 2011 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Just before anything else: I'm rating this album from the mere musical point of view, putting aside the merits (or de-merits) of the historical figure of Luther (that task should be left to historians, mine is eventually totally negative for that matters) or even worse, without questioning the ... (read more)

Report this review (#450897) | Posted by Avtokrat | Sunday, May 22, 2011 | Review Permanlink

5 stars I must say that this album is an incredible accomplishment. Probably the best if not the best from Neal's solo catalog up to this point. The keyboard under the hands of the magician are carrying out waves of inspiration and layers of enjoyment covering one each other. Listening to this is simply ... (read more)

Report this review (#450574) | Posted by petrica | Saturday, May 21, 2011 | Review Permanlink

5 stars I have read the various comments on that CD, on this very site; and I was about sure it would be a strong addition to the kind of music I love : symphonic-prog, with complex constructions and epics (I just saw the track listing to see I was having a super example of epics : 29, 25 and 16.5 min ... (read more)

Report this review (#435803) | Posted by Progdaybay | Tuesday, April 19, 2011 | Review Permanlink

5 stars In the name of God you must die! "Sola Scriptura" is the most heavier and darker album of Neal Morse.And how good! It is composed of just four songs, three of them are as epic of 29,25 and 16 minutes,respectively, and a little ballad 5 minutes typical of Neal. Many may say that "The Door"is th ... (read more)

Report this review (#319908) | Posted by voliveira | Sunday, November 14, 2010 | Review Permanlink

5 stars sound for a new millennium! Vijar confess to the times of Luther when I hear this record, this is a good concept albums: travel both in music and the theme. When he heard Spock's Beard I do not recall hearing something similar. The impressive record for me is that you can hear sounds of mell ... (read more)

Report this review (#301581) | Posted by nandprogger | Saturday, October 2, 2010 | Review Permanlink

5 stars It's actually me he's looking for. I believe in God now and his name is Neal Morse. Top notch musicianship, beautiful melodies, great story, It's all here....Neal Morse has done it again! Sola Scriptura starts off with THE DOOR-- A masterpiece all by itself. This song includes many moods ... (read more)

Report this review (#301317) | Posted by trinidadx13 | Friday, October 1, 2010 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Oh my God!!!, said the words out of my mouth when my ears first descended upon the auidble pleasure that were to emit from my speakers when the first notes hit me in the face. The story of how I bought this was quite funny. There I was, in a very secluded small and worthless HMV, pondering for ... (read more)

Report this review (#248117) | Posted by arcane-beautiful | Wednesday, November 4, 2009 | Review Permanlink

3 stars IMO the least inspired of the post Spock's Beard Morse creations. I enjoyed bits and pieces of the each song but never really was able to delve too deep into the songs as a whole. Some bits in here are really stunning but some where a chore to listen to. In particular I could never really fini ... (read more)

Report this review (#179919) | Posted by merrickyoung87 | Monday, August 18, 2008 | Review Permanlink

5 stars This was my introduction to Neal Morse, following some recommendations from friends. I love this, it is pure prog rock that alternates between hard rock and gorgeous melody. Great guitar, great piano and keyboards, great vocals and music you'll find difficult to forget! On the strength of ... (read more)

Report this review (#148279) | Posted by alextorres2 | Wednesday, October 31, 2007 | Review Permanlink

2 stars Morse has shifted his sound from the previous symphonic efforts of One and ? to a more dynamic, more powerful, and generally more varied style. Sola Scriptura is Morse's 2007 release, and still has the brilliant playing of the great Randy George and the legendary Mike Portnoy. This time, he's got ... (read more)

Report this review (#133966) | Posted by Shakespeare | Monday, August 20, 2007 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Sola Scriptura is the 5th solo album from Spock Beard's former front man Neal Morse. For the new album Neal has recruited the extremely gifted guitarist Paul Gilbert, bass player Randy George and long time friend Mike Portnoy on drums. The album contains 3 epics and one short ballad. Sola Script ... (read more)

Report this review (#133647) | Posted by bigredmachine | Saturday, August 18, 2007 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Despite my initial impressions of the album as being more of the same from Mr. Morse, I've come to really appreciate this album over time. The melodies and song structures have held up, and the first two songs are just fantastic. The latter half of the album doesn't quite do it for me, though, and ... (read more)

Report this review (#123378) | Posted by The Progmatist | Friday, May 25, 2007 | Review Permanlink

5 stars If anybody needed proof that Neal Morse should rightfully be ranked alongside the great composers of the prog/prog-related field, then this album is ample proof. That is, if "V", "Snow", "Testimony, "One", "?" or even the opening moments of "The Light" didn't provide that proof already. Man ... (read more)

Report this review (#122889) | Posted by Beastie! | Sunday, May 20, 2007 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Well here is Neal again with his devine inspiration. But this albun is not so inspirated than Testimony ,One and ? I love theclassic symph prog rock that NM alwyas offers.(own albums,SB and Trans.) But in this one the inffluence of Mike Portnoy is very notorious. This album is rather a m ... (read more)

Report this review (#121435) | Posted by robbob | Wednesday, May 9, 2007 | Review Permanlink

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