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Arabs In Aspic

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Arabs In Aspic Madness and Magic album cover
3.85 | 132 ratings | 6 reviews | 20% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 2020

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. I Vow to Thee, My Screen (8:22)
2. Lullaby for Modern Kids, Part 1 (8:19)
3. Lullaby for Modern Kids, Part 2 (2:06)
4. High-Tech Parent (4:34)
5. Madness and Magic (6:47)
6. Heaven in Your Eye (16:45)

Total Time 46:53

Line-up / Musicians

- Jostein Smeby / guitars, vocals
- Stig Jørgensen / organs, vocals
- Erik Paulsen / bass, vocals
- Eskil Nyhus / drums, cymbals
- Alessandro G. Elide / percussion, gongs

Releases information

Artwork: Julia Proszowska Lund
Label: Karisma Records
Format: Vinyl, CD, Digital
June 12, 2020

Thanks to mbzr48 for the addition
and to rivertree for the last updates
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ARABS IN ASPIC Madness and Magic ratings distribution

(132 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(20%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(52%)
Good, but non-essential (21%)
Collectors/fans only (5%)
Poor. Only for completionists (2%)

ARABS IN ASPIC Madness and Magic reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by TCat
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars This is Arabs in Aspic's 6th full length album. "Madness and Magic" is really the perfect name for this album as, when I listen to it, it sounds like an excellent progressive sound (which is the Magic), yet it also sounds almost like it is going to fall apart at any time (the Madness). This combination makes for an intriguing listen, not only on the first listen, but also on subsequent listens. I recognize that saying something sounds like "it is going to fall apart at any time" might seem negative, but in this sense, it gives the music a feeling of unpredictability, which to me, is a great thing. But, along with this, the Magic side of the album is that it sounds authentically progressive, borrowing sounds and shades of classic progressive bands while still sound quite relevant and fresh. It is this mix that keeps me coming back to this excellent and well-constructed album.

But, unfortunately, there are some issues here, which, from reading the previous reviewer's comments, is an issue that the band has had in the past. This problem stems with the odd lyrics that are sometimes embarrassingly bad. For those listeners that don't put a lot of weight on the lyrics, this might slip by unnoticed, but since lyrics and vocals are quite an important part of the band's music here, it is hard to imagine that the listener would just not notice that. Looking at past ratings for the band's previous albums, each one of them has managed to average at 4 stars. Honestly, this is the first time I have heard this band, though I have heard of them before. The fact that they haven't raised or lowered that score among fellow Archive raters, does concern me a bit, but listening to this album does make me want to explore deeper into their music.

The 6 songs on this album are all "fused" together, each one flowing into the next, almost making this entire endeavor sound like a suite. However, it's obviously not that as each song (except for the two part "Lullaby for Modern Kids") is it's own entity. But through these songs, one things remains constant, excellent composition and well-constructed progressive music, which flows along quite smoothly from drifting, psychedelic passages to melodic sections to heavy and solid riffs. The album definitely has something for everyone, but also seems focused to deliver high-quality music. But it is the instrumental portions of the album that are the best and that stand out the most in the first several listens, and the vocal complexities soon become a more appreciated part of the music as both your ear and mind adjust to the style.

This is an album that will impress most progressive listeners right at the outset. Of course the track that will garner the most interest from the progressive crowd will be the 16+ minute "Heaven in Your Eye", which again is almost perfect, but seems to end a bit lackluster and abruptly, like the song is ready to move on to another section, but instead just quickly fades out. There are a few minor issues like that that seem to keep this album from reaching a 5 star status, but hopefully that doesn't keep anyone from at least giving this album a try. It's not a masterpiece, but it is still quite enjoyable and worthy of 4 stars.

Review by Windhawk
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Norwegian band ARABS IN ASPIC has been a part of the progressive rock scene in Norway for more than 20 years, with the greater majority of the band's output appearing in the last 10 years. "Madness and Magic" is their sixth full length studio production, and was released through Norwegian label Karisma records in the early summer of 2020.

Arabs In Aspic is a seasoned, veteran band at this point, probably very well aware of what they are doing, what they want to achieve and how to go about it to get the desired end result. The band also strikes me as one with a strong affection for what they are doing, and with a creative spirit still going strong too. A very strong production by a veteran progressive rock band, and an album that warrants a check by those who treasure progressive rock bands with a retro-oriented sound and approach combined with an eclectic and expressive spirit.

Review by nick_h_nz
COLLABORATOR Prog Metal / Heavy Prog Team
4 stars [Originally published at The Progressive Aspect]

What do you get if you cross the albums Wish You Were Here and Sabbath Bloody Sabbath? I'd be hard pressed to give a better answer than Madness and Magic. Heck, even the title could be considered an allusion to the two albums. OK, it's not as far as I'm aware (and I'd be very surprised to find it is), but still, there's a heck of a lot of Floydian and Sabbath tropes in the music of the latest album from Arabs in Aspic. I Vow to Thee My Screen wouldn't be terribly out of place on either album from the mid '70s, and this is something Arabs in Aspic have always done incredibly well. Their recreation of the classic '70s prog sound has always been superb.

Of course, it's not all Floyd and Sabbath. The first part of Lullaby for Modern Kids is reminiscent of Gentle Giant and Jethro Tull, while the second part of the song is more reminiscent of Genesis and King Crimson. It's all gloriously done, and unlike a lot of retro prog, never sounds either dated, forced, or derivative. The influences are there, but it's always a unique take on them, which could never be mistaken for the original. The prog greats of the '70s provide inspiration, not derivation, for Arabs in Aspic. I first came across the band with their 2013 album Pictures in a Dream, and was immediately smitten. I've been following the band since, and they're yet to let me down.

With swathes of Hammond and Mellotron, and some chunky and meaty guitar, Arabs in Aspic really serve up a huge helping of catchy and vibrant songs. They're a band that's genuinely fun to listen to. I've never been a great fan of Led Zep and Deep Purple, but when Arabs in Aspic pay tribute to them, I have no problem. They take a sound that's recognisably someone else's and make it entirely their own. The only band that Arabs in Aspic actually sound like is' Arabs in Aspic! This is something that's bewildered and enchanted me since I first heard the band. There are bands I listen to, and cringe when I hear them more or less mirroring the sound of their influences. Arabs in Aspic never do this, so even if you can recognise an influence, it still sounds original and unique.

They are masters of all styles, too. Take the funky groove of High-Tech Parent for example. Again, I could easily tell you who I find this song reminiscent of, but there's little point. It doesn't sound like them. It sounds like Arabs in Aspic. Any reminiscence is just that. By now, from the three song titles I've given, the lyrical theme of the album is probably relatively apparent. It's possibly a little overbearing for some listeners, but I've never really been one to be too worried about lyrics. For me, the voice is just another instrument in the mix, and I love the vocals on this album, regardless of what the lyrics are.

My favourite aspect of this album, though, is the percussion. Alessandro G. Elide was a guest musician on the previous Arabs in Aspic album, but is credited as a full member this time around, and he provides an integral part of the sound of this album. The two percussionists bang and crash upon multiple instruments throughout, and provide much of the whimsy and innocence that pervades the album. Despite the dark Fear of a Blank Planet-like themes, the music is delightful. The aforementioned High Tech Parent sounds happy and joyful if you listen to the music. Not so much, if you pay attention to the lyrics. This contradictory nature runs throughout the album, and the 'boys with their toys' percussion gives a lot of the levity to the music.

Even though I don't pay much attention to lyrics, one stood out for me, and that's the line 'A lad insane', which must surely by a Bowie reference. That line occurs in the title track, which is the only song that does sound noticeably more menacing, and yet it's the kind of menace that's still somehow tolerable, perhaps even lovable. Madness and Magic is one of my favourite songs on the album. It's incredibly catchy, and the hooks are such that they stay in my brain, and I find myself humming the tune to myself long after I've stopped listening.

The best is left until last, though, with the just short of seventeen minute epic Heaven in Your Eyes. With the percussion in this, and the way the song jams, this is more Black Santana, than the Pink Sabbath of the opening number in places. But there's so much going on in this song, and so many changes, it's just a constantly evolving delight. I know I've used that word a lot (or, at least, it feels like I have), but it's what I keep coming back to. Every twist and turn delights. It's no longer surprising, as it was on first listen, but it's still delightful. The effortless way Arabs in Aspic entertains is unrivalled. Despite Madness and Magic being their most mature and assured album yet, it carries with it a childlike naivety and glee. For me, this is the best Arabs in Aspic album yet. The only worry I have now is how they can possibly top this.

Latest members reviews

3 stars As a huge fan of Hammond drenched Heavy Progressive, like Deep Purple and Uriah Heep, I was very pleased to discover the Norwegian five piece formation Arabs In Aspic, when I got the live album Live At Avantgarden to review, in 2018. I was blown away: cascades of Hammond organ, blended with heav ... (read more)

Report this review (#2450581) | Posted by TenYearsAfter | Thursday, September 24, 2020 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Since "Picture in a dream", Arabs In Aspic is one of my favorite band. I look forward to their new releases. It's not that their music is original, no. It comes to us straight from the 70s. I follow this band for a whole different reason: it always surprised me! Arabs In Aspic is known for the ... (read more)

Report this review (#2439142) | Posted by Muskrat | Tuesday, August 18, 2020 | Review Permanlink

3 stars Arabs in Aspic is a Norwegian symphonic prog rock band. I've known about them for quite a while and I've heard a few songs here and there but this is the first album I've listened to front to back. The music here is seriously fantastic, it sounds great, its epic, extremely layered and detailed. ... (read more)

Report this review (#2413441) | Posted by dougmcauliffe | Tuesday, June 16, 2020 | Review Permanlink

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