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MAGDALENA

Symphonic Prog • Japan


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Magdalena biography
Japanese Symphonic scene is pretty fertile but not in the classic style we are used to, instead they have a more eclectic approach that blends our beloved sub-genre with Fusion and Neo Prog influences, it's very common to find female vocalist as in two of their most representative bands like TERU'S SYMPHONIA and MAGDALENA, both leaded by the fabulous Megumi Tokuhisa, the perfect balance between the operatic sound of Annie Haslam and the beautiful but less elaborate vocals of Kate Bush.

The 5 piece Symphonic band was formed in Osaka during the mid 80's and included Taku Fujii (Guitar), Nobuo Itő ( Drums), Youzou Kashima (Keyboards), Chokura Nishiguchi (Bass) and of course Mehumi Tokuhisa as the main vocalist.

In 1987 they released their self titled debut which represents one of the peaks of Japanese Symphonic, the music is clearly inspired in early 70's British Symphonic and it's based in powerful guitar and keyboard, the vocals are one of the strongest points because knowing her versatility Megumi floats between the sweetness in Omen to the almost operatic excesses of Waltz so it captivates the audience with some sort of hypnotic attributes but being the lyrics in Japanese is hard to get into them for any "gaijin" (foreigner) who isn't able to understand anything more demanding than domo arigato.

The band split in in 1981 and Tokuhisa joined TERU'S SYMPHONIA but in 1991 they attempted a reunion, sadly they only released a demo tape that probably will be edited in CD with some bonus material.

If you're into Japanese bands in the borderline that divides Symphonic from Neo Prog, MAGDALENA is your band.

Iván Melgar Morey - Perú

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2.69 | 17 ratings
Magdalena
1987

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MAGDALENA Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Magdalena  by MAGDALENA album cover Studio Album, 1987
2.69 | 17 ratings

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Magdalena
Magdalena Symphonic Prog

Review by Aussie-Byrd-Brother
Special Collaborator Rock Progressivo Italiano Team

3 stars A grand mix of symphonic arrangements, dreamy classical ballads and even surprising rockers, the female fronted Magdalena complement several other bands from Japan active during the 80's/90's playing in a similar progressive style well. It would, however, turn out that even Japan wasn't immune to the `one-and-done' prog curse that befell many bands, and despite lead singer Megumi Tokuhisa going on to the more acclaimed Teru's Symphonia, Magdalena only left behind this one pleasing album before vanishing.

Let's get one thing straight right away - any comparisons to Renaissance and Annie Haslam are very much absurd! With the exception of a few fleeting moments, Megumi sounds nothing like her, and honestly, the only similarity is that they are women and fronting a prog band! Despite frequently singing in an operatic style that is often sublime, at other times her voice takes on a more histrionic wail that can actually be quite shrill and harsh, at odds with the drifting and lush compositions. The cool icy synths have a very similar sheen to early IQ, as do the majestic electric guitar runs, and the classical elements frequently woven into the music give the pieces a rich sophistication, all blessed with such lovely instrumentation and the expected Japanese technical prowess.

`Leanhaun-Shee' opens the disc in suitably epic and symphonic fashion, an IQ-styled piece full of classy orchestrated synths, twinkling piano, stirring drumming and crisp rising guitar lines. Megumi's fragile and commanding voice climbs to the skies through moments of whimsical joy and dark drama, and the brisk instrumental run in the middle is executed perfectly. `Anna Magdalena' is a shorter somber piano, synth and classical guitar ballad with a blistering electric guitar solo in fine Neo tradition in the middle. `Shadow' is an unexpected gutsy heavy rocker, more along Arena's heavy take of the Neo style, full of gothic synths and a dynamic uptempo snappy thrashing energy from the players. `Waltz' is a moody and sweeping darkly flavoured classical opera.

The longest track `Omen' starts as an acoustic guitar lamentation over a tolling church bell, with Rick Wakeman-styled fanfare keyboard pomp, snarling guitar aggression and a ghostly choir soon kicking in. Megumi's vocals are sorrowful and full of longing one minute, then bristling with menace and deranged edge the next. `Lagrima' has a sadly romantic and dreamy female vocal over chiming guitars and dynamic synth orchestration that recalls E.L.P. The hard drumming, murmuring bass and chilly synths remind of 80's Marillion, and the finale has a lovely joyful and triumphant theme. `Left Alone' is a brief lullaby that closes the album with a whispery sweeping classical prettiness.

The only thing that the album has missing from it, despite being expertly performed and nicely produced, is a truly memorable and defining moment. There's not actually a bad track to be found, but there's nothing that really stands out as hugely thrilling either. It's certainly consistent, but just lacking that extra something that would make it truly special. It's still likely of great interest to fans wanting an idea of the progressive bands emerging from Japan at the time, but there's other more important and exciting bands from the era to discover and collect first.

Three stars.

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2.69 | 17 ratings

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Magdalena
Magdalena Symphonic Prog

Review by Tarcisio Moura
Prog Reviewer

2 stars Interesting, but not entirely convincing symphonic prog band from Japan. Another one shot efford from the land of the rising sun. Contrary to eastern bands at the time, prog did thrieve in the 80´s there. I found so many great bands recently that appered at that decade. But Magdalena clearly was more tentive than most. I believe that, with time, they could reach higher grounds. Certainly the potential was there: nice instrumentation, green, but somewhat decent, songwriting, good arrangements. Yet, nothing to write home about it. Celebrated singer Megumi Tokuhisa does have some classical technique, but I found her voice to be more annoying than really good. In the end that´s the album´s biggest problem.

It´s not that the CD is a total failure. Those guys were skilled musicians for sure. Yet they were still feeling their way to a very own sound. Production also does not help a lot, being only average at best. But the histrionic vocals are hard to bear. I´m very fond of female singers in prog, I even like Kate Bush (and she is not my favorite kind of singing voice). Tokuhisa unfortunatly goes a little over the top way too many times in Magdalena. And the band lacked enough songwriting skills to compensate this weakness. If they could get over those issues in future times remains a mystery.

I tried hard to like this CD, but clearly Magdalena is one of the few cases of a japanese prog band that I´m not sorry they didn´t release a follow up. This one is recommended for collectors and hardcore fans only.

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2.69 | 17 ratings

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Magdalena
Magdalena Symphonic Prog

Review by b_olariu
Prog Reviewer

3 stars Magdalena is a band from Japan whoplaying symphonic prog with female voice. The voice is Megumi Tokuhisa, the one that we all see on later releases from Teru's Symphonia, from Egg the univers from 1988 'till the last one from 1997 Do android dream of electric camel. Some guest on this self titled album like:Hiroko Nagai from Pageant voice on track 3 and 5, Kazue Akao from Terra Rosa voice on track 3 and Kazuhiro Miyatake flute. So the music is very symphonic with lots of great orchestrations and is sung in japanese. The voice of Megumi is sometimes very melancolic like on Waltz and Anna Magdalena or is a bit rough like on Shadow a rockier piece but still symphonic prog. All in all not much to add just a good album not something special, but worth listen at least one. Magdalena is considered among the best bands from Japan who presents symphonic mellow songs with lots of emotions. 3 stars

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2.69 | 17 ratings

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Magdalena
Magdalena Symphonic Prog

Review by kenethlevine
Special Collaborator Prog-Folk Team

1 stars This album pre-dates and presages most of the works of Teru's Symphonia with whom they shared vocalist Megumi Tokuhisa, and in fact many parallels exist between the two bands in their bombastic styles and instrumentation, independent of those vocals. Other similarities can be seen to contemporary Japanese groups like Outer Limits and Pale Acute Moon, while Megumi flirts with the histrionics of one Annie Haslam.

Yet to me this is a far inferior product than any of the above. The songs here lack any appeal that extends beyond their boundaries, the bombast is executed without a sense of fun or panache, the solos are aimless and the arrangements are forgettable. Megumi neither purrs softly nor lashes out vindictively as she would later with T.S., instead occupying a limited emotional range in her enunciations of the wordless and the wordy.

While I am tempted to add a star simply for the chutzpah of producing symphonic prog in the mid 80s, I would have to dock it because efforts like this could have killed the nascent resurgence before it ever got started. Wholly dispensable.

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Magdalena
Magdalena Symphonic Prog

Review by memowakeman
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

3 stars Magdalena from Japan!

A friend of mine who likes prog (actually i have seen him only 3 times in my life, 2 in concerts) suggested me long time ago this japanese band which released only an eponymous album, it was strange because in his collection of so many albums, Magdalena created a good taste in him at the point to remember what Magdalena sounds, i mean, my friend owns so many albums that he actually doesn`t know what so many of them sound like, the fact of suggest it to me, made me think of getting thae album, so when i last saw him i asked him to share the album to me, since then i have listened to it several times, and now let me tell you about it.

As i said in the first line, this band called Magdalena comes from Japan, in the late 80`s when prog was not so prolific or that good, they released their only album which contains 7 songs, and since the first song showing a symphonic oriented sound.

This band has female vocals , in their native japanese language, and actually when i first listened to it, and i think every day i listen to it i think immediately in some japanese cartoons, the vocals remind me at the first time like if it were a original cartoon sountrack or something, very typical sound from Japan.

The band has not an "extra" instrument, i mean it has the traditional instruments, none of them with an outstanding sound, but all pretty nice, the third song for example doesnt`sound as classic as others, it has a darker atmosphere since the beggining of it when guitar plays and then keyboards joins with it`s atmospherical sound , also if you want a comparision ( a silly comparision) the vocals remind me a bit of Kate Bush`s tones and it could be annoying sometimes.

In "Waltz" she shows us her dramatic and opera voice, with a soft and dark sound at the same time , the music is average, very nice guitar riffs during it. "Omen" could be the best song in this album, it`s the longest of them all, and the most different between them, not so conventional , but actually nothing innovative to the music that we know, its a very nice song which has a nice acoustic guitar and melodic keyboards , which is progressing and making a better sound during the song , also it has kind of backing gregorian vocals, and a clear symphonic sound, giving us some pretty changes.

Despite being a symphonic album, with it`s different influences, i think japanese symphonic prog has it`s own influences and it`s own sound, this Magdalena`s sound has nothing to do with Ars Nova for example, i would say this album is less complex and less innovative or challenging, maybe average could be the word, of course it`s enjoyable, i like it, and i recommend it if you wish to have a good time with a new horizon, but nothing to be proud of, so 3 stars for me, recommendable - yes, essential - no.

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2.69 | 17 ratings

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Magdalena
Magdalena Symphonic Prog

Review by Marcelo
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Very nice and refined music, essentially beautiful melodies played with symphonic instrumentation.

Not unlike another Japanese bands as MUGEN or VERMILLION SANDS, MAGDALENA uses classical music influences with keyboards and guitar important presence, adding a female almost operatic singer, Megumi Tokuhisa. Precisely, here is a weak point, IMHO: she sings (in Japanese) like Kate Bush, but sometimes her voice seems strident, distracting attention from beautiful music.

Three longest tracks are the highlights, but melodically the whole album is impeccable. If you are searching for very refined symphonic music and don't care about shrill or excessively sharp voices, you'll find this album very enjoyable.

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