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MAJESTIC

Neo-Prog • United States


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Majestic biography
MAJESTIC was formed as a one-man project in the US by Jeff Hamel. Hamel started playing guitar at the age of 14 and began his musical career as the guitarist for the 80's progressive metal band OSMIUM. Hamel then studied recording technology at the Record Institute of Detroit.

In 2004, Hamel started his MAJESTIC project. As a multi-instrumentalist, Hamel took on the task of composing and recording all of the music himself, while occasionally seeking the vocal talents of other artists. He released the first MAJESTIC album "Descension" in 2007. He followed this up with "String Theory" in 2008, bringing in a guest vocalist on one track and a guest flautist on another. At the beginning of 2009, he released a compilation CD, "Majestic Sampler 09", which included tracks from the first two CDs as well as unreleased songs.

In 2008, Hamel began performing with vocalist and lyricist Jessica Rasche, who had been singing since the age of nine. The two released the album "Arrival" in 2009.

The band's influences include YES, GENESIS, DREAM THEATER, RIVERSIDE, AYREON, KING CRIMSON and DEEP PURPLE, as well as more 80's-oriented fare, such as Pat Benetar and HEART.

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Buy MAJESTIC Music


Trinity OvertureTrinity Overture
Import
Toshiba EMI Japan 2000
Audio CD$43.46
$9.50 (used)
VozVoz
CD Baby 2012
Audio CD$8.77
$9.99 (used)
Abstract SymphonyAbstract Symphony
TDNE 2011
Audio CD$19.99 (used)
Right Now on Ebay (logo)
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More places to buy MAJESTIC music online Buy MAJESTIC & Prog Rock Digital Music online:
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MAJESTIC shows & tickets


  • Creamfields 2014 on 22 Aug 2014

MAJESTIC discography


Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help Progarchives.com to complete the discography and add albums

MAJESTIC top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

2.67 | 14 ratings
Descension
2007
3.34 | 4 ratings
String Theory
2008
4.12 | 46 ratings
Arrival
2009
3.51 | 30 ratings
Ataraxia
2010
3.67 | 19 ratings
Labyrinth
2011
3.82 | 65 ratings
V.O.Z.
2012
3.85 | 15 ratings
Epsilon 1
2014

MAJESTIC Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

MAJESTIC Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

MAJESTIC Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

0.00 | 0 ratings
Majestic Sampler 09
2009

MAJESTIC Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

4.00 | 5 ratings
Clover Suite
2009

MAJESTIC Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Epsilon 1 by MAJESTIC album cover Studio Album, 2014
3.85 | 15 ratings

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Epsilon 1
Majestic Neo-Prog

Review by tszirmay
Special Collaborator Crossover Team

4 stars Majestic keeps on rolling with a 2014 release, the heavily sci-fied 'Epsilon 1', a future musical universe of galactic dimension. As usual with multi-instrumentalist and compose Jeff Hamel, the discerning prog fan will be comforted with the usual parameters to rely on, such as Hamel handling all the keys, bass and guitars, plus the ubiquitous epic suite to dazzle the minds, as well as some neat surprises. One such revelation is the presence of the unique Marc Atkinson (ex-Nine Stones Close and currently manning Riversea) , a voice that is about as melancholic as it gets, who guests on the third track 'Starlight'. This album represents a definite maturing in the depth of Hamel's vision, closer than ever to Ayreon's epic grandiloquence, propelled by Mike Kosacek's heavy metal drum pounding. The remaining cameo spots are vocalists Celine Derval, Chris Hodges and David Cagle.

The symphonic brouhaha begins with the fiery 11 minute+ 'Chariots', featuring Hodges' heavy rock singer voice. Echoing pools of ivory splendor with some lush mellotron torrents, the mood expands into a harder edged universe, clanging guitar chords fighting off both heavier riffs and thunderous drums.

The psychotic 'Mother Dearest' is even heavier and brasher , skirting into outright metal horizons, emitting a DT, Roswell 6, Rocket Scientists feel, with Kosacek in particular bashing a hard bass drum , fueling some leaden riffs, screeching leads and propulsive bass. The dissonant mid-section emits a strong sensation of perplexity, cottony surrender and flaccid drooling. Swirling moods, vocoded voice (Derval) and intransigent guitar shavings create quite a magic carpet ride of inane psychedelic mania.

There is no denying Marc Atkinson's voice commanding deep respect on the luminous 'Starlight', he is the owner of one of the finest voices in prog, a moodier version of Steve Hoggarth and Mark Hollis. His vocals have a pleading and reverential quality that is impossible to emulate, profound melancholia and tight emotion are intertwined with delicate creativity. Swivelling synthesizer keeps the mood floating towards a higher purpose, contemplative and introspective, Hamel's lead guitar excursions providing all the shriek and strain needed to raise the goose bumps to a higher level. Ten minutes of ample bliss and hefty beauty.

As per his back catalogue, Hamel usually excels in the epic suite department (check out 'Arrival') and the 'Epsilon 1' extravaganza shows once again what a terrific composer the man is, building a three-part 24 minute + symphony of galactic fare of the very highest pedigree. This is rightfully the core of the album and is the defining factor in its inherent excellence. 'Event Horizon' is first up and longest of the trio, setting the tone for the imminent journey as Hamel has his axe screeching with impunity, weaving a clever and dense melody that will set the controls to the heart of the Epsilon universe, displaying a sublime blues-based technique that shines ever so brightly. The synth-blown main theme is achingly dazzling and revealing, with new vocalist David Cagle introducing his impressive Lou Gramm-like voice to the front of the stage, amid the glittering adornments and the steady beat from the ever reliable Kosacek.

Part 2 'Doorways ratchets it up a notch with a platform for some serious soloing including stellar lead guitar that is both very linear and exceedingly corrosive , all pushed forward by a turbocharged rhythm section, plowing madly forward. Hey, a little 'boom-boom-tchak' blowout is always welcome! Phenomenal and exciting, this will get the string mellotron fans excited as the walls of sound become bombastic and tyrannical, tossing in some insistent piano as well as the buzzing guitar insolence. Damn this is virtuous stuff indeed!

Part 3 'Samskaras is the icing on the cake, a return to the part 1 theme and a more ominous bass growl , Cagle now howling his inner pain while the guitar gently bites, snipes and chews relentlessly. Grandiose and magnificent, the Majestic sound has precisely that attribute in spades, a constant energy, a devout passion and incredible delivery. The mostly vocal finale is proof in the pudding, a glowing eruption of sheer delight. Typical sci-fi cover art adorns the package, another worthy effort in a splendid Majestic career, with many more to come, we all hope! I have become a huge fan of this unpretentious artist, you all need to give it a try.

4.5 planet Zorgons

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 Arrival by MAJESTIC album cover Studio Album, 2009
4.12 | 46 ratings

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Arrival
Majestic Neo-Prog

Review by tszirmay
Special Collaborator Crossover Team

5 stars 2009's 'Arrival' is a splendid career-making monument to multi-instrumentalist Jeff Hamel, a composer and artist of the very highest order who unfortunately does not yet receive his meritorious due. Well, I feel a gross injustice in seeing too few adherents to such a stellar musician and his craft. Majestic all started for me with the unexpected genius of 2012's 'V.O.Z.' a killer double CD of the very highest caliber. So I went out and got from Jeff the latest 2014 release 'Epsilon 1' and this slice of genius which had already received very high ratings. I was also inspired by the rather simple artwork which somehow harkened back to Robin Trower's classic 'Bridge of Sighs' (in my opinion, a huge missing link on PA). 4 tracks, two long ones and two shorter ones, all stellar stuff!

A bold move to kick off an album with a 22 minute rambler but 'Gray' gets it done. Both Jeff Hamel and Jessica Rasche combine to entwine their vocal chords in a brief serenade that precedes the booming explosion, a bull-dozing mellotron and guitar assault on the senses, sternly powered by some potent drumming. One can conjure similarities with Ayreon (or its softer off-shoot Ambeon) or Polish heavy-prog advocates Riverside but Hamel likes to bejewel his own diamonds into the mix, tallying voice effects, grandiloquent arrangements and sweltering soloing on the guitar. Essentially full-on turbo prog motoring, the relentless assault is vibrant and epic, a steamroller with attention to melody and detail. A playground section has children voices playing in apparent joy, sweeping synthesized winds blowing the leaves across some fictive carousel, leisurely building towards another glorious chorus (Jessica has a fine voice!), the bass climbs on the bandwagon and Hamel slithers up and down his fret board with apparent glee. A sudden morph into a quasi Hawkwind-like riff , more thumping organ and drums in unison and POW, a slingshot into the cosmos! An emblematic Floydian mood is then firmly established with sublime female wailing, Hamel then offering up a vocal counterpoint and letting his brash guitar do the ranting! Crash and burn outro gives this piece some serious credentials in terms of substance and power.

The immortally striking 'Wish' is perhaps one of the finest tracks in the last 10 years, an explosive cocktail of urgency and desire, complete with stunning acoustic guitar work and much later in the track, a long, sensual and saturated solo of incredible stature, feel and immensity, a true guitar solo classic of the genre. Crystalline droplets of shimmering beauty permit Rasche to blow the roof off with some Kate Bush-like wailing that will force any prog fan to kneel in absolute reverence. This uncomplicated piece has captured my deepest interest and I find myself returning to it often and with great anticipation. What a genial performance!

The rambunctious onslaught of crushing bulldozer rock found on 'Glide' will undoubtedly wake you up from any mid-afternoon siesta and get you pumped up, big time! Unwittingly on the heavier side of the spectrum, this 9 minute+ rocker will raise the heart rate and provide an exhilarating sense of enjoyment, again due to the explosive Rasche voice, as well as the stunning keyboard, bass and drum work executed by Mr Hamel. His gurgling synthesizer solo spot will enhance his leaden rifferama to the highest apex, twisting on a dime, stop- start accelerations and just merciless soloing.

Then to close off the proceedings with a whopping title track 36 minute finale ,well that takes guts, balls, cojones , call 'em what you will! Astrophysical seminar expertise effects , tolling guitars announcing some interplanetary event on the horizon , a hint of Yes (Soon section on Relayer), an unmistakable dash of Funkadelic's classic guitar rant 'Maggot Brain', some vigorous symphonics , incredible vocal inflections from Jessica Rasche that all conspire together to construct a memorable main theme that will sear your brain. Nothing rushed or formulaic, always fresh and exalting, constantly pulsating and energetic. The 'show me now, how to live' vocal section is outright orgasmic, terrifically inspired guitar blasting notes beyond the stars. No fluff here! Then follows an extended instrumental platform where the master gets to show some serious chops and intensive creativity. Loads of endless screeching wah-wah infused guitar, played by a man possessed but mostly, an unconcealed sense of effortless enjoyment. As far as massive epics go, this one reigns supreme! Jessica blasts forth some 'little pieces' with incredible energy, a vocal tour de force that will blow your mind or your speakers (or both). WOW!

It stands to reason that this is the highest rated Majestic album to date, a massive success in terms of heavy neo-prog but honestly, Majestic is a cinema show on its own standing, utterly deserving of the highest accolades and most exuberant applause.

5 Departures

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 String Theory by MAJESTIC album cover Studio Album, 2008
3.34 | 4 ratings

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String Theory
Majestic Neo-Prog

Review by apps79
Special Collaborator Neo Prog Team

3 stars The second album of Majestic aka Jeff Hamel was released in 2008, just a few months after ''Descension''.The material of this work was again written a few years back, but -unlike Majestic's debut- this one was released on Andromeda Recordings, following a commitment of the artist to the label.Some vocal parts are credited to a man named Di and the only flute part of the album to a figure named Elzbieta.The title was ''String theory'', expect no strings to appear in this work with the title refering to the invisible bands of energy dominating the universal space.

As aforementioned, no string are expected to be heard, expect though to listen to lots of spacey and orchestral underlines in such a cosmic concept album, wrapped in the already set Heavy/Neo Prog style of Majestic.The music follows the sensibilities of PINK FLOYD and PORCUPINE TREE with heavy contexts surrounded by ethereal textures with Hamel providing a balance between melodic and atmospheric passages.He calls his album ''symphonic'', but this one gets much along the lines of COSMOGRAF, NINE STONES CLOSE and RIVERSEA, flirting with old and modern styles in an equal manner.Guitars are the leading instruments with plenty of electric leads and some acoustic overtones (where GENESIS come in mind), featuring nice grooves and solos with heavier runs and some psychedelic distortions, but the concept is always surrounded by some gransiose keyboard parts with spacey and orchestral inspirations.Vocals are expressive and powerful, albeit not of first-class, and the whole work runs easily, based on the endless changing climates and the ability of Hamel to combine perfectly melody and atmosphere.Apart from the grandiose keyboard background, there are also plenty of dynamic synth flashes with the Neo Prog influences becoming more than apparent during these moments.''Tonight'', the only track with flutes, is a great attempt by Hamel on a more retro-styled Prog Rock and a more laid-back, almost CAMEL-esque enviroment, certainly among the most versatile pieces of the album.

Jeff Hamel was here to stay and not releasing his personal work would be a shame.This is some pretty nice modern Prog with lots of energy, passion and interesting ideas, featuring the great talents of an emerging Prog composer.Recommended.

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 Arrival by MAJESTIC album cover Studio Album, 2009
4.12 | 46 ratings

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Arrival
Majestic Neo-Prog

Review by kev rowland
Special Collaborator Crossover Team

4 stars In 2004, multi-instrumentalist Jeff Hamel (from prog-metallers Osmium) started working as Majestic, working mostly on his own with just the occasional guest singer. After releasing a couple of albums he joined forces with vocalist and lyricist Jessica Rasche, and together they worked on 'Arrival', which was released in 2009. There are only four songs, but with an album length of over 77 minutes you can work out for yourself that they are a little long. In fact, there are only two real epics, with the two in the middle being 'just' nine minutes each. At no point this this seem like a project, as there is a real band feel to the proceedings and there is also a great deal of restraint so that all of the music makes sense as opposed to self-indulgency, which can creep on some projects. Another thing that really hits home is the lack of fat within the songs. The first time I played this I was astounded when I realized that "Grey" has been playing for more than twenty minutes as I had the impression that it had only been on the player for a very short period of time.

Symphonic, yet with plenty of prog metal overtones, elements of Floyd mixed with some of Dream Theater, this is a heck of an album. If you go to the website and sign up to the newsletter you can download some albums free of charge so why not give it a try? www.majesticsongs.com

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 String Theory by MAJESTIC album cover Studio Album, 2008
3.34 | 4 ratings

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String Theory
Majestic Neo-Prog

Review by mbzr48

4 stars Just 3 weeks ago I had the pleasure of reviewing Majestic's 2009 release "Arrival" (5 Stars from me). Now I am taking a trip with the band and I went to the 2014 new release Epsilon 1 (4.5 Stars from me) going to their second release "String Theory" which was released in 2008. At this point in Majestic's career the instrumentation and vocals are almost all done by Jeff Hamel. On "Worlds Apart" features a female vocalist named Di who counters Jeff's vocals. In all honesty, I wished Di was the primary singer with Jeff concentrating on the instrumentation and some backing vocals. The best tracks on the album are "Circles" and "Maiden Voyage" On String Theory, there's 10 songs ranging from 3 to 9 minutes. Plus there's two acoustic songs as bonus tracks. The listener is treated to the evolution of Jeff Hamel and Majestic with the better songs on the next album, Arrival. This is an important album to get as it ranges from fluid Pink Floydism to some aggressive guitar work.. Oh there's another guest player on the song "Tonight" in the form of a flautist named Elzbeita In closing, this is a vital part of Majestic's history. I would recommend listening to String Theory first then Arrival afterwards. You'll get a sense of the evolution of this one man band plus. This is recommended for fans of melodic progressive rock with some metallic guitar parts. Solid 4 Star from me!

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 Arrival by MAJESTIC album cover Studio Album, 2009
4.12 | 46 ratings

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Arrival
Majestic Neo-Prog

Review by mbzr48

5 stars In 2009, American progressive rock band, Majestic, released their third album Arrival. Majestic is comprised of multi-instrumentalist Jeff Hamel and vocalist Jessica Rasche. Both of them create their own brand of progressive rock that involves stepping into the progressive metal camp. The biggest difference with Majestic is that they are not clones of what's been released in the market. One band I'm reminded of, when Jessica sings, is another American band called Leger De Main.

Arrival is comprised of 4 long tracks, the longest being 36 minutes and the shortest, 9 minutes. Opening this album is "Gray" (22:39) and showcases both Jeff & Jessica's vocals. They compliment each other flawlessly here. The song flows perfectly going from full on progressive metal to progressive/space rock in the course of the track. The way the instrumentation is, reminds me a little bit of Anbeon (an Ayreon off-shoot band).

"Wish" (9:12) which is a vehicle for Jessica's vocals. Jeff plays a softer almost acoustic guitar playing here. The song reminds me of a Wish You Were Here vibe. Next up is "Glide" (9:36). The instrumentation switched gears to a metallic guitar assault, almost a flip side of "Wish". About 4 minutes into the song, there tempo slows down then continues on with the metallic wave. This song will satisfy most progressive metal and heavy progressive rock fans alike.

The ending song, is the title track (36:04) aside from having the album title, this is the main focal point of the album. It also showcases how the band sounds in 2009. From it's spacey beginning, "Arrival" takes the listener on an aural journey. While having some metallic guitar parts, especially towards the end, this is further from the progressive metal vibe the rest of the album has. This song alone is, to me, what the Majestic output is all about (in 2009). I was told by Jeff that the next album will have a different sound.

In closing both Jeff & Jessica create what has become a favorite of mine. Had I received this back in 2009, it would surely grace my favorites of that year, hands down. If you like long epic lengthy tracks and a fan of Pink Floyd and the spacier side of Ayreon then Arrival is the album you need in your collection. With excellent instrumentation and vocals, Arrival gets a high recommendation! For me a 5 Star, Big find!

Clover, a 4 part suite was recorded after Arrival, and are a separate entity, I felt it important to mention Clover here within this review. According to Jeff, he wanted to have some shorter pieces of music to show what Majestic was all about. It was also recorded while Jeff & Jessica were contributing to the Proximal Distance project. The Clover suite is available as a FREE download on the Majestic website. If you're already a fan of the band or even a newbie (such as myself) this would a perfect starting point within the Majestic catalog.

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 V.O.Z. by MAJESTIC album cover Studio Album, 2012
3.82 | 65 ratings

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V.O.Z.
Majestic Neo-Prog

Review by ProgShine
Collaborator Errors & Omissions and Crossover Team

4 stars In the Rock world there are just a few double albums that are considered classics. Usually double albums of new material are flops or hits, no middle path. In my personal music experience only three double albums stick to my mind as hits: Smashing Pumpkins' Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadbess (1995), Andrew Lloyd Weber & Tim Rice's Jesus Christ Superstar (1970) and the album that has pretty much changed my life, The Wall (1979) by Pink Floyd.

If Majestic's new album V.O.Z. (2012) is a hit or a flop only time will tell, but one thing is certain, you need guts to release a double Prog Rock album in today's music world. You must give them that! Majestic is a recording project located in Minneapolis (USA) and it was created by Jeff Hamel that is the leader, writer and producer. V.O.Z. (2012) is the sixth album by them.

On V.O.Z. (2012) Jeff Hamel plays the guitars, basses and keyboards on the whole album. Mike Kosacek is responsible for the drums and percussion. The fact that there are only two musicians on it gives V.O.Z. (2012) a certain unity, even when the album has four different vocalists: David Cagle, Tara Morgan, Chris Hodges and Celine Derval. In fact, having different singers was a very clever move. Being written and recorded during 2 years V.O.Z. (2012) has also a weird and mysterious cover made by Vladimir Moldavsky. I have to say that when I received V.O.Z. (2012) important questions about the whole double album thing came to my mind: Is it possible to release a double CD nowadays and really be listened to? What's the meaning of a double album these days?

As I explained in the beginning, it is quite complicated to answer that. And even if Majestic did a great job on V.O.Z. (2012) with strong compositions, high musicianship and originality, it is quite hard to pay attention to the whole. For me an album is an album, if you know what I mean. You cannot listen to CD 1 today and CD 2 tomorrow. I sit and listen to everything. And even if V.O.Z. (2012) it's a pleasure to listen, it is quite complicated to sit down and go through the almost two hours of music. Maybe it is the new times or something, but for me an album should have about 45/50 minutes. That's the amount of time that my mind pays a close and focused attention to, more than that the music starts to vanish, little by little.

CD 1 is mainly based on the VOZ piece and divided into ten different parts. The only exception is the track one 'In Memory Of?' that is highly influenced by Yes, but overall Majestic's music is quite unique and original. The VOZ concept is based on a story about a guy named Zosimos, who sailed across the ocean to a new land. It is pretty much about the discovery of the darkness inside yourself. Both instrumental and vocal songs flow in a fluid way throughout the first CD and because of that it's quite hard to describe the 'best song'. It's a flow of excellent tracks that could be easily fit as a best album of 2012.

Then comes CD 2 and the troubles start for me. The second album is based on 7 tracks and they have no relation with the VOZ piece of the CD 1. And in that resides my problem as a listener. The concept piece is a pleasure to hear and makes you feel comfortable with the music, there's a flow, there's a path. When you change the CD and you notice that the music that's about to come has no relation to the beginning, the pleasure starts to fade away. Not that the music on the second disc is bad, far away from that. When you actually listen to it you can find pleasure in doing so. But in my mind Majestic would be better served if they had released V.O.Z. (2012) as a single album and the second disc could be worked on as their next album. That would make things easier, but who said that Prog is an easy thing anyway!?

But don't be discouraged by the double thing. Majestic has a unique sound. Jeff Hamel doesn't attach himself in any subgenre within Progressive Rock, he plays all of them and with talent. In a moment you're listening Prog Metal in the next it's a Symphonic Prog. That makes the V.O.Z. (2012) listening experience quite unique.

This experience is just augmented when you have a superb production and great songs. And that Majestic has all the way! If you're not afraid of big challenges V.O.Z. (2012) is the perfect album for you!

(Originally posted on progshine.net)

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 V.O.Z. by MAJESTIC album cover Studio Album, 2012
3.82 | 65 ratings

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V.O.Z.
Majestic Neo-Prog

Review by Rivertree
Special Collaborator Psych/Space Team & Band Submissions

4 stars MAJESTIC is the brainchild of Jeff Hamel, underway with this project for some years. Additionally supported by drummer Mike Kosacek and some reliable male and female vocalists he surely dominates the production with his instruments (guitars, keyboards). I'm not aware of the former recordings - this new double CD 'V.O.Z.' marks a mesmerizing thing in any case - yeah, you bet - the album promises some wonderful experiences .... when you allocate enough time to plunge into the entire thing with care.

The song content is often smooth and melodic, though definitely also heavy at times and provided with a high proportion of psychedelic impressions, thus 'V.O.Z.' represents variety all the way through, entertainment pure. CD1 is reserved for the distinguished title epic, segmented in eleven parts, There might be a concept behind that, mirroring a special journey, apparently even rather dangerous. Yes, some dramaturgy is to smell in between, just take the closing Voyage Ends or Freefall for example, which is comprised of spaced out moments.

The journey arrives the peak with Crossing Meridian -'we are sailing on, on and on ...' - an intriguing refrain is given in between, suitable for singing along. And then - scarcely to be expected - on CD2 Jeff totally comes out of hiding, I surprisingly stumbled upon an awe-inspiring psychedelic triple made of Spirits Dwell, Around The Sun and Hyperbole - wow, this twentyfour minute affair is worthwhile alone, can be perceived as a prog masterpiece per se.

Let it rock! The long runner Red Skies finally gathers pace again and comes with metal riffs as well as nice female vocals. Everything your heart desires - with 'V.O.Z.' Jeff Hamel varies a lot on guitar and keys, comes across many prog genres hereby - well, an ambitious attempt, which definitely works on top of it. This proves him to be a prolific musician and composer. Two suites which should convince many prog fans. A highlight in 2012 for sure - 4.5 stars so far - don't miss the boat!

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 V.O.Z. by MAJESTIC album cover Studio Album, 2012
3.82 | 65 ratings

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V.O.Z.
Majestic Neo-Prog

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

3 stars Majestic's V.O.Z. is that most ambitious of all album projects: a 2CD double album offering around two hours of music. Dominated by the hour-long title suite, it's a massive beast which reminds me both in presentation and aesthetic style of some of the Flower Kings' bulkier releases, such as Flower Power - and like Roine Stolt, Majestic's mastermind Jeff Hamel has an ear for a good vocal harmony or two, and co-opts a small quartet of voices to help out with that. With atmospheres ranging from dark to airy and lighthearted, a wide emotional scope is also captured.

When assessing albums such as this, the final score often hinges on whether the reviewer perceives any "filler", a highly subjective point. For my part, I can't give it a very high score because I found some of the sections concentrating on the four-piece choir to outstay their welcome a little and the album doesn't really hold my concentration all the way through; still, if you like the idea of two hours of multi-instrumentalist neo-prog with choral backing, it can't hurt to give this one a spin.

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 V.O.Z. by MAJESTIC album cover Studio Album, 2012
3.82 | 65 ratings

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V.O.Z.
Majestic Neo-Prog

Review by tszirmay
Special Collaborator Crossover Team

5 stars This is a complete masterpiece, a rare event for one-man projects in general as the solitary display can often be a tad sterile but multi-instrumentalist Jeff Hamel delivers a 2 CD album of intense, colorful and cinematographic prog of the very highest order. I chanced on this again via the progstreaming site and immediately purchased the work. A glowing review from Progarchives colleague J-Man convinced me only further. Not quite as folk-proficient as a Michael Oldfield, Hamel prefers a headier set of progressive guidelines to channel his musical vision. There are numerous references to more established acts such as Dream Theater, Porcupine Tree, Riverside, Hawkwind and Pink Floyd but also some sections that honor ambient, soundtrack, neo, symphonic and psychedelic styles to great effect. But what are really striking are the pristine sounds and the spacious and uncluttered deliveries, highlighting fresh soloing ideas within standard prog structures. Hamel handles all instruments with clever technique and inspired performance, obvious proficiency never taking over the desired mood and atmosphere. He is also brave in being unafraid to forge into more bombastic heavy areas, a tad like Arje Lucassen of Ayreon fame. The vocals are equally commendable, his voice has a mellifluous tone that is most appealing, occasionally handing the mike to a series of guest vocalists. The drumming stool is manned by Mike Kosacek.

CD1 has the entire colossal "V.O.Z." suite, broken down in 11 sections that seamlessly flow into another with mature insistence, contrasting serenity and rage and a pure joy to listen to, especially if you enjoy vivid, bright and exhilarating compositions that make your imagination run rampant. The overture "In Memory of?" is a hair-raising affair as massive blasts of symphonic mellotron-like cascades usher in a serene tingling melody and properly prepares the listener for a mind-blowing musical adventure. Section 1 "New World" is initially piano driven with sublime dexterity, a dreamy concoction full of emotion and deep melancholia where a tangled guitar expresses the aspirations of some new frontier. Much to Hamel's credit, he is unafraid to ratchet up the power level and shove the arrangement into more muscular territory, a formula which defines his style and keeps the suite alive and kicking. Looping bass is a highlight, as it carves nicely along. Very cool, indeed! "Crossing Meridian" is more power ballad inclined, jangling guitar phrasings and spirited vocals guiding the piece nicely, a scorching bass leading the charge once again. It has a slight sense of doom in the instrumental section, recalling some of rock heavyweights (Beatles, Pink Floyd, Black Sabbath, Riverside and Dream Theater) and tossing in a few remarkable twists and turns. "Approaching Storm" is where things get hot and heavy, rasping axe scratches and bruising bass both act like depth charges, exposing the harder riff to the swirling torment. Contrary to popular belief, I deeply enjoy the harder stuff but only when it goes beyond the predictable. This is hot, molten lava drenched heavy prog, screeching wildly, scratching mightily and just plain old nasty! Hamel even dares to descend into dissonant pools of atmosphere within a mid-section that exemplifies a foreboding sense of tortured paranoia. Stunning material! "Milestone" meanders even deeper into the troubled psyche, crashing riffs suddenly blooming into a liquid axe solo, showcasing different tones and textures (at times almost jazzy) that defy categorization. This segue bleeds directly into "Whispers" where female vocals rule the roost from the get go, providing a whole new spectrum of listening adventure. Breezy and fresh like some sunny morning in the mountains, the unexpected bliss is highly welcome, especially when the electric guitar shimmers like some silver stream. The flute rivulets only accent the image further. "Freefall" dives head first into more psychedelic realms, keeping the flute dissonance alive, a kaleidoscope of sound effects that evoke a sense of floating helplessness, when imperceptibly a doom laden riff appears from within the marshmallow symphonics, drums splashing wildly and the intensity constantly burning until the final explosion of landing on terra firma. Damn bloody brilliant! The Floydian "Darkened Worlds" has a more acoustic feel featuring a sensational vocal from Jeff, a hefty set of lungs aiding and abetting a lucid guitar rant that is pure Gilmour, massive floating organ waves and slippery synthesizer lines that recall the sadly departed Rick Wright, a simply beautiful piece of music that is glorified by a colossal electric guitar push. Definitely a future classic! "Rise to the Surface" wrestles with a percussive intro, creating a profound sense of upward urgency, a slow burning vortex of sonic splendor featuring a one-two drum beat that would make Mason blush with envy, crisscrossing fretboard shafts that could mimic some hypothetical James Bond chase scene, incandescent guitar and aggressive organ burps shoving the Aston Martin along. A licensed to kill track! "Skies Clear" as the title implies offers some ambient respite, as the howling wind sonics dissipate gently to reveal some imaginary promised land, extremely musical and cinematographic. The "Voyage Ends" with blistering appeal, back to the sweaty monster beat (Ayreon, Rocket Scientists and Riverside fans will love this!) and the mammoth vocal with Lou Gramm (Foreigner) like urgency , a tight and impassioned ending to a delightful suite of tremendous musical expression. The crisp axe shrieks on and on??.I am stunned into utter submission!

CD2 is just as superlative as the first , another side to the majestic story that is certainly insightful but also highly adventurous , like the harpsichord-like intro "Zosimos Sleeps" that then segues into the pile-driving Satriani-ish epic "Becoming", a 10 minute sheer guitar fest with a strong bass partnership in tow, smooth lady vocalizings and some warp speed drumming. A tremendous track to be sure proof that Mister Hamel can sure play guitar! Ayreon fans, sit up and listen! A piano-led midsection adds fantasy to the whole shebang, inserting unending variations and excitement to the mix, eschewing predictability and pedantry. This is music, baby! "Spirits Dwell" unleashes another 8 minute piece of prog bravura, glossy and moody at the same time, with exemplary playing of appropriate notes with no tendencies to show off senseless noodling. The spirit of Floyd is here again but in a harder tone with lots of bluesy nuance, slight hints of 'Us and Them' as well as a lighter allusion to Black Sabbath's 'Iron Man'. There are Mellotron blasts and swirling symphonics to boot. "Around the Sun" introduces some flavorful vocals into the flowing melting pot of psychedelic sound, here vividly recalling early Porcupine Tree with Kosacek doing a masterful job on the kit. "Hyperbole" shows off the louder PT style: firm, strident, coarse, grimy and just plain mean with some fiery soloing (wah-wah pedal to the metal!) and even some steamroller Frippisms. Howling stuff indeed and a definite highlight piece! The previous "Becoming" is reprised on the ivories, a rather stunningly bold move as it slowly raises the pressure and then chooses to release it with some fine axe technique! The gleaming female vocals sing with the lovely guitar in tow, harmonious and expressive to the hilt. The jazzy bass-led piano rumble is bewildering in overt talent, hinting at the hard-jazz improv of classic King Crimson. I mean, c'mon! How delicious is this? Well, shutting down this behemoth with a huge 17 minute colossus is quite courageous but when you have so much ability, why not expose all of it, then? "Red Skies" is a fanciful finale, showcasing bright vocals, pulsating themes, electronic blips and burps, shuffling rhythms, very hard and very soft contrasts at every turn, veering almost into shred/metalloid territory when prompted (Fates Warning?) and finished off by a crystalline voice that keep it all grounded in 'dreamboatland' (imagine a proggy version of Heart) . The dreamy parts are highly glossy and trance-like, with creative orchestrations that exude confidence and purpose. The lightning fast rock parts are spellbinding and utterly complex, demanding attention and respect.

This is an awe-inspiring, kick-my-ass discovery, once again thanks to the progstreaming site and J-Man in particular who directed me with his expressive words to this matchless marvel. I have rarely witnessed a 2CD release with nothing but first-rate material, no spam, no filler, just unadulterated artistic revelation!

5 Spanish voices

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