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Saga - The Human Condition CD (album) cover




Crossover Prog

3.49 | 114 ratings

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Queen By-Tor
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Cranking on the prog knob.

With one of their founding members gone, Saga takes a step in another direction. Apparently, this time around they've also decided to capitalize on the prog-headedness of a lot of their fans and have added plenty of elements of modern progressive rock into their music. The result is something that sits somewhere between good old hard rock, and completely modern neo-progressive music. The addition of a new vocalist, replacing the pipes of someone who had been with the band for around 30 years, makes this album something of a dangerous when when the fans are looking at it, after all, how will Saga still sound like Saga without the distinctive lead of Michael Sadler?

First, let's address the new singer. Rob Moratti is something of a brave soul to take over the lead of such an established band. There's many times that an exact situation like this turns into a heated battle between two singers and the fans, and usually results in the new singer being ejected to reunite with the old singer for some big 'comeback' album. Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, and hell, even Motley Crue weren't able to survive a change of vocals, so will this quasi-obscure long-running Canadian band be able to? Well, Moratti does a one hell of a job on the mic for this album, and he's actually one of the standout points of the entire ordeal. He's got a powerful voice that, while a little more 'typical' than that of Sadler, fits Saga's music nicely - he's also got enough range to deal with everything from the robotic The Human Condition to the ethereal Avalon. Whether Moratti stays as a force in the band is yet to be seen, but he's off to a good start here, and fans should be able to warm up to him.

Instrumental wise, things have changed a bit. While Ian Crichton and co are still able to churn out some memorable riffs and solos things in general sound to be played fairly on the 'safe side'. A good riff here, a solo there, nothing seems out of place, which makes the album work fairly well, but also keeps it from getting overly exciting at any given moment. While Saga is an established act, this album almost comes off as sounding like a debut for another band, a band that hasn't yet found their style yet so they're working off their influences. Not to say that the album isn't original, it's just not trying to push any boundaries.

As for the songs on the album, it's the heavier stuff that keeps attention better. Things get off to a thundering start with what's easily the standout of the album, The Human Condition. Crichton lays out some blistering riffs and the voice effects really give the song a good amount of depth. It's also a song that borders on 7-minutes, so anyone looking for something that lasts a good amount of time will find it here. Step Inside keeps things going with some more heavy riffage and a memorable chorus. Later in the album there's more fun to be had with songs like Number With A Name with its splashes of synths mixed with the corresponding guitars to make for some killer melodies - and the next standout on the disc, Crown Of Thorns, a song that plays out as fast and as impressively as the opening title track, but with a teaspoon more heaviness and a cup more darkness. Avalon is another worthy addition to the album, and while some of the backing vocals do border on cheesy at points the high shouting parts from Moratti make it all work in context and actually make for a very uplifting tune.

There are a couple moments on the album where the flow is broken, however. While the slow moments on the album are all certainly good the general feeling of the album is uplifting and mid to fast paced, so separating Step Inside and Avalon with the slow and mellow Hands Of Time makes you want to reach for the skip button if you're taking the album out for a drive, but when listening to the album from front to back it's not a song that is really that bothersome. The only other song that may catch you off guard is the final track, You Look Good To Me which breaks up the neo-prog-classic-rock feel with a kind of 80s stadium tune that feels harshly out of place. Yes, leave it up to us elitist, dead serious prog critics to pick on a song that's too upbeat and poppy for its own good, but this is a tune that may turn off some of the more hard core prog heads that get drawn into the album thanks to opuses like the title cut and A Number With A Name.

Overall, an album with a couple of absolutely killer songs that can give many of today's progressive giants a run for their money along with a lot of tunes that sound like they band's simply trying to play it safe. In the end this one is going to get 3.5, definitely recommended for fans of the band and people looking for interesting entries into this year's Neo-Progressive category. Worth checking out!

Queen By-Tor | 3/5 |


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