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Colin Masson - The Mad Monk And The Mountain CD (album) cover


Colin Masson


Crossover Prog

3.98 | 61 ratings

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Conor Fynes
Prog Reviewer
5 stars 'The Mad Monk & The Mountain' - Colin Masson (9/10)

Naturally when I come across an album by an artist I've never heard anything of before, I have no preconceptions or expectations about what the music will be like. Sparing a rather attractive front cover, I went into listening to multi-instrumentalist Colin Masson's second album without the slightest clue of it's quality, or even style. With that in mind, it is an even greater pleasure to speak of what a classy and beautiful album 'The Mad Monk & The Mountain' really is. Tipping the hat to the sound of classic symphonic prog and creating a work of music that thrives on it's marriage of melody and complexity, Colin Masson has created an hour of vibrant and intelligent music, as well as an underground gem of the progressive scene.

Although the album is primarily instrumental in nature, 'The Mad Monk & The Mountain' opens with a haunting and highly theatrical vocal piece, 'Two Lighthousekeepers.' Taking no time to get things started, the song is filled with strong vocal harmonies, an upbeat rhythm, and an orchestral approach to what could easily be considered a 'catchy' tune. Telling a tale of bleak isolation and the two mentioned lighthousekeepers in conflict with one another, Colin does a very good job of telling an interesting story with the lyrics, while still maintaining a high level of musical interest.

While the second track 'Tilting At Windmills' follows up on the high level of quality that the first track set, I was originally a bit unsettled hearing it, because I realized here that this was going to be a mostly instrumental journey. While singing is certainly not a necessarily trait in order for music to be 'enjoyable' at all, there was still a resounding impression and enjoyment from Colin's witty storytelling ability and penchant for rich vocal harmonies, so it was a dissapointment at first. After a few listens however, the instrumental work of Colin Masson quickly warmed up on me, and this track now stands as being one of my most enjoyed on the album. Beginning softly, 'Windmills' slowly builds up tension until breaking into full out rock instrumental fury. This track of the album also showcases Colin's great skill with guitar; the track is filled with rapidfire riffage and tasteful lead work.

After such a dynamic track, the listener is greeted with the most serene and beautiful piece on the album, 'The Ends Of The Earth.' Instead of Colin singing here however, his associate Cathy Alexander sings here. In what can easily be considered the 'ballad' of the album, Cathy's soothing and folk-like vocals soar over a very celtic soundscape. Although the song has less dynamic and inherent energy than the others, it is possibly the strongest track on the album, and is also the part of the album where I realized that I had a masterpiece on my hands here.

Flowing perfectly into the next track, the album presents it's title track; another instrumental. With a very fitting introduction to the title of the song (very ethereal and almost oriental in it's style), the song breaks into a more typical rock instrumental format. The song very deliberately develops in intensity over time; the fantastic bass guitar work here is undeniable. The track doesn't quite capture the glory of 'Tilting At Windmills,' there are some great moments here, and plenty of great rocking moments.

To cap off the album, the last two tracks keep the high level of quality going, and make for a consistent achievement. 'Caradon's Surprise' is certainly the most forgettable track on the album, but it is pleasant enough. It is a classical guitar piece, meant to be a segue between the two longer songs. 'The House On The Rock' on the other hand, is a stunning piece of work, opening up. The first few minutes are based in orchestration. While the orchestral instruments aren't genuine, the feeling of 'epicness' is conveyed in great amounts. This track is certainly the most dynamic; ranging from the typical rock instrumentation, to traditional folksong, to celtic-styled prog. While the track is as powerful as any other on 'The Mad Monk & The Mountain,' there are very few musical ideas that are instantly catchy and endearing; this 'epic' is a grower, undoubtedly.

'The Mad Monk & The Mountain' is certainly one of the greatest modern symphonic progressive albums I've heard to date, and it has put Colin Masson on my radar as a talented artist to look out for. Being no stranger to the music scene, Colin has put his experience to great use here, and has crafted a real gem here. Suffice to say, despite some minor flaws in terms of occasionally over-indulgent instrumentation, 'The Mad Monk & The Mountain' is a charming masterpiece.

Conor Fynes | 5/5 |


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