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Thinking Plague - A History Of Madness CD (album) cover

A HISTORY OF MADNESS

Thinking Plague

 

RIO/Avant-Prog

4.13 | 85 ratings

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Pafnutij
4 stars I'm afraid "A History of Madness" doesn't reach the heights of 'In Extremis' in terms of consistency and overall compositional quality - although one might argue that it doesn't really aspire to. After all, despite a similar cover, this is quite a different work, mostly due to the considerable amount of experimentation. A good example of this are the four 'Marching as to War" tracks: these were originally intended as part of "Kingdom Come" from the previous album, but remained unrecorded until new member Matt Mitchell rearranged them for a piano ensemble. The result is an interesting collection of haunting atonal piano pieces that gets darker as the album progresses. Matt Mitchell is, in fact, an excellent addition to the band and is responsible for some of the album's best moments - for instance, the piano improvisation in the middle of "The Underground Stream". Meanwhile, longtime TP member Mark Harris contributes a sax solo piece titled "Least Aether for Saxophone and Le Gouffre", which was recorded live at a university recital, and which , to be honest, I don't like at all. It might be because I'm not very familiar with the sax, (apparently, a lot of the weird sounds heard on this track were created by using unusual techniques on the instrument), but this number doesn't captivate me at all - if anything, it annoys me.

Picking out the best track here is quite easy. That's "Rapture of the Deep", which happens to be one of the Plague's most melodic songs, while maintaining their inherently complex brand of composition. The song is based around an excellent guitar theme that, despite it's challenging harmonic nature, outlines a very satisfying progression. The band also uses their sense of dynamics during the build- up and the ensuing "release" section, where Deborah Perry piling her trademark vocal harmonies over plodding, bass-heavy rhythm work. "Lux Lacet" isn't far behind with it's own display of harmonic fireworks, featuring a lot of acoustic guitar, tinkling keyboards, and occasionally breaking into catchy fast-paced atonal sections. These two songs also happen to be most reminiscent of the "In Extremis" sound. The rest of the tracks are less so: the rock element is slightly subdued (it's absent altogether on the experimental tracks mentioned earlier), and the arrangements are not as dense as before. That doesn't make them weak of course: opener "Blown Apart" has nice, melodic piano work, and "Consolamentum" includes memorable harmonic progressions. But there are also unnecessarily repetitive segments which detract rather than contribute to the album.

Nevertheless, I'll give "A History of Madness" 4 stars to highlight the fact that it's still a strong album, albeit not a flawless one. If you like "difficult" music, be sure to pick it up- it ain't flawless, but the standout moments make up for that.

3.5

Pafnutij | 4/5 |

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