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Magenta - Metamorphosis CD (album) cover





3.70 | 199 ratings

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Rock Progressivo Italiano Team
4 stars Just one look at the grim cover art on Magenta's `Metamorphosis' should tip the listener off that something of a change of direction might be in store for them with this one. Coming two years after their `Home' album, which was mostly built around a collection of ballads and accessible adult pop/rock numbers, `Metamorphosis' sees the band head back to the grander extended compositions from their earlier album `Revolutions', as well as offering their darkest material yet. It's not unusual for Neo related bands to head into darker territory at some point in their careers, and this is no exception. Rob Reed, Christina Booth and Chris Fry have never sounded so heavy and intense. Their usual rich, melodic and heartfelt progressive rock has had some dark heavy riffs and a more sinister sound grafted to them, and, along with the implementation of proper live orchestrated instruments, it very much stands apart from their other albums.

At first I wasn't too convinced how well the `The Ballad of Samuel Layne' holds together as a genuine 20 minute piece, but it can easily be accepted as a continuous collection of fascinating short passages that all have a sophisticated and varied sound. The first few minutes have some frequent stop/start moments over and over that I find breaks up the piece in quite an obtrusive way, but on repeated plays, as you pay more attention to the lyrics about the woman left behind by a soldier heading off to war, you start to get a better sense of the flow of the piece. The frequent acoustic moments that accompany Christina's warming vocals offer some of Magenta's loveliest melodies. The heavy sections that show up occasionally throughout are probably closer to the heavier moments of the most recent Porcupine Tree albums, and they make more sense if you pay attention of the lyrics, perfectly highlighting the horror of some of the words. Overall there's a nice balance of reflective passages, tense drama and exhilarating instrumental runs. It segues into `Prekestolen', a lush orchestrated Celtic ballad with stirring pipes from guest Troy Donockley who brings even more class to this album.

The 23 minute title track really grabs you by the throat right from the start, it's probably one of the most brooding and dynamic pieces to appear on one of their albums to date. There's numerous bombastic heavy sections with Tim Robinson's bashing drum-work and riff-heavy guitar grunt over ballistic keyboard solos, all coming together in a sweeping, hypnotic and intimidating quality. Christina seems to relish singing with such a wicked glee on this one, her voice taking on a surprisingly aggressive and howling tone - it's always the quiet ones! You'll also find super-thick chunky bass, murky electronic beats, and incredible guitar soloing like the best of the 70's Pink Floyd albums, bluesy and foot-tapping one second, overwhelming and overpowering the next. All of these elements come together for a burning, triumphant and grandiose climax.

The final shorter track `Blind Faith' is mostly a dreamy melody fused with light Portishead/Massive Attack-type trip-hop beats and chiming Coldplay-like chords, but sadly it becomes a bit of a mess with impossibly heavy metal riffs worked into some sections. The two styles don't hold together well at all here (the riffs sounds a little desperate to be honest), but thankfully Christina ends the album on an impossibly stunning vocal solo that takes you straight to the heavens.

The album has also now been reissued with extra tracks and a bonus DVD. There's several edits of pieces from the album given a solely orchestral backing, and they are truly exquisite and quickly pull on the heartstrings. The DVD is overloaded with well over three hours of bonus materials, not only including the entire studio album remixed into 5.1 Surround sound, but some very thorough and exhausting behind the scenes/interview segments that go into every detail you could possibly want to know. Special mention must also go to the perfectly restrained and subtle black and white video for the orchestral version of `A War Bride's Prayer', simply beautiful. It's inspiring to see how much effort Rob and company have put into making the re-release so special, and it sets the standards for how other prog artists should approach this sort of thing.

One thing that makes Magenta so impressive is that they have a very modern and contemporary style, not sounding like a group forever indebted to the vintage 70's defining bands. Despite the numerous Steve Howe-inspired flavours to Chris Fry's guitar sound, they certainly never sound like a lazy rehash of Yes! `Metamorphosis' is yet another fine album from the band, Christina still displays why she's the most charismatic of the modern female prog singers, and Rob's songwriting and playing is as reliable and sublime as ever. Perhaps the heavier elements on this one may put off just a few listeners, but the band really do have a very melodic and approachable sound that could quite easily open them up a wider audience outside of the progressive rock community.

Four stars.

Aussie-Byrd-Brother | 4/5 |


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