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Magdalena - Magdalena  CD (album) cover

MAGDALENA

Magdalena

 

Symphonic Prog

2.73 | 20 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Aussie-Byrd-Brother
Special Collaborator
Rock Progressivo Italiano Team
3 stars A grand mix of symphonic arrangements, dreamy classical ballads and even surprising rockers, the female fronted Magdalena complement several other bands from Japan active during the 80's/90's playing in a similar progressive style well. It would, however, turn out that even Japan wasn't immune to the `one-and-done' prog curse that befell many bands, and despite lead singer Megumi Tokuhisa going on to the more acclaimed Teru's Symphonia, Magdalena only left behind this one pleasing album before vanishing.

Let's get one thing straight right away - any comparisons to Renaissance and Annie Haslam are very much absurd! With the exception of a few fleeting moments, Megumi sounds nothing like her, and honestly, the only similarity is that they are women and fronting a prog band! Despite frequently singing in an operatic style that is often sublime, at other times her voice takes on a more histrionic wail that can actually be quite shrill and harsh, at odds with the drifting and lush compositions. The cool icy synths have a very similar sheen to early IQ, as do the majestic electric guitar runs, and the classical elements frequently woven into the music give the pieces a rich sophistication, all blessed with such lovely instrumentation and the expected Japanese technical prowess.

`Leanhaun-Shee' opens the disc in suitably epic and symphonic fashion, an IQ-styled piece full of classy orchestrated synths, twinkling piano, stirring drumming and crisp rising guitar lines. Megumi's fragile and commanding voice climbs to the skies through moments of whimsical joy and dark drama, and the brisk instrumental run in the middle is executed perfectly. `Anna Magdalena' is a shorter somber piano, synth and classical guitar ballad with a blistering electric guitar solo in fine Neo tradition in the middle. `Shadow' is an unexpected gutsy heavy rocker, more along Arena's heavy take of the Neo style, full of gothic synths and a dynamic uptempo snappy thrashing energy from the players. `Waltz' is a moody and sweeping darkly flavoured classical opera.

The longest track `Omen' starts as an acoustic guitar lamentation over a tolling church bell, with Rick Wakeman-styled fanfare keyboard pomp, snarling guitar aggression and a ghostly choir soon kicking in. Megumi's vocals are sorrowful and full of longing one minute, then bristling with menace and deranged edge the next. `Lagrima' has a sadly romantic and dreamy female vocal over chiming guitars and dynamic synth orchestration that recalls E.L.P. The hard drumming, murmuring bass and chilly synths remind of 80's Marillion, and the finale has a lovely joyful and triumphant theme. `Left Alone' is a brief lullaby that closes the album with a whispery sweeping classical prettiness.

The only thing that the album has missing from it, despite being expertly performed and nicely produced, is a truly memorable and defining moment. There's not actually a bad track to be found, but there's nothing that really stands out as hugely thrilling either. It's certainly consistent, but just lacking that extra something that would make it truly special. It's still likely of great interest to fans wanting an idea of the progressive bands emerging from Japan at the time, but there's other more important and exciting bands from the era to discover and collect first.

Three stars.

Aussie-Byrd-Brother | 3/5 |

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