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Majestic - Labyrinth CD (album) cover





3.51 | 27 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars Available as a free download (see the relevant thread on the forum), this 2011 release from American multi instrumentalist Jeff Hamel with vocalist Jessica Rasche definitely deserves a sight more attention than it has received thus far on the site.

There are only three tracks on offer here, the shortest one being a mere 14:20 minutes long. So, you would think, a prog fans trip to nirvana! Well, yes, but, as with many such artists, the key question is whether such a product is both good enough musically and well produced to keep the listener's attention from wondering to other places. I am very glad to report that Hamel manages this tricky issue with some aplomb.

It is a brave thing indeed to open an album with an epic in excess of 31 minutes, but this is what is done with the title track. With its opening passage, with doom laden guitar and bass, what I thought I would have to look forward to was, basically, an Ayreon type of album, which is fine if you like that sort of thing, but it does belie what follows, and patience, and, crucially, a number of listens are essential here. Because, there are many tempo and mood changes on offer here, and once Rasche settles into her vocals three minutes in, you start to pay a bit more attention, and there are more than enough changes here to keep the interest going, and, whilst slightly overblown in places, this is a very accomplished piece of music. At turns heavy, orchestral, and mellow, this is a very good piece of music, and if you are not tapping your feet and nodding your head in appreciation at the conclusion, then you are probably clinically deceased. It is certainly very comparable to some of Dream Theater's better moments.

Mosaic is a very dreamy, almost psychedelic, piece of rock music, and Rasche's wonderful vocals are very much in keeping with the mood of the music she accompanies. When Hamel unleashes his guitar solo, which is very good, he takes a mellow spacey track to an altogether darker place, which has, presumably, the desired effect of breaking up the tempo, before the keyboards and drum/bass takes the track back to its Floydian roots, and I do really like the altogether too brief vocal harmonies at the conclusion.

Album closer, Phoenix Rising, demonstrates why this band are classified as neo on the site, because there really is a little bit of everything in here, and there are some quite lovely moments of music in a track completely free of vocals. There are, at the commencement, heavy passages clearly influenced by the likes of Dream Theater and Riverside, with maybe a touch of the more chaotic Yes moments circa Relayer, before the track develops extremely beautifully into a full blown symphonic masterpiece, and the final four minutes has moments which make you shudder with the beauty of what you hear. Hamel is a very talented guitarist, and the atmosphere and pace he generates with the closing passage are wonderful to listen to.

In conclusion, this is a very good album which absolutely promises much for the future. I have no hesitation in awarding it four stars with a strong recommendation for all who like heavy prog, psychedelic prog, and symphonic prog all rolled into one rather neat package.

lazland | 4/5 |


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