Magenta: We Are Legend (Tigermoth Records)
Magenta's new album should have been titled 'the prog returns' as it harks back to the band's first three records. With the three (yes three) songs on this record all having that progressive lushness that Revolutions, Seven and Home featured, along with the band also exploring new sounds and themes. Having heard the three tracks on this record at their recent live show I knew what to expect but hearing them laid down with the production and all the nuances of the music, the songs sounded amazing. Let's address the idea of a record having three songs and still calling it an album not an EP, well this is due to the track lengths opening number Trojan is nigh on 27 minutes long (that's one side of vinyl folks) with Colours and Legend both clocking in at over 10 minutes.
I'll try not to go into too much detail on every song as they need to be listened too to be fully appreciated but Trojan is staggering a masterpiece in composition and creating soundscapes the influences are clear Pink Floyd, Mike Oldfield and pre-Duke Genesis, the core trio of Christina Booth (vocals), Chris Fry (guitar) and band leader Rob Reed (keys) are all at the peak of their powers Christina soars powerfully over the colossal synths and processed beats of Rob Reed, it's his mastery of the keys that drives this band much like bands such as Yes, Genesis and Marillion they are an integral vital part of the bands signature sound and hear they hold the entire band together propelling us through the 27 minutes with ease.
That's not to understate the contribution of the other band members Chris Fry has been there since the beginning and his guitar playing is deft, expressive and stunning his Gilmour-like solos are at times the only rest-bite in the elongated musical passages. The record also features a Herculean effort from new boys and Kinky Wizzard Jon 'Jiffy Griffiths (drums) and Dan Nelson (bass) who are a linchpin for so many of the songs just check out the percussive middle section of Trojan which uses tom-toms and a bass throb like Floyd do on Time. Colours is a more melodic piece with a slightly different sound to the opening song, it's got an almost paranoid quirkiness, it's about Van Gogh so that could be why, the classic prog sound is still there but it's a bit more relaxed, fluid and dramatic, while Legend finishes the album on huge high with more direct, darker song. Magenta are back folks, they are oft overlooked but if you are a fan of any progressive rock this is must buy. 10/10
The Unity: Unity (SPV)
Formed by two members of Gamma Ray, The Unity is the new project of Henjo Richter (guitar) and Michael Ehre (drums) with countless hours spent in the studio and on the live stage the duo found that they were creating music together that wouldn't fit into Gamma Ray sphere so they recruited talented writers and players in the shape of Italian Gianba Manenti (vocals), Stef E (guitarist), Jogi Sweers (bass) and keyboardist Sascha Onnen all of whom were in Ehre's previous band Love.Might.Kill. This album takes parts of the Love.Might.Kill sound bringing in a slick AOR stylings on the latter part of the album which suffers from ballad bloat while Never Forget is great others like the Always Just You is overblown, elsewhere it's prime melodic rock with the opening duo of Rise And Fall and No More Lies kicking the album off with a bang as tracks such as Firesign ramp up the heavy. The musicianship is of a high standard throughout with Richter and Stef playing up a storm, Manetti's vocals shine too principally on the bluesy The Wishing Well and the incredibly Whitesnake sounding Redeemer. The Unity's debut is full of powerful European melodic rock delivered at the level you'd expect from those involved. 7/10
Earth Witch: Out Of The Shallow (Self Released)
Urbana, Illinois is probably not that known for anything outside of agriculture and being the place HAL 9000 was made operational in 2001: A Space Odyssey. They don't have a particularly rich musical heritage but Earth Witch are looking to change that. This trio play the scuzzy type of metal that hails Sabbath and nods to Sleep, the hypnotic doom of Butterfly shows the band at their trippy best, but the rest of the album is thundering riffage, colossal instrumental sections on Mermaid that has swirling organs and a repetitive riff, gruff vocals shout the lyrics as the doom heaviness continues without abatement, this record apparently speeds things up since their debut EP and while that is true the band excel at bearded doom favoured by bands ranging from Earth to Electric Wizard. Out Of Shallow pairs formidable guitars with hefty use of synths in this trippy doom laden debut. 7/10