Friday 13 September 2019

Magic Pie - Fragments of the 5th Element (2019)

Country: Norway
Style: Progressive Rock
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 30 Aug 2019
Sites: Bandcamp | Facebook | Instagram | Official Website | YouTube

I always thought that Jeremiah was a bullfrog, but apparently's he's a wino who lived from day to day (sadly past tense) and the opening track, The Man Who Had It All, is all about him. If that makes you conjure up a Jethro Tull sort of song, then you wouldn't be far wrong, especially as the phrasing of whichever vocalist is singing this one (and Magic Pie have a pair of them, Eiríkur Hauksson and Eirik Hanssen) is reminiscent of Ian Anderson. However, there isn't a flute anywhere to be found and there's a particularly lively keyboard presence to the song, courtesy of Erling Henanger, that reminds, at different points, of Marillion, IQ and other bands from the second wave of British prog rock in the eighties.

No, before you ask, not everyone in Magic Pie has the initials EH and P & C is a great moment to highlight the guitars, which does mean Eiríkur Hauksson again but also Kim Stenberg. While there was prog metal to be found in the opener, here's where they really start to remind of Dream Theater and Spock's Beard and other more modern bands. However, that's much more because of the guitar tone and production; in structure, they're still very seventies. The vocal approach on this one reminds of Ian Gillan era Deep Purple, at least once it gets past the lower register Yes intro, and the instrumental midsection is more like Frank Zappa.

As if building a repertoire of influences for the final track to explore all at once, Table for Two initially sounds like David Bowie. Again, this sound is driven by the vocals, but the music steps back a little to emphasise that on this track. Later the style evolves to become more of a gentle Wishbone Ash sound, but that David Bowie influence returns with emphasis for Touched by an Angel, which isn't a prog rock song with Bowie vocals; it sounds just like a Bowie song.

The Hedonist is the side-long finisher and it's suitably epic. It kicks off lively with plenty of energetic soloing on both guitar and keyboards. Vocals don't show up for three minutes but, when they do, they shift pretty easily between the styles already mentioned, so much so that the vocalist can shift from Gillan to Ian Anderson to Bowie in a single verse. This song is nigh on 23 minutes long but never feels like it's too much. Perhaps that's because it's able to evolve and breathe and grow.

And, because The Hedonist is so long, that's it. Five tracks last over three quarters of an hour, so this is a decent slab of music. I read that it's the fifth album for Magic Pie, who were founded in Moss, Norway by Kim Stenberg back in 2001. They've been on a four year release schedule ever since 2007's Circle of Life, so this is right on time for their fans.

I've listened to (and reviewed) a few Norwegian prog rock albums this year, enough to tell me that there's a scene up there that's definitely worth your attention. Motorpsycho and Mythopoeic Mind are good bands and I can happily now add Magic Pie to that alliterative mix, although the three are different in overt ways. Magic Pie aren't as heavy or as experimental as Motorpsycho and they're not as folky as Mythopoeic Mind, but they're more lively than either of them.

I mentioned in my review of the latter's Mythopoetry that it often felt like it was grown rather than recorded. This isn't as organic but it's often very liquid as if it flowed into form. I wonder if this tie to nature is a common factor in Norwegian prog rock but, sadly, I'm not up to being able to catch the local influences yet. Maybe in time. I'm going to happily keep exploring the scene.

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