Magnitude 9 - Chaos To Control

Year of Release: 1998
Label: DCA Recordings
Catalog Number: DCA 50007
Format: CD
Total Time: 53:40:00

In playing catch up with some older stuff that was sent for review and with the band announcing their start on a third album, I gave Magnitude 9's debut, Chaos To Control a few spins. With the first few seconds of the first track, you might think you're in for a guitar album with other instruments as an afterthought, given the "guitar album" like opening riff from Rob Johnson, but when the crunch starts in earnest, you realize that Magnitude 9 were embarking on a career that would see their music compared with Fates Warning, Dream Theater, Symphony X, and many others. And those comparisons would be quite apt. Vocalist Corey Brown sings mostly like Geoff Tate and James LaBrie. Brown's delivery often sounds flat, though he does liven up for the vocal peaks, letting his voice soar. Not always on key, he reaches the note seemingly without strain. At times one can detect just a little bit of Iron Maiden, but mostly this is borderline progressive metal. That is, metal with progressive tendencies. Percussion and bass throb throughout.

Magnitude 9 mix their melodicism with very dark and heavy rhythms, hitting their stride with my favourite track on the album, "Secret Within." The dynamics at play, the menacing rhythms and the whole vibe in this track make it one that really draws you in. Keyboardist Joseph Anastacio Glean might be playing a little too parpy at times, but I love the dark groove of this piece. At varying times I thought of Ayreon, Symphony X, and Iron Maiden. That Maiden thing recurs in "Writings" which ends the album, and is another of my favourites, despite there being one aspect to the drums (toms?) being too up in the mix during the chorus, and there with a flat, thudding sound ? not really an accurate representation, but the best that I can come up with (I think of driving with a flat tire).

But there are certain phrases that kept coming to me with different tracks ? swirling darkness, galloping speed, throbbing bass, rumbling drums, and others. This describes the album as a whole, as the band never let up for a minute, even during those moments where the arrangement opens up. For the most part, Chaos To Control hits you with a barrage of notes, including the jackhammering of drums, the thudding crunch of guitars all played with speed metal velocity, if not quite in ferocity. Across this are Brown's melodic vocals, along with shimmering glimpses of Johnson's guitar, tones that remind me of John Petrucci's work, more so in Liquid Tension Experiment than in Dream Theater. Most of this I wrote first to describe "Voices," the second track in, but realize that I can describe the whole album at various points. With "Voices" the wild abandon with which this is played, however, has the same sort of enthusiasm as some of the best of Iron Maiden ? not so much loaping as galloping at high speed.

Maybe because I was working on Keith's Evergrey review at the time, but I thought of Evergrey with "Into The Sun," a song that would qualify as a power ballad ? though not in the AOR sense, but in the prog sense; where the subject is not love but introspection. It is one that'd appeal also fans of other InsideOut signing, Enchant. Again, Johnson's fat guitar sound reminds me Petrucci, this time those liquid notes that made Images And Words a memorable album. The production here is a little on the dull side, making what would other wise be a standout track distant. In fact, the whole album seems that way.

The album sparks to life with the above mentioned "Secret World," though that track is the fifth one in. "Another World" begins with almost Wakeman-esque bombast, before leading into the Journey/AOR like "Don't Say." The assault that began earlier in the album returns with "After Tomorrow" which has an interesting dynamic of feeling like controlled chaos... perhaps the band thought the same thing and this is from what the title derives. But, I'm tempted to say that too much happens in this piece, but too much of nothing. That Brown is able to keep up the rest of the band, singing effortlessly, is amazing, as you'd expect it to sound like Brown is just trying to keep up.

Chaos To Control was a good debut album, but not one that has me brimming with excitement and enthusiasm. It was a long space of time between this and the follow up Reality In Focus, and it'll be at least another year before that third one comes out. The prog metal field was crowded in 1998, when this was released, it's even more crowded now and the fan expectations so high ? that third CD is going to have to be pretty fantastical to get noticed. Which means there's going to have to be a lot more for the listen than can be found here.

Released in the US by DCA Recordings, the InsideOut version that was released has a different track order, is minus the "Man On The Silver Mountain" cover, with different artwork. Both covers appear here, the one at the very top being the InsideOut edition.

End Of Time (6:41) / Voices (3:48) / Into The Sun (5:51) / Keeper Of Your Soul (5:14) / Secrets Within (4:40) / Another World (5:26) / Don't Say (5:15) / After Tomorrow (5:39) / Y2K (4:32) / Writings (6:34)

Rob Johnson - guitars
John Homan - drums
Corey Brown - vocals
Kevin Chown - bass
Joseph Anastacio Glean - keyboards

Chaos To Control (1998)
Reality In Focus (2001)
Decoding The Soul (2003)

Genre: Progressive-Power Metal

Origin US

Added: April 6th 2003
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website:
Hits: 802
Language: english


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