Magnitude 9 - Reality In Focus

Year of Release: 2001
Label: InsideOut Music America
Catalog Number: IOMACD 2020
Format: CD
Total Time: 59:39:00

Reality In Focus is the long awaited follow up to Chaos To Control, 9 new tracks from Rob Johnson and company, plus a cover of Iron Maiden's "Flight Of Icarus." For those unfamiliar with the band, as I am other than by name and the interview we published with Johnson, Magnitude 9 has a sound that is strongly reminiscent of classic Iron Maiden. There are touches here and there, though, that are unlike Maiden, mainly in the guitar playing of Johnson. Other bands one can point to is Queensryche, Fates Warning, and to some degree Dream Theater.

Magnitude 9's line up is completed by keyboardist Joseph Glean, drummer John Homan, bassist Kevin Chown, and vocalist Corey Brown, who has a great voice that is sometimes a bit like Journey's Steve Perry, most noticeably on "Afterlife," but also sounds like Geoff Tate, and a sometimes a bit like Dickinson (especially on the cover tune).

The first track to be released, and available for listening at their website, is the opening track "No Turning Back," which sounds heavily like Iron Maiden with modern accents, like keyboards which were never part of the Maiden gestalt. It is a highly energetic way to open an album, as it gets one pumped for the rest of the album. "What My Eyes Have Seen," then follows a different angle, with the keyboards carrying the opening, followed by a guitar solo, which leads us to diving into the track - this is where the 'ryche comparison comes in. The song swirls down into it's ending, leaving us a very haunted note. There's no breather to absorb this, though, as the next track begins immediately.

I am reminded of the melodic and harmonic metal that rode the airwaves in the mid-late-80's, mainly of those named above. That isn't to suggest that the music sounds dated - the Dream Theater affect certainly helps to keep this in the present day. The 9-plus minute "Afterlife" is one of the highlights of the album; even though it's the longest track on the album, it still feels tight. "The End Of Days" moves more into the prog metal territory, closely followed by "Lost Along The Way," that follows. The latter begins with a big guitar overture from Johnson?Brown's vocals soar in an epic manner, leading us into a power chorus. Other than the cover tune, this is the shortest track on the album -perfect single material?and one of many spotlights for Johnson's dexterity. Chown shows his own on the keyboard passage that follows. Here (and throughout) Homan's drumming his powerful and punchy. I especially like his intro to "Temples Of Gold." It gives it that almost dark feel - being on the precipice of darkness - before it becomes some fairly generic bashing?a pounding, rollicking, galloping rhythm that I associate with Maiden, but I'd have liked to heard a little more kit work from Homan. The vocal melodies here by Brown sound like so many other tracks I've heard of late?maybe even of Maiden. In fact, one might think even this was cover?a comparison is just on the tips of my fingers. You'd feel cheated if they weren't so good, and if the guitar and keyboard interplay didn't add some spice to the otherwise typical prog metal track. I will say that Homan's drumming is so rapid-fire and precise though, that one does feel exhausted at the end of the track. "Mind Over Fear" closes the album with, first, atmospheric keys - washes and a bit tinkling - then grinding guitar comes in, setting the pace?and coming out into the song proper sounding quite like Queensryche, moving into Dream Theater like passages.

About that cover tune, one can say about this fairly faithful rendition that Brown gets close to sounding like Dickinson, all the elements are in place, providing a basis for Johnson to take it a little bit further with his solos. Essentially though, it keeps to the bedrock sound of the original, and does a damn fine job in doing so.

Connoisseurs of prog metal might find this too much metal and not enough progressive - in that it bears many similarities to other bands. But fans of the genre on the other hand - those who don't evaluate every note for originality, but rather look at the complete picture - will find a lot to like about Magnitude 9's sophomore release. I'll leave it to more experienced critics to compare it to their previous disk.

Released in Europe by InsideOut Music (IOMCD 27)

No Turning Back (6:32) / What My Eyes Have Seen (5:34) / Far Beyond Illusion (5:39) / Afterlife (9:11) / The End Of Days (4:38) / Lost Along The Way (4:34) / Flight Of Icarus (3:53) / Temples Of Gold (6:24) / Quiet Desperation (5:16) / Mind Over Fear (7:32)

Rob Johnson - guitar
Corey Brown - vocals
Joseph Glean - keyboards
John Homan - drums
Kevin Chown - bassist

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

Genre: Progressive-Power Metal

Origin US

Added: January 30th 2001
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website:
Hits: 817
Language: english


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