Hermetic Science - Prophecies

Year of Release: 1999
Label: Magnetic Oblivion Records
Catalog Number: 2-MERM2-99
Format: CD
Total Time: 69:01:00

Well, Mr. Macan has done it again - fashioned another great release of instrumental progressive music. The core of this new Hermetic Science album is the title track, "Prophecies: A Suite In Six Movements"

The Book of Jeremiah forms the backdrop to this composition, as excerpts from the biblical text are included with the track listings - in Latin. For the fifth movement, "Leviathan And Behemoth," the Book of Job is referenced. The Book of Jeremiah "consists essentially of a collection of oracles against Judah and Jerusalem [...] and a group of oracles against foreign nations [...]" (The Oxford Annotated Bible, 1962).

The first movement of "Prophecies" is "Barbarians At The Gate" - in the text, the Lord is asking Jeremiah what he sees, telling him "For lo, I am calling all the tribes of the kingdoms of the north, says the Lord; and they shall come and every one shall set his throne at the entrance of the gates of Jerusalem [...]" (1:13 - 15). The rest of the movements then follow on from this, "Hope Against Hope," (23:15 is given, but think its incorrect), "Last Stand" (39:1-2, 8), "Lament" (9:1), and "State of Grace" (mov. 6; 31:33-24).

So, how does the music reflect the subject matter? Well, "Barbarians" has a militaristic, marching feel to it, not only due to the drums of Matt McClinton but also due to the inherent percussive nature of the marimba and vibraphone. Although the overall effect of the music is bright, light, open and airy, the percussion adds the ominous undertone that would be implied by the subject.

On "Hope Against Hope" Macan's soprano recorder is unfront, sounding hopefully melancholy. You can almost hear hopes being lifted when the ARP String Ensemble (a keyboard instrument, I'm assuming) takes the lead. Smooth, rich, melded tones soar over the percussion and the bass of Andy Durham.

This album is great for close, headphone listening; and while taking it all in after one listening is not possible, it will immediately grab you and pull you in, tempting you to play it over and over again. Some of the tones that Macan gets on the vibraphone and marimba are fun to hear, despite the subject matter. If for no other reason, though there are, Macan has got to be making the most unique music in this genre we call progressive, unique music with wide appeal.

And if that wasn't enough, Hermetic Science also provide their take on two classics - Rush's "Jacob's Ladder" and ELP's "Tarkus." Both are very good covers, bringing in something different. That something different in the first case is the use of vibraphone and marimba - where as the Rush original was very dark and heavy, this version is light, thought losing nothing of the majestic feel of the track.

"Tarkus" was recorded live several years ago, and features Macan in solo setting - recreating this classic with a single grand piano. All the nuances and shadings that ELP put into their original are here - not easily accomplished when you are trying to account for a trio on bass, keys, drums, and vocals. The right hand substitutes for Lake's vocals, where the left fills in for the percussion and keys (you don't really notice that true percussion is missing).

I've put this in both this section and the Aural Odyssey section [what was once the ambient/new age section -ed] merely because, while most progressive rock listeners will be more likely to seek this out, due to the covers and the places it will be reviewed, those who don't listen to rock might never discover this gem otherwise.

Highly recommended to fans of music in general.

[Ed Macan commented after this review's original publication in October 1999: "You raised a couple of minor issues in the review that I'll briefly address. The ARP string ensemble is indeed a keyboard -- an old (i.e. early 70s) analog keyboard that was intended as a poor person's Mellotron. As for the scriptural reference for 'Hope Against Hope,' I believe it is correct for the Latin bible, but not for the King James or the other English translations, where it is 22:15-16." -ed]

Jacob's Ladder (6:46) / Intrigue In The House of Panorama (4:19) / Barbarians at the Gate (4:37) / Hope Against Hope (6:56) / Last Stand (6:31) / Lament (4:55) / Leviathan and Behemoth (9:52) / State of Grace (6:17) / Tarkus (18:48)

Ed Macan - vibraphone, marimba, soprano recorder, Steinway grand piano, Hammond organ, ARP string ensamble, micro Moog
Andy Durham - bass (3-8)
Nate Perry - bass (1,2)
Matt McClimon - drums and percussion

Ed Macan's Hermetic Science
Prophecies (1999)
En Route (2001)
Crash Course: A Hermetic Science Primer (2006)
These Fragments I Have Shored Against My Ruins (2008)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin US

Added: October 4th 1999
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website: www.hermeticscience.com
Hits: 1652
Language: english


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