Magellan - Impossible Figures

Year of Release: 2003
Label: InsideOut
Catalog Number: IOMCD 144
Format: CD
Total Time: 45:52:00

Impossible Figures is the fifth album from Magellan, and the first since signing to InsideOut. Having heard that it harked back to their earlier material, I was a bit worried. Not that Hour Of Restoration, for example, was bad, but I found Trent Gardner's lyrical style to be overly wordy, and hard to follow. Much more pleasing to me was Test Of Wills, their third release. Less dense lyrically, they were easier to "get into." With Impossible Figures, Magellan have struck a balance between the two styles.

The first song with vocals, "Killer Of Hope," returns to that lots-of-words style characteristic of Gardner, but by the time later tracks like "Late For Church" or "A World Groove" come along, Gardner's style is tempered a bit with catchier lyric writing. "Counterpoint" falls a little closer to "wordy," but does work rather well. Reading the bio/press sheet that accompanied this CD, the intent was something a little "tighter" than their previous releases, and in that they've succeeded.

And while the duo - Gardner (lead vocals, keyboards, trombone) and his brother Wayne (guitars, bass, backing vocals) - wanted to move away somewhat from the classic 70s prog sound, for the first time I really hear the Kansas influence in the music.At the beginning of "Hymn For A Heathen" especially, which recalls early Kansas. Ironic or just me more in tune to the whole Kansas influence, I can't say. Elsewhere, you'll think a bit of Rush, mainly in some of the bass work of Wayne and some synth elements from Trent. Joining the duo on this outing are Jason Gianni on drums, Stephen Imbler on piano, and Jeff Curtis who arranged the brass on the instrumental piece "Bach 16." Trent claims this is not a concept album, but that "there are individual songs to be interpreted by the listener that should be taken at face value." There are related themes from track to track, at least those with vocals - either remarking upon organized (or disorganized) religion and make political commentary (or both). But they are written in such a way that one can interpret what the message is based on their own views. Which isn't face value, I suppose, though it depends on which side of the face your looking at.

Musically, this is an album of contrasts, no more apparent then when we first get the warm, brassy and Chicago-like latter section of "Bach 16," which is immediately followed by the chilly and digital-ized sounding "Late For Church". Though this is only at the beginning, as by the time the chorus kicks in, we get a flowing, melodic piece - powerful and punchy (a bit Rush like in that), yet with a hummable chorus. The opening piece to the album, "Gorilla With A Pitchfork," combines these two elements - warm and cold - by crossing a classical and epic score fell with sharp and chilly synthesizer tones.

As you might expect from a song titled "A World Groove," various "world" rhythms - drums and percussion mainly - are employed. And "groove" this piece does, and much more so than you'd expect from Magellan. Imagine a Latin-African-Native American-Middle Eastern influenced percussion all played at once, or at least in conjuction with one or the other at various times - it's a world party. Very cool and appealing, too. The most "accessible" thing Magellan have done. Wayne throws in a nice funky bass line in here, too. Prog you can dance to? (I know, I know, that's what folks say about Kraan - it's true here, too). It's unlike Magellan and yet sonically identifiably Magellan. Groove yes, but one other thing I should say is that this album rocks and rocks hard! "Killer?" grinds and groans with dark, throaty guitar and bass, all hitting you over the head with such tremendous power, without throttling you, like say, thrash metal. But the funk of "A World Groove" is picked up in "Counterpoint," which also features some tasty, Emersonian keys - Hammond, me thinks - during the middle solo.

"Feel The Cross" also shows departure for the band, and is a very melodic piece, picking up on the throaty feel of the opening track (and element that recurs elsewhere, too). Had I heard this without being given any info? I'd not guess it was Magellan, though I might say that they sound a bit like the band. And yet, it's not wildy divergent from the Magellan sound. It's just very much more melodic and very loose and laid back. Wayne plays a nice, swoopy, tangy, slide guitar solo in this piece, too (over a background of jangly guitars), followed by a down n' dirty bass solo. Quite possibly my favourite track on the whole album, and I'm liking quite a bit here.

What I kept thinking as I was listening to this CD is how theatrical it all feels. Not in the same dramatic way as Leonardo, mind you. But the harmonized vocals, the looser, open arrangements (lyrics aside) give the CD a bigger feel. And, of course, Gardner's storytelling lyric style (part of the wordiness), adds to this feeling as well.

While I didn't think so on my first several spins, the more I've come to know this CD, the more I'm convinced that this will place high on the best of the year lists, and will certainly rank as one of the best Magellan albums to date (already it's edging out Test Of Wills for me on that score). In fact, the more I listen to "Killer Of Hope," the more I come to hear that it isn't quite as lyrically-impacted as my initial impression indicated.

The special edition adds a bonus track, "Hallucination," which is one part of "The Hallucination Suite" (? not additional info on that).

Gorilla With A Pitchfork (1:24) / Killer Of Hope (10:03) / Bach 16 (2:46) / Late For Church (6:15) / Confessor's Overture (2:24) / Hymn For A Heathen (3:15) / A World Groove (6:30) / Counterpoints (5:59) / Feel The Cross (6:36)

Trent Gardner - keyboards and voice
Wayne Gardner - guitars and basses
Jason Gianni - drums

Hour of Restoration (1991)
Impending Ascension (1994)
Test of Wills (1997)
Hundred Year Flood (2002)
Impossible Figures (2003)
Symphony For A Misanthrope (2005)
Innocent God (2007)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin US

Added: November 30th 2003
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Hits: 640
Language: english


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