When I mention the name of composer and keyboardist Nick Magnus it will ring a bell and you will say The Enid and Steve Hackett. And an observant progVisions reader will mention United Progressive Fraternity. He started his musical career with The Enid and became famous through his excellent work on several Steve Hackett albums and tours. Remember those tours with Steve Hackett very well.
But did you know that the new album “Catharsis” is already his sixth solo album? If not, you absolutely have to listen to albums like “Hexameron”, “Children of Another God” and “N’Monix”. Especially the last two are beautiful little gems. The new album “Catharsis” will be released as a limited edition deluxe two-disc, hard-book media-book with audio CD, video DVD and 36 full-colour pages booklet. Nick provided progVisions with review copies of both discs because the limited edition was still in the manufacturing stage. The album is inspired by the landscape and legends of the Ariege, a region in the French Pyrenees.In my last review I mentioned that Kit Watkins is one of my favorite keyboard players, well Nick Magnus is one of the others. Why? ... Together with Banks and Watkins, Magnus has musically speaking an unique voice.
Nick Magnus - keyboards, vocals and other instrumentsSteve Hackett - guitar; Tony Patterson - vocals; Amanda Lehmann - vocals; Pete Hicks - vocals; Andy Neve - vocals; Steve Unruh - violin
On the second disc you will find a progumentary with the title “Adventures in the Ariege” and two extra videos of compositions (“Eminent Victorians”, “Shadowland”) of the previous “N’Monix” album. In the track by track documentary (progumentary) Nick is explaining the stories behind the compositions in way that will remind you of films like “Raiders of the Lost Ark”. it’s entertaining to see and a great help to understand the stories behind the compositions.
In his own words;
“Traveling to new destinations is exciting, educational and inspirational. Some places, though, call you back time and time again. The Ariege region in the French Pyrenees is one such place. Here mountains, caves, stunning vistas and centuries of often turbulent history cry out to be translated into music - and so we did. Each track marks a much loved place in the Ariege, or a time in history, real or imagined “.
But of course the music of The CD is the most important thing of this fine release. You can find the following eight tracks on the album; “Red Blood On White Stone”, “Three Tall Towers”, “Convivium”, “The Devil’s Bridge”, “The Market At Mirepoix”, “Gathering Mists”, “A Widow in Black” and “Mountain Mother”.The album opens with the track “Red Blood On White Stone”. The first thing you will notice is that Nick is the master of the keyboard orchestration. The keyboard orchestrations on this album are often breathtaking. The second thing you will notice is that when the first vocal harmonies, sung by Andy Neve and Nick Magnus are kicking in, that these have the quality you will remember from several Steve Hackett albums. This Hackett resemblance is further emphasized by a beautiful guitar solo of the master (Steve Hackett) himself. This great album opener is followed by “Three Tall Towers” which is sung by Pete Nicks which we all know from his contributions to the “Spectral Mornings” album of Steve Hackett and the following tours. This piece has more the style and atmosphere of Nick’s previous albums. Also these first two tracks will show you how important Nick Magnus was for the early days of Steve Hackett’s solo career. “Conviviumv is a short instrumental with nice classical and medieval atmospheres. You will be impressed by all those fine keyboard sounds and melodies. Talking about beautiful melodies and wonderful keyboard orchestrations the next track “The Devil’s Bridge” is also a beautiful song. The vocals on this slow track are sung by ReGenesis vocalist Tony Patterson. “The Market At Mirepoix” is a typical song of the storyteller Nick Magnus. He himself is responsible for the vocals and the violin contributions are from his United Progressive Fraternity mate Steve Unruh. It is an uptempo and uplifting sounding song with an amazing violin solo of Steve Unruh. The violin is such a great instrument for progressive rock music. The next short track is for me one of the (many) highlights of this album. “Gathering Mists” is one of those Nick Magnus gems. Beautiful and atmospheric piece with delicate Neo Classical piano parts. The slow and wonderful melodies are breathtaking. The next track “A Widow In Black” has also a Steve Hackett connection. Amanda Lehmann is contributing with beautiful lead vocals while Nick Is doing the backing vocals himself. Also in this track you will find those beautiful keyboard orchestrations next to fine acoustic guitar parts. The album ends with the longest (13:35) track called “Mountain Mother”. It has a mysterious opening before the keyboard orchestrations with the most beautiful melodies swell up. Shortly I had to think of the music of David Arkenstone. Vocalist Tony Patterson is telling the story here. The atmosphere of the song is on the mellow side of the spectrum and slowly the tension of the music is building up. Again breathtaking melodies and goose-bump moments in this composition of epic proportions. In the last part Nick is spoiling us with a fine synth solo. But like on the whole album most of the keyboard parts are played in the service of the compositions.
Wow ... and again I am speechless after listening to new compositions of Nick Magnus. Only for “Gathering Mists” and “Mountain Mother” I would buy this album. The music has often a kind of cinematic quality which is great for storytelling. Nick Magnus is the master of the keyboard orchestration and his unique sounds and wonderful melodies, which are often breathtaking, makes him for me one of the most interesting and adventurous keyboard players/composers with an own unique style. “Catharsis” is a wonderful album with beautiful music and very fine vocal contributions. Don’t expect freaky progressive stuff on one of his album. It is all about the music and the compositions. An album made with a lot of passion, this simply shines trough the music. What can I say more, this album is highly recommended by progVisions.