Nathan Mahl - Live at Nearfest 1999 - 2003

“The openings-act of day two of the first NEARfest festival was blowing the attendees out of their seats with blazing symphonic fusion.”


I must admit that I only knew the work Guy LeBlanc did with Camel. But what is he doing with Latimer’s band if his Nathan Mahl can play such mind-blowing music? This is the first recording (if you don’t count the distribution of a Hackett live archive album which was recorded at the NEARfest 2003 edition) on the NEARfest Records label. If you only think of which great titles could be released on this label! There are many great live performances they can choose from. But what about this first one of Canadian band Nathan Mahl? Well to honest, this recording also blew me out of my review-chair!


The band:
Guy LeBlanc – keyboards and vocals; José Bergeron – guitar; Claude Prince – bass; Alain Bergeron – drums


NEARfest (North East Art Rock festival) is one of the most important Prog festivals in the world. The first edition was in the year 1999. It’s a logical choice to take one of the performances of that first edition of the festival as first release for the new NEARfest Records label. Not only because you can hear the first line-up of the band. This live-album also documents the only time a song from the then forthcoming “Heretik” was ever played live. This soundboard recording has been mastered by Brett Kull (Echolyn).

The band is playing songs from “Clever use of shadows”. The album is deleted now and was replaced by “Shadows unbound” in 2003. This live recording presents 3 songs that are now no longer available anywhere else. So you can say that this is an historical document and therefore a must for the fans.

The band was playing the following songs that morning: “Without words” (11:07), “Clever use of shadows” (10:26), “Something like that” (8:24), “Machiavelique” (7:51), “Orgazmic outburst II” (2:32), “Orgazmic outburst III” (5:47), “Carpe Diem” (15:42) and “Call to arms” (8:38).

The music can be described as symphonic fusion. In the instrumental “Without words” the band opens with heavy and fat keyboard sounds. The music develops into a kind of fusion where the guitar solos reminds me of National Health’s Phil Miller. But this counts for the whole album. Melodic guitar solos, complex rhythms and amazing keyboard work of maestro Guy LeBlanc. In “Something like that” the band sometimes sounds like the old Camel (with Bardens), but is also freaking out with heavy jazz fusion. “Machiavelique” has a baroque opening on guitar but than the band burst out into jazz fusion with complex rhythm changes. Again I’m thinking of bands like National Health. The band is really burning and rocking and continues with two tracks of their debut album (“Parallel eccentricities”) “Orgazmic outburst II” and “Orgazmic outburst III”. José Bergeron is playing some great burning guitar solos here. The next track is from the then forthcoming album “Heretik”. “Carpe Diem” is musically one of the highlights. This track is very variated. Guy LeBlanc shows here what a great pianist/keyboard player he is. And José Bergeron is playing some great melodic solos. The last track “Call to arms” is again from “Clever use of shadows”. Also in this track you find burning guitar and keyboard solos. The whole band was in a great shape. This is a valuable document for prog fans.


This gig was a special one! It’s a burning performance from start to finish. For Nathan Mahl fans an absolute must. And I’m sure that lovers of National Health will love this record also. A record full of steaming symphonic fusion. A great start for the NEARfest Record label. The next release is Djam Karet’s performance of the 2001 edition of the festival. A review of that album will follow in one of our next updates. Stay tuned to progVisions!

author - date - rating - label

Douwe Fledderus - February 2004 -   - NEARfest Records