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Majestic

Ataraxia

Review by Mark Johnson

This is easily one of the best albums of 2010. It is full of intensity and it has an interesting story which holds your attention throughout. It contains some of the best keyboards and guitar licks of the year. The synth work is just amazing. There is nothing missing. This will definitely be in my top five albums of 2010. It is heavy in parts and soft and airy in others - just the right mix. Jessica Rasche’s vocals are fantastic. Jeff Hamel’s keys and guitars fill this epic with interesting new chords and dynamic play. I have added this band to my watch list and I am now in search of their back catalog. This album is highly recommended!

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2011  Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Disarray

Footsteps climbing wood stairs open this song as we enter a party with the ocean nearby. It’s a nice start. Then Rasche sings, “The lights are distant by the shores of time / Lands drift far but the new world is mine.”  This is a nice soft beginning for what is about to come.

Faceless

A power chord and synth attack with drums accompanying, that just rips open the soundscape. The fire is lit and the energy is in your face. The best song on the album. Power at the beginning and soft quietness to close. The synths and lead guitars are fantastic. Then they slow down and Rasche delivers the comforting vocals, “A long journey throughout these years. Hard to swallow reminiscent tears. Drifting clouds held in memory. Lost in thoughts I had to set free.” The lucid state, free from worry begins to take hold. That soft, cool synthesizer takes you there. The grinding guitar chords match the power and lift Rasche brings to the vocals and lyrics, “Dreaming instead, I forget. Moving forward with no regrets.”

Wither

This is the second best song on the album. It opens with the quiet closing from “Faceless.” Woodwinds and bass seem to take over the stage and bring the calm necessary for the rest of the journey. Then a cool synth, guitar and drum combo does a great job of weaving mystery along with Rasche’s vocals. “Here I lay / Here I pray.” I am reminded of pieces of Sylvan’s Presets, in its quietest moments, and that’s a good thing. This is made of simply brilliant instrumentation and vocals. The launching guitar solos are stunning. The bass and drums provide stellar support. The orchestration at the end is magnificent, and I didn’t want it to end.

Star Bound

This starts out like an OSI song mixed with science fiction star bursts from the synths. The drums and guitar are stellar as well. More cool synths and keys are featured with great drums, bass, and lead electric weaving in and out. Rasche’s vocals really lock you in, “Driving on to the new world /Starbound.”

Numb

Very cool spacey synths overwhelm you before one of those famous deep spacey electric guitar chords as Rasche sings, “Dreaming…feel like I’m seeing…” Her voice does a great job of capturing that feeling of drifting within a deep dream. “We find everything is gonna be alright.” You can definitely feel this emotion as you drift with her and the band on soft airy keys, chords and drums.

Astral Dream

Then you free fall into space with awesome keys, synths and astral sounds. This is just incredible. It is similar to some of Ayreon’s sounds. This instrumental is terrific. Power lead and bass chords intermingle with those astral keys and synths, while the drums set the pace. Let this one just take you away. It gets heavier as it progresses. The room is surrounded by the pounding drums, lightning keys and grinding guitars. Then, there is a break as we drift back to soft keys and synths.

Delusion

Rasche says, “I remember when I almost died / The pain was so intense.” You can feel it in the way she delivers the lyrics. That Doors “Riders on the Storm” keyboard effect is awesome. This time Rasche speaks most of the words as she sings sounds in the background of a dreamscape. It is both intense and excellent. The guitar and drums add to the power of the words and story being delivered.

Dance of the Elders

The synths are excellent throughout this album, but nowhere better than here. This one is just incredible. It is the best instrumental on the album. The bass is powerful. Along with the lead guitar and drums they all light a fire as the synths fan the flame taking it higher.

Take My Breath Away

The big epic, this clocks in at 14-minutes and 14-seconds in length. The sounds of driving down the highway as cars and trucks roll by on the interstate start this epic. “Flying down the highway / I have not seen a thing.” The synths fly along with the magnificent vocals. The drums comfort and help soften the scene. The vocals are wonderful. It features beautiful synths and keys with soft cymbals and drums. There are memorable guitar chords and dreamy soundscapes. It has everything you could want in an epic.

Altered States

More excellent keys and synths along with spacey guitar chords are used to open this nearly ten-minute epic. There are Banks/Emerson-like flights of fancy with the synths as that power lead electric grinds through to a soaring dynamic power rise, then drifts off to an awesome cacophony of electric fuzz and drive. The keys gather quickly and provide a stunning backdrop for more grinding Rush–like guitar. It’s another reason this is such a perfect album without extras. Rasche joins in towards the end to encapsulate the song with, “We find everything is gonna be alright.” Back to the party, and then the walk down those wood stairs and the door closes on this epic.

Reflections

This wonderful song of reflection open with those beautiful synths and an acoustic guitar. Hamel and Rasche call out to one another, accompanied by the acoustic and those cool synths. “I once had a dream / You were laying by me.”

 
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