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Magnesis - 2005 - "L'Immortel Opera"

(51 min, Musea)

TRACK LIST:                    
1.  Ouverture 15:40
2.  Le Pacte 9:37
3.  Le Voyage de la Diva 11:31
4.  Le Fils de Mozart 9:02
5.  Final 5:37


Jean-Pierre Matelot - piano, synthesizers; ac. guitar
Oliver Gauclin-Tetu - electric guitar
Alexandre Moreau - synthesizers
Eric Tillerot - vocals
Denis Godfert - drums
Fabien Lo-Cicero - bass 

Prolusion. According to the CD press kit, the French band MAGNESIS has existed since 1987. I have been browsing their website for more info, but everything is in French there, so I only can present their discography. They have six albums: "Les Voyages de Mikado" (1992), "Le Miroir aux Defauts" (1993), "Absintheisme" (1995), "Etang Rouge" (1998), "Les Gens De" (2001) and "L'Immortel Opera" (2005), which marks my first acquaintance with Magnesis and is the object of this review.

Analysis. This is a concept album, a five-act opera, each of the tracks being subtitled as Act-1 etc. The low level of volume of the recording didn't perplex me, as I have an amplifier:-). In a general sense, this defiantly titled release is one-singer Rock opera, the lyrics being either sung or theatrically narrated in typically French fashion. As for the more precise definitions of the album's stylistically structural nature, I won't be slow in touching them. The first and the longest track, Ouverture, exceeds 15 minutes in duration, pretending to be a 'sidelong' epic, while in fact some of its sections sound overextended, while the others are somewhat undeveloped. It begins with a simple, yet quite memorable passage of a dramatically heroic character, which as it later turns out, is the central theme of the album. But while on the further tracks it appears only episodically, here on Ouverture it is used without any sense of proportion, being played probably by each of the instruments credited except drums. The music normally moves back and forth between theatric Neo somewhere in the vein of Mona Lisa and a dark, yet pronouncedly symphonic Doom Metal with occasional appeals to Classical-like forms. The general picture is changeable on many levels, but the tempo is always slow (moderately slow at best), so don't expect much from this song. There are no unpredictable maneuvers in the arrangements or any particular virtuosity in the performance department either. Le Pacte and Le Voyage de la Diva are quite similar among themselves and are much more ambitious than Ouverture. Although much of the music is still moderately slow in tempo, this time around the band successfully manages without Neo features, as well as unnecessary repetitions, evincing enough thoughtfulness and taste to make the compositions sound interesting throughout. The style appears to be a kind of trinity of symphonic Art-Rock, Doom Metal and Classical music with lush orchestral arrangements and the wide use of a synthetic, yet quite credible-sounding chamber ensemble featuring the colorful sounds of oboe, harpsichord, strings etc, which in turn is what the only instrumental piece Final is about, almost in its entirety. I wonder why the rocker Le Fils de Mozart (Sons of Mozart) got its title? I believe it was guitarist Oliver Gauclin-Tetu who penned this song, as it's the only track here on which almost everything is submitted to the electric guitar's movements. Most of it is a fast dynamic Hard Rock with corresponding singing, each refrain ending with the screamed phrase "Rock & Roll Star". The song has drive and is an excellent example of the chosen style, but it doesn't suit the album's general concept, at least on the musical level, looking like a foreign body in a cycle of compositions with an obviously different approach.

Conclusion. Put briefly, three excellent compositions in the presence of two merely good songs, but in the absence of masterworks would probably be a fair appraisal given my modest investigations of the object under review. Recommended with the above reservations.

VM: March 10, 2006

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