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(75:00, Musea Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Les Voyages de Mikado 6:21 2. La Porte du Diable 6:10 3. Assassine 5:13 4. 1767 l'An de Disgrace 6:44 5. La Bataille du Marronnier 4:27 6. Chanson du Menestrel 7:36 7. Les Gens des Villes 10:28 8. Etang Rouge Final 6:41 9. L'immortel Opera-III 12:23 10. L'immortel Opera-IV 9:57 LINEUP: Eric Tillerot vocals Jean-Pierre Matelot keyboards; bass Alexandre Moreau keyboards; vocals Olivier Gauclin Tetu guitars; vocals Denis Codfert drums; vocals Fabien Lo Cicro bass
Prolusion. The French band MAGNESIS was formed back in 1987, and has been a fairly productive band since they released their debut album "Les Voyages de Mikado" back in 1993. They have eight full length albums to their name as of 2013, of which seven are studio productions. The live album "Faits D'Hiver..." is their most recent CD, and was released by Musea Records in 2012.
Analysis. From what my initial search on the internet indicated, Magnesis is one of those bands that have remained a lesser known entity beyond the borders of France for a good number of years, although their most recent studio album "Le Royaume D'Oceanea" from 2010 appears to have made somewhat more of an impact than their previous releases. Those who didn't discover this band until that album better take note that "Faits D'Hiver...", Magnesis first ever live production, was recorded prior to that. From what I understand the greater majority of the material dates back to a concert in 2007, when Magnesis celebrated their 20th anniversary. In terms of style it's fairly obvious that this is a band that is well aware of the legacy of the 1970's just as much as they are familiar with the initial return of progressive rock in the early 1980's by the bands most commonly described as neo progressive. Magnesis tends to blend elements of both in their compositions, although how this mix balance out is a tad difficult to give an opinion on when relying on this album to document it. But smooth keyboard textures of an atmospheric nature are common enough throughout, as are more expressive motifs with a more distinct symphonic expression. The organ does get an airing now and then too. We do get quite a few multi-thematic affairs as well, alternating between gentler, atmospheric laden sequences and harder edged guitar and keyboards constructions with more of a grandiose overall nature. The lead vocals on top are what I guess might be described as very French in all aspects, with a certain theatrical delivery combined with the French language that gives this aspect of the material a very distinct atmosphere. A curios aspect of this bands take on this type of music is the use of the guitar. The greater majority of the compositions are dominated by dark toned, harder edged riffs that give the band a more than subtle hard rock tinge, some of the shorter items actually gave me associations towards bands like Bon Jovi and Europe. Partially due to the guitars, but also due to how the guitars partially drowned out the keyboards, resulting in occasional sequences where you really need to listen closely to hear the ghost of a keyboard motif hovering somewhere in the back. I suspect that this comes down to recording quality and mix more than a desire to create sophisticated hard rock, as the instrument balance in particular has quite a few odd moments throughout. That the lead vocals and crowd noises come across as the ones placed highest in the mix on multiple occasions one such odd detail, how vocals and instruments drown out others when coming and going another odd detail that at least for me became a detrimental feature. A somewhat closed in sound in general not making that part of the experience any better. In short: this isn't a live album recorded on state of the art, top of the shelf equipment as we tend to be used to hearing these days. Much better than live albums by lesser known bands from yesteryear without a doubt, but sound wise I suspect we're going back a decade or two in terms of sheer quality.
Conclusion. As I haven't explored any of Magnesis studio albums, I can't really tell if this live album is representative of their music as such. Due to the somewhat substandard quality of the sound recording this isn't an album I'd suggest to those unfamiliar with the band anyhow, but if you fancy checking out a band blending influences from AOR, symphonic progressive and neo progressive rock in a live setting you should probably find this production to be a satisfying one. Still, my main conclusion is that "Faits D'Hiver..." first and foremost should come with a recommendation to existing fans who'd like to experience how this band sounds live on stage.
OMB=Olav M Bjornsen: September 3, 2013
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