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(70:18, MALS Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Message From the Past 2:58 2. Descension I 6:57 3. Close My Eyes 7:47 4. Tides 3:41 5. Break Free 5:43 6. Descension II 5:44 7. Hear Me 5:50 8. Broken 5:24 9. At the Edge 7:43 10. The Longing 9:15 11. Descension III 7:43 12. Last Dance 4:31 SOLO PILOT: Jeff Hamel – guitars; keyboards; drums; vocals
Prolusion. MAJESTIC is a one-man band from Minneapolis, USA. Jeff Hamel, former lead guitarist in prog metal outfit Osmium, started this project as a means to channel his progressive-influenced writings, and the album was recorded and self-released in 2007. The Russian label MALS subsequently signed him, and reissued the album in 2008.
Analysis. Although not convincing overall, there's really just one very weak facet to this release. Indeed, there are a lot of good ideas and skilled work on this album, and quite a few listeners will probably see his release as a rather interesting one, unless they share my opinion on one particular aspect. The compositions are generally good, strong sound influences from 70's Genesis and Pink Floyd permeate the tunes, some sounding like one or the other while others mix those influences in a quite intriguing manner. Some metal influences traceable in sound to Dream Theater are added on a couple of tunes, and there's also one song, Descension III, containing a segment quite similar to OSI's second album in style. There are two songs on the album that really don't impress in any manner though – the space-rock-evolving-to-synth-tinged-metal-and-ending-up-as-a-love-ballad-song Broken, and the rather cheesy ballad Last Dance ending the album. Apart from these exceptions, the songs are generally pleasing in most aspects. Keyboards, often multilayered, are a dominating feature throughout, with an emphasis on creating atmospheric moods. From gentle, lush and mellow atmospheres to grandiose and majestic soundscapes, there aren't many passages without the presence of this instrument. Most times it's used to add floating, symphonic-tinged layers to the compositions; at times a piano will underline the mellower and more fragile passages, while the heavier pompous moods often will have an organ added to create depth and added texture. In several passages throughout, more spacey moods will be explored as well and, as noted, a more electronic terrain is visited in Descension III. As Hamel is a guitarist by trade, his main instrument obviously has a dominating role in his solo compositions too. He shows great versatility in its use, more so than can be expected from a musician with a past history in a prog metal band, I think. Point in particular – there are not many passages of shredding to be found, and the few included are tastefully incorporated into the songs. Instead, melodic, acoustic guitar licks and atmospheric soloing are the main features of the guitar work here, the second of these with a tendency to explore psychedelic landscapes. Some metal influenced segments are included, some with drawn out chords underscoring the keyboard layers and others with carefully executed riff patterns with the same task in the overall soundscape. In fact, the guitar work and the keyboard explorations blend very well on this album, and even if the structures of the songs aren't overly complex, the instrumental parts are compelling and appealing. The bass guitar is used to good effect on most tunes too, although its overall role is a subdued one; there are only a few examples of a driving bass line that really enriches these particular segments. The drums are more basic, and instrument wise probably the weakest of all on the album. But generally the patterns are adequate and fulfill the role of the rhythm provider, although rarely adding anything to the tunes. Overall there are a lot of good tendencies on this release, and I would probably have enjoyed listening to it quite a lot if it hadn't been for the vocals. Hamel may have a vocal talent, but it doesn't seem that way in these songs. His voice has some similarities to Bryan Adams in style, but sadly without the power. This results in vocals that come across as weak, lifeless and strained; and much too often out of tune as well. Listeners that aren't sensitive to vocal performance may not notice this, but for me this aspect of the songs really grates – to the extent that I can't see myself listening to this album again anytime soon.
Conclusion. If vocal performance is of minor importance to you, and you think symphonic rock blending influences from Genesis and Pink Floyd sounds like a good idea, this is an album to check out – especially if you don't mind some metal touches thrown in for good measure. On the other hand, if you feel that good vocals are an essential part of a song, there's a good chance that this album won't be found appealing.