MAGIC PIE - Fragments Of The 5th Element
Usually, when talking about European progressive rock, one ends up talking mostly about Sweden. Bands like Samla Mammas Manna, Kaipa and later The Flower Kings did define the genre for decades to come. And yet we should not forget Norway where a lot of good progressive rock bands have been emerging. Recently I can think of Ring Van Mobius but there is also TusmÝrke, Wobbler and of course Magic Pie.
The latter have been around since the early days of the millennium, but looking at their promo photo, itís obvious that some of the musicians must have been playing also in other bands, as they look closer to sixty than to fifty. Fragments Of The 5th Element is the sextetís fifth album, featuring five tracks, and coming not five but four years after its predecessor King For A Day. Unlike the bandís other four albums which were all more than one hour long, their new one is only forty-six minutes long, with each half comprising twenty-three minutes.
The opener The Man Who Had It All is a five and a half minute long progressive rock song, with the emphasis on rock. Often, Magic Pie have been compared to the Flower Kings from their neighbours Sweden, but listening closely, you will notice a certain hard rock touch inspired by Deep Purple and an American influence that definitely comes from Kansas. The following P & C feels a little like the opener, but is even a little heavier. Itís obvious that Magic Pie donít try to limit themselves to progressive rock, but are also open to crunchy vintage hard rock sounds. The next two songs veer into a less aggressive direction. Table For Two is at four minutes the albumís shortest and also catchiest track and comes with a mellotron part that reminds me strongly of the Beatlesí Strawberry Fields Forever. Touched By An Angel, which ends the first half, is an eight minute long ballad that couldnít have added any more pathos. Itís a little over the top for me, although the vocals are nice, reminding me somewhat of the late David Bowie, and some chord sequences actually managed to move something deep within me.
The albumís second half belongs to the magnum opus The Hedonist, a classic progressive rock suite in the tradition of the side-long behemoths from the Seventies that bands like Yes, Genesis, King Crimson and Van Der Graaf Generator used to unleash on their audiences. And while this may not be a Close To The Edge or a Supperís Ready, it still works rather well by alternating heady instrumental parts with recurring leitmotifs.
In some ways, Fragments Of The 5th Element lacks the certain something that would make it a masterpiece, but repeated listening will reveal a very well done progressive hard rock album that might, if luck is on the bandís side, bridge the gap between fantasy obsessed prog fans and sweaty, greasy hard rock dudes. Give it a listen, you might just like it fine!