The best progressive rock is complex, and does not necessarily conform to traditional structures and the iterations of verse-chorus-repeat. Wonderful examples can be found in the music of Genesis and Van Der Graaf Generator.
There are other genres of music whose writers will sacrifice melody and structure to wrest a song to fit the convoluted lyrics that are required to advance the song's concept. They are complex by accident rather than by design and sad examples can be found in the contrived musicals commonly heard off- and off-off-Broadway.
Magellan's style fits uniquely between these extremes, selecting good facets from each. It is easy to visualize Impossible Figures – or any of the Gardner brothers' albums – as the basis for a huge musical production. Their Leonardo, The Absolute Man was in fact attributed not to "Magellan", but to an "Original Cast". So the big, theatrical sounds just may be no accident.
Like previous Magellan albums, Impossible Figures demands that listeners involve themselves in the lyrics and the concept before it can be fully appreciated, Well here's a quandry: As reviewers, we often get promo CDs in just a cardboard sleeve, and do not have the benefit of booklets, lyrics, descriptive information or the full artwork. It is consequently impossible to comment on the underlying theme or concept behind Impossible Figures. But those parts that can be discerned are wide ranging and introspective.
There is a lot of standard progressive rock here. There are also generous dabs of heavier metal-like music with deep, crunchy riffs and the full bass treatment. But always the more symphonic keys or the vocals or the trombone (yes, trombone) bring it back to its prog-rock roots and the entire album is packed with full sounds that leave little breathing room. The keys are richly textured, the guitar work is effective and heavily riff-laden with few solos and lots of acoustic guitar, and the arrangements are complex and the vocals elaborate. Jason Gianni's drums carry whole passages, and are used to particularly good effect on "A World Groove", which starts off – and at times reverts to – an imaginative world-music piece. The strength of Impossible Figures is in the instrumentals and we found it easier to appreciate it when mentally blanking out the vocals.
One track lasts for 10-plus minutes, and the rest of the short 45-minute album is made up of 1:30 to 6:30 tracks. The final song is the 6-minute "Feel The Cross", and is probably the best piece on the album. It is more instrumental than vocal, very musical, and leaves the listener feeling wonderfully uplifted when the final notes fade softly away.
Impossible Figures is one of the Gardners' best albums to date, and their first for Inside Out Music America – after their ruinously expensive and litigious departure from Magna Carta. If the brothers Gardner do make it to the Broadway, there's a whole community of progressive rock fans who will beat a path to the ticket booth. And you will find them on Broadway.