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Majestic: Ataraxia

This is easily one of the best albums of 2010. Full of intensity. An interesting story which holds your attention throughout. Some of the best keyboards and guitar licks of the year. The synth work is just amazing. There is nothing missing. Glad I took a chance on buying this CD. It will definitely be in my top five albums of the year. Heavy in parts and soft and airy in others. Just the right mix. Jessica's vocals are fantastic. Jeff's keys and guitars fill this epic with interesting new chords and dynamic play. I have added this band to my watch list and I am now in search of their back catalog. Highly recommended!

Disarray – Footsteps climbing wood stairs to open this song as we enter a party with the ocean nearby. Nice start. Then Jessica, "The lights are distant by the shores of time. Lands drift far but the new world is mine." A nice soft beginning for what is about to come.

Faceless – A power chord and synth attack with drums accompanying, that just rips open the soundscape. The fire is lit and the energy is in your face. The best song on the album. Power at the beginning and soft quietness to close. The synths and lead guitars are fantastic. Then they slow down and Jessica delivers the comforting vocals, "A long journey throughout these years. Hard to swallow reminiscent tears. Drifting clouds held in memory. Lost in thoughts I had to set free." The lucid state, free from worry begins to take hold. That soft, cool synthesizer takes you there. The grinding guitar chords match the power and lift Jessica brings to the vocals and lyrics, "Dreaming instead, I forget. Moving forward with no regrets."

Wither – The second best song on the album. This opens with the quiet closing from Faceless. The ataraxia begins to take hold. Woodwinds and bass seem to take over the stage and bring the calm necessary for the rest of the journey. Then a cool synth, guitar and drum combo does a great job of weaving mystery along with Jessica's vocals. "Here I lay. Here I pray." I am reminded of pieces of Sylvan's Presets, in its quietest moments. And that's a good thing. "Echoes stir of memories, of those yesterdays." Just brilliant instrumentation and vocals. The launching guitar solos are stunning. The bass and drums provide stellar support. The orchestration at the end is magnificent, and I didn't want it to end.

Star Bound – This starts out like an OSI song mixed with science fiction star bursts from the synths. The drums and guitar are stellar as well. More cool synths and keys with great drums, bass, and lead electric weaving in and out. Jessica's vocals really lock you in, "Driving on to the new world. Starbound."

Numb – Very cool spacey synths overwhelm you before one of those famous deep spacey electric guitar chords as Jessica sings, "Dreaming…feel like I'm seeing…" Her voice does a great job of capturing that feeling of drifting within a deep dream. "We find everything is gonna be alright." You can definitely feel this emotion as you drift with her and the band on soft airy keys, chords and drums.

Astral Dream – Then you free fall into space with awesome keys, synths and astral sounds. Just incredible. Similar to some of Ayreon's sounds. This instrumental is terrific. Power lead and bass chords intermingling with those astral keys and synths with the drums setting pace. Let this one just take you away. It gets heavier as it progresses. The room is surrounded by the pounding drums, lightning keys and grinding guitars. Then a break as we drift back to soft keys and synths.

Delusion – Jessica, "I remember when I almost died. The pain was so intense." You can feel it in the way she delivers the lyrics. That Doors 'Riders on the Storm' keyboard effect is awesome. This time Jessica speaks most of the words as she sings sounds in the background of a dreamscape. Intense and excellent. The guitar and drums add to the power of the words and story being delivered.

Dance of the Elders – The synths are excellent throughout this album, but nowhere better than here. This one is just incredible. The best instrumental on the album. The bass is powerful. Along with the lead guitar and drums they all light a fire as the synths fan the flame taking it higher.

Take My Breath Away (2010) – The big epic at 14:14. Driving down the highway as cars and trucks roll by on the interstate to start this epic. "Flying down the highway. I have not seen a thing." The synths fly along with the magnificent vocals. The drums comfort and help soften the scene. The vocals are wonderful, "I see the leaves surround me. I feel stars above me. Takes my breath away." Yes, this song will do the same. Beautiful synths and keys with soft cymbals and drums. Memorable guitar chords and dreamy soundscapes. Everything you could want in an epic.

Altered States – More excellent keys and synths along with spacey guitar chords to open this 9:43 epic. More Banks/Emerson - like flights of fancy with the synths as that power lead electric grinds through to a soaring dynamic power rise, then drifts off to an awesome cacophony of electric fuzz and drive. The keys gather quickly and provide a stunning backdrop for more grinding Rush – like guitar. Another reason this is such a perfect album without extras. Jessica joins in towards the end to encapsulate the song with, "We find everything is gonna be alright." Back to the party, and then the walk down those wood stairs and the door closes on this epic.

Reflections – This wonderful song of reflection open with those beautiful synths and an acoustic guitar. "I am feeling 17. If you know what I mean. Time is flying by. It was all I have to give. " Jeff and Jessica calling out to each other, accompanied by the acoustic and those cool synths. "I once had a dream. You were laying by me."

Track Listing
1. Disarray
2. Faceless
3. Wither
4. Star Bound
5. Numb
6. Astral Dream
7. Delusion
8. Dance of the Elders
9. Takes My Breath Away (2010)
10. Altered State
11. Reflections

Added: March 15th 2011
Reviewer: Mark Johnson
Related Link: Band Website
Hits: 4856
Language: english

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» SoT Staff Roundtable Reviews:

Majestic: Ataraxia
Posted by Michael Popke, SoT Staff Writer on 2011-03-15 12:05:08
My Score:

My esteemed SoT colleagues have already praised Majestic's Ataraxia as a modern-day prog masterpiece. Since I also have a copy of this symphonic-rock album that's still making my speakers sing, I wanted to chime in…

Ataraxia transports listeners to another time and place, drifting away on the wings of this complex, yet accessible and extremely melodic music. The instrumental "Astral Dream," with its sweeping and cinematic scope, is a perfect example. It segues into the spacey, spoken-word "Delusion" — which (believe it!) recalls Blondie's "Rapture." Meanwhile, "Wither" sounds like something out of Ayreon's Into the Electric Castle, "Take My Breath Away (2010)" finds Majestic treading into fusion territory, and "Numb" ranks as one of the most beautiful, reassuring prog songs I've heard in a long time — Jessica Rasche proving that she should be mentioned in the same breath as Magenta's Christina Booth and former Mostly Autumn vocalist Heather Findlay.

The oversized packaging resembles a classic gatefold double album, with elegant artwork and text so fancy you can barely read it. Song titles don't really matter here, though. The music says enough.

Majestic: Ataraxia
Posted by Steven Reid, SoT Staff Writer on 2011-01-08 13:26:47
My Score:

Having been hugely impressed by Majestic's 2009 album Arrival, I was expecting something special from the latest release from Jeff Hamel and boy has he and his band delivered with Ataraxia. This is an album crammed with a stunningly strong set of atmospheres that range from the warm, dreamy tones of "Delusion" and the jazzy groove of "Star Bound", to the powerful guitars and eerie tones of "Faceless". The band is completed by the amazing vocal talents of Jessica Rasche, who must be one of the best unheralded vocalists in rock and the expert drumming of Chris Nathe.

Last time round I suggested that the sound of Majestic sat somewhere between Pink Floyd and Porcupine Tree, but with Ataraxia, I would suggest that Majestic have moved further into the classic era of prog, with the whole album having a more seventies feel, but somehow this is all done without sounding in any way retro. Instead the music on this album sounds fresh and vibrant and as current as prog gets, but without the need to ever crank up the distortion, add huge swathes of ambient noise, or create long passages of uncomfortably "challenging" music. Instead Hamel and Majestic work hard at keeping the sounds flowing, engaging and well....majestic! The synth work and guitar playing across the whole album is of the highest order and the arrangements are masterful, which along with an excellent production, gives the album an absolutely massive presence.

Impressively across an album of eleven songs that clocks up nearly eighty minutes of music, the quality never dips and with the variety of moods and atmospheres explored here, every time you listen to Ataraxia, something new and interesting is discovered to explore. The aptly titled "Astral Dream" is a mesmerising, floating instrumental, where a roaming bass line holds everything together as Hamel's is allowed the freedom to run free with a deep intensity and skill, but as ever with a strong eye on melodic fulfilment. Elsewhere Rasche's stunning voice is integral to the Majestic sound, with her performances on "Wither" giving her the chance to illustrate a hugely threatening atmosphere to her voice, while opening number "Disarray" shows her at her angelic best. Add to that a wonderfully evocative spoken word section on "Delusion" and I have to say that I'm struggling to think of a better female singer in the prog genre right now.

With Arrival, Majestic suggested that they were a band destined for great things, and here, only one album down the line and they've only gone and bloody well proved it! Absolutely stunning!!

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