A Surprisingly Great Christmas EP
Christmas albums aren't usually something that sit well with prog fans. In most cases, such albums are re-makes of songs we've all heard more than enough times, the music lacks in experimentation, or the album is only created with an intent of making a few bucks off of some unwary fans. And if none of the former apply (which is seldom the truth), the religious message is bound to have bad connotations with a fair number of prog fans. A Midwinter Spell is one of the only Christmas releases where I can honestly say that none of the aforementioned scenarios apply. The music itself is highly-enjoyable symphonic progressive folk, the religious message shouldn't bother even the most militant atheist, and (most of all) it got me in the "Christmas spirit". I've had a great time listening to this EP from The Morrigan, and I have a feeling many progressive rock fans would say the same. I know that I'll definitely be pulling out A Midwinter Spell when next Christmas arrives.
The album opens up with the progressive "Masque", characterized by an excellent instrumental opening and great vocal harmonies. "Dever the Dancer" is a softer track with terrific climatic builds and stellar vocals from Cathy Alexander. The first two songs are, in my opinion, the best from the EP. "Volta/Basse Danse/Volta" is a more folk-oriented piece, with obvious nods towards traditional Irish and Celtic folk songs. "Good King Wenceslas" is ultimately the weakest track here, but it's far from the worst version I've heard of that song. The real worth of this EP lies in the first two tracks, which are filled with top-notch progressive rock music. As you should expect from the musicians involved, the musicianship is impressive throughout. I especially love the frequent vocal harmonies - they enhance the EP significantly. The production isn't bad at all, but it does seem a bit thin and low-budget. It's not a big complaint, though.
A Midwinter Spell is a Christmas EP that virtually every progressive rock fan can listen to without shame, and for that alone, The Morrigan deserves praise. I'd recommend fans of beautiful and melodic prog rock/folk to check this out. As I write this, I've yet to hear a full-length album from The Morrigan, so I can't say if this measures up to their best efforts or not. I'll rate this enjoyable and highly recommendable EP with 3.5 stars. Prog rock fans who want something to play around the holidays should definitely give A Midwinter Spell a shot.
1. Masque (5:46)
2. Dever The Dancer (4:46)
3. Basse Danse Bergeret Sans Roche et Reprise / Voltas Susato / Praetorius (17th century dance tunes) (5:39)
4. Good King Wenceslas (4:42)