Wow! Just when it looked like the year was going to close unceremoniously, along comes something literally majestic. Over two years in the making…and for us fans…waiting. But it was worth it. Yes, I loved their last album, "Ataraxia", but this one surpasses it within the first CD of the two CD set.
The album is produced by multi-talented instrumentalist Jeff Hamel, and includes new band members and collaborators. Hamel plays all guitars and keyboards; Mike Kosacek, plays all drums and percussion. Hamel has invited several guest vocalists in order to paint a wider pallet. They include: David Cagle, Tara Morgan, Chris Hodges, and Celine Derval. Vladimir Moldavsky's artwork rivals some of the best in the field. The album was mastered at Sage Audio by Steve Carrao.
So let's jump right into it…
"In Memory of …" is an excellent almost Gallic sounding pipe opening, created with keys, to the album, providing a gatefold of musical orchestration that will welcome and at the same time captivate you immediately.
The first CD is a full magnum opus track in 10 parts. "VOZ I – New World" brings the new sound of Majestic with David Cagle handling vocals. It is a swift departure from "Ataraxia", which almost exclusively featured female vocals. And I have to admit that I do miss Jessica Rasche's vocals. However, the "Tubular Bells" like keys at the opening draw you into the music so fast that you will be completely immersed before you can give the change too much thought. Hamel's Squire-like bass and powerful lead guitar are a great combo treat added to all of the wonderful keyboards being played.
"VOZ II – Crossing Meridian", continues the power of those keys, this time sounding more like a piano, and Cagle's vocals. The guitar work on this track is also exceptional. The drumming will also have you keeping rhythm.
"VOZ III – Approaching Storm" and "VOZ IV – Milestone" are incredible instrumental tracks that truly create their own stories without words. The piano keys and synth effects blend so well into cruising, then crushing guitar notes.
The overflow guitar notes surround Tara Morgan as she unfolds the lyrics to "VOZ V – Whispers". Beautiful vocals…best on the album…haunt the keyboard and guitar weavings as she spins the web that locks in your attention. The jazzy guitar, soft drums and keys excellently intermingle with flute sounds and Morgan's soft vocal almost effortlessly.
"VOZ VI – Freefall" opens with excellent flute sounds and eerie keys and guitars chords. This will take you right back to side two of Genesis "Lamb' at times. Excellent change of direction and sound.
"VOZ VII – Darkened Worlds" opens with cool acoustic guitar and great supporting keys. Chris Hodges, the better of the two male vocalists, sings this one. It is one of the best tracks among a greatest hits pack on this first disc. The spacey keys will take you back to many of Arjen Lucassen's space adventures.
"VOZ VIII – Rise to the Surface" is full of cool drums and percussion at the opening. The amazing guitar work slowly grows into an earthquake of sound as the instrumental track continues.
"VOZ IX – Skies Clear" is just like it sounds. Full of keys and synth effects. Amazing keys that lift you out into flight.
"VOZ X – Voyage Ends" has a thundering drum, bass, and lead guitar opening set to spacey key rhythms. Just the kind of epic storm surge to end this first CD. Cagle is back and demonstrates his ability to yell with the best of them during the track's high moments.
"Zosimos Sleeps" is an almost harpsichord rhapsody set with flute and violin effects. It is a short instrumental interlude before the action begins again.
"Becoming" roars forward with full on classic Hammond – like keys, synths, and bombastic drums and lead electric. It almost sounds like an instrumental, until Celine Derval's hauntingly familiar vocals; yeah, she sounds a lot like Jessica Rasche, takes center stage. The guitar and keyboard work continues at its high level of excellence.
"Spirits Dwell" is another very cool instrumental piece full of eerie keys and great lead guitar. This one has memories of Yes all over it.
Chris Hodges returns to the vocals on "Around the Sun". Amazing song. In fact, this and "Darkened Worlds" are the best male vocal tracks on the album.
Well, with a name like "Hyperbole", you know what to expect. Slicing Rush-like lead guitar, pounding drums, smashing bass, and some very cool '70s "dripping" guitar. Wah, wah. Very cool.
"Becoming (Reprise)" is a piano –like instrumental full of hope and high notes after that last rumble through the stormy seas.
"Red Skies" is Derval's best vocals wrapped around spacey keys that take this closer to epic proportions. Hamel unleashes powerful grinding lead guitar, heavy drums and bass to punctuate the end of this double album masterpiece.
You can feel and sense the amount of time and effort put forth in this double album from the first to the very last note. This truly was a "magnum opus" for Majesty and Hamel. If you enjoyed "Ataraxia", you will truly love "V.O.Z.". Kosacek's drums are ever-present and full of life throughout this double album. No fillers. Every song is necessary and full of dynamic inspiration. The mastering of the disc is superior and will make this a great addition to any record collection. Since much of the album is instrumental, it is more of an experience within a story. You really need to hear and experience what Hamel has brought to the soundstage, rather than read from me what it sounds like.
Everything you could possibly want. Long instrumental tracks, great vocals, incredible keys, powerful drums, ripping guitar, soft slow acoustic, piano…it's all here.
If you're new to Majestic, this is a great place to start. If not, what are you waiting for…go and add this to the rest of their discography.
In Memory of …
VOZ I – New World
VOZ II – Crossing Meridian
VOZ III – Approaching Storm
VOZ IV – Milestone
VOZ V – Whispers
VOZ VI – Freefall
VOZ VII – Darkened Worlds
VOZ VIII – Rise to the Surface
VOZ IX – Skies Clear
VOZ X – Voyage Ends
Around the Sun
Added: January 26th 2013
Reviewer: Mark Johnson
Related Link: Majesticsongs.com
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Posted by Jeff B, SoT Staff Writer on 2013-01-26 07:04:55
V.O.Z. is the sixth album from American progressive rock act Majestic, as well as its first double CD release. As with Majestic's other albums, V.O.Z. is primarily the work of guitarist and keyboard player Jeff Hamel (who composes all of the music), but he has also recruited Mike Kosacek on drums and a handful of guest vocalists to complete the experience. As with many double albums, V.O.Z. is a highly ambitious work that will require some attention out of its listener, but its moody atmospheres and precise attention to detail make for a highly recommendable listen.
Although Majestic are often labeled as a neo-prog act, the music on V.O.Z. is much more eclectic than one may expect from the genre. I've yet to familiarize myself with Majestic's earlier offerings, so I can't comment on how this one compares stylistically, but the music here borrows from symphonic and neo prog, seventies' hard rock, progressive metal, and even touches of ambient. The more aggressive side of V.O.Z. typically reminds me of an album like Fates Warning's 1997 masterpiece A Pleasant Shade of Gray - while the riffs can get pretty heavy and intricate, the atmosphere always remains dark and subtle. This is still first and foremost a progressive rock album, though, so fans of acts like IQ, Pink Floyd, and Porcupine Tree should feel right at home here. I was actually quite impressed with how original Majestic's music sounds; I can't think of any other band to compare this to, so kudos to Jeff Hamel for managing to create something new and unique in the progressive rock world!
Fortunately, the songwriting is also excellent across both discs of V.O.Z., and there is enough variation for the album to remain interesting from start to finish. The first disc is dominated by the hour long title track suite, and half of the songs on disc two exceed eight minutes - this can make V.O.Z. seem a bit daunting at first, but the music is solid enough to keep you coming back for more. Tracks like "Voyage Ends", "Hyperbole", and especially the mammoth "Red Skies" should be right up the alley of any progressive rock enthusiast. The album is also quite well-produced, and while it's maybe not the best sounding album out there, all of the instruments are clear and the mix sounds highly professional.
V.O.Z. is one of those rare double CD's that manages to be both free of filler and eclectic throughout its entire duration, so I can only applaud Majestic for putting together such a great release. I would say that V.O.Z. perhaps doesn't reach into the 'masterpiece' range as frequently as other progressive rock gems, but Jeff Hamel has clearly crafted a magnificent observation here. Fans of progressive rock with an atmospheric and heavy edge should find a lot to enjoy from this adventurous release.
Posted by Pete Pardo, SoT Staff Writer on 2013-01-02 13:30:25
V.O.Z. is the follow-up to Ataraxia from multi-instrumentalist Jeff Hamel and the band he likes to call Majestic. Along with drummer Mike Kosacek and a host of guest singers, V.O.Z. is 2 CDs of sprawling, bombastic prog rock, often times pretty aggressive with some hard rock & metal elements, and at others quite symphonic for all lovers of the '70s greats.
Plenty of sizzling musicianship to be found here, as Hamel is actually a very good guitar & keyboard player, and the vocals, especially from Tara Morgan, David Cagle, and Celine Derval, are spot on. "VOZ V – Whispers" is especially well done, with Morgan's angelic vocals soaring over some liquid guitar lines and spacey keys that wouldn't have sounded out of place on an old Pink Floyd or Camel album.
Though there's a lot of material to get through here, but it's all well done and quite enjoyable for all the adventurous prog listeners out there. The 2 CD set comes with full lyrics and catchy artwork, making for an all around nice prog rock package for late 2012.
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