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M-Opus: Origins

It’s maybe an age thing but it’s a long time since I last sat listening to an album intently reading every word on the lyric sheet as the songs - a double album no less - played from the speakers. In the case of Origins by M-Opus (the band’s second album, following on from the excellent 1975 Triptych) the reasons for such undivided attention are numerous. Firstly, this is top notch and varied prog that simply demands you pay attention as styles from the 70s are pulled and pushed into something you feel immediately familiar with and yet still want to discover more from. Secondly, the attention to detail here, from the nuanced but engaging production, to the fabulous musicianship, via the intricate song construction, pulls you toward it in such a way that you feel like you’re standing right in the middle an unfolding saga. And thirdly, well because this album is indeed an unfolding saga by way of a complex, involved concept album that, I must admit, made me head to the band’s website so I could both immerse myself in the story and, well… fully grasp exactly what was going on.

M-Opus themselves are an Irish three-piece featuring Jonathan Casey on vocals and as a voice actor, as well as handling keyboards, bass and guitar, Colin Sullivan on guitar and narration and Mark Grist on drums. As you’ll maybe have picked up from those credits, the only warning I’ll give about Origins is that if you struggle with albums that contain lots of dialogue - in this case absolutely top notch voice acting that any radio play would be proud to display - then, with no separate tracks between the music and the ‘action’, you might well find all of the talking a little too much. I’d go as far as to suggest that the true stars here are the voice actors, some of who also sing, with Jonathan Casey, who plays the main character - a washed up drunk called Miller McKee - doing an absolutely fabulous job of both drawing you into his songs and the story itself. Talking of the story, we’re set about 150 years in the future on a ‘caper’ that takes in out of body travel, murder, a trip into a murky underworld via a risky theft and the journey to bring all of those threads back together again. It’s stunningly well recognised and hugely thought provoking, even if you do have to dig in a little to get to the bottom of what’s occurring. Fair to suggest that as futuristic prog-sci-fi-concept albums go, they don’t come much better.

Spread across two discs, the music matches the story every stride of the way and in many places even goes one step further. Yes, we’re in the realms of traditional symphonic/neo progressive rock but along the way there’s also strong use of The Police like funk-pop, Bowie-esque spaced up meanders, some early Porcupine Tree psych, occasional Marillion flutters and a few shards of more angularly jagged prog. Add in a few genuinely stick in the mind cuts, such as the bulging romp of “Accidents Will Happen” and its reprise, “Emergency Exit”, and “Never Giving Up On Your Love” and the mix of sections where you have to lean in close to make sure not to miss the nuances at play and those where you can kick back and gyrate to the rhythms, is masterfully traversed.

And that, truly, is the most impressive aspect here. There are a lot of superb musical concept albums where the script is a bit ‘by the by’ and there are also numerous outings in this sphere where the story is jaw droppingly exciting but the music never quite hits the same heights. Origins however shines brightly on both counts and from start to finish is a hugely rewarding and invigorating listen. Yes, you do have to set aside over two and a quarter hours to listen to this album as it should be - a story with a beginning, a middle and an end - but do so and you’ll be rewarded at every turn. Origins is quite breathtaking and the more I listen to it the more remarkable it becomes.

Track Listing
1. Overture
2. Accidents Will Happen
3. Please Don't Let Me Go
4. Can't Blame Me
5. A Perfect Day For Flight
6. Mr. McKee
7. Find My Way Back Home
8. Krown On The Coastline
9. Welcome To White Rose
10. Mystery At The Ministry
11. Midnight On The White Rose
12. Complete The Machine
13. Waiting To Be
14. Labyrinth
15. Armed Gods
16. At The Lab
17. Never Giving Up On Your Love
18. 2048 Numbers

19. Emergency Exit
20. Troubled Minds
21. Hide And Seek
22. Holy War
23. Empty Shells
24. Fireworks
25. The Big Swindle
26. Violet Alone
27. Don't You Want To Feel My Heart
28. Infinite Within

Added: September 19th 2020
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: M-Opus online
Hits: 1908
Language: english

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M-Opus: Origins
Posted by Jon Neudorf, SoT Staff Writer on 2020-09-19 07:26:30
My Score:

M-Opus is a three piece melodic progressive rock band hailing from Dublin, Ireland. The band formed in 2014 and consists of Jonathan Casey (vocals, keyboards, bass, guitar), Mark Grist (vocals, drums) and Colin Sullivan (guitar, narration). Previous to the band’s formation Sullivan and Casey had played together in numerous bands for many years. Casey was also a member of the David Cross Band, under the alternate name of Arch Stanton.

This is the band’s second album, their first is titled 1975 Tryptych and was released in 2015. It’s interesting to note the ‘1975’ in the title refers to band’s take on retro prog from 1975. Their latest effort titled Origins is their take on music from 1978; sounds, studio techniques, etc.

Origins is a full blown concept piece containing vast amounts of narration and audio acting, propelling the story over a sprawling two CDs, 28 tracks and 135 minutes of music. All I’ll say of the concept is its futuristic, taking place in the year 2187 and involves mystery, murder and a rather large scientific idea. To make this happen there are a total of sixteen guests, all providing the voices of individual characters.

The tracks run together and the narration almost acts as an audio book at times as the story is integral to the overall experience. It’s all put together with great skill, after all the album took five years to put together, so clearly a lot went into this work. The music is expertly played, lots of excellent melodies and craftsmanship, including fine guitar and keyboard solos throughout. Melodic classic rock and symphonic prog is the order of the day, or should I say yesterday, and the band’s skill in both composing and arranging should be duly mentioned. The vocals are another high point for me as Casey has a very listenable timbre with good range and melodic sensibility. The one drawback for listeners may be the spoken word parts but it will all depend on your point of view. For me, Origins is one of those albums that needs your complete focus, preferably on a good set of headphones so as to totally immerse yourself in the experience. For conceptual melodic/symphonic progressive rock this has been quite a ride and one I easily recommend. By all means check this out and support the band however you can.

Released on Rude Chord Recordings.

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