Ah, leave it up to a bunch of Norwegians to come up with the surprise prog hit of 2005. Magic Pie, from Moss, Norway (near Oslo), are a six piece progressive rock band whose new album Motions of Desire is one hard-hitting platter of epic tunes loaded with melodic vocals, crisp & technical guitar work, and outstanding Hammond organ. Combining the accessibility of some of today's modern acts like The Flower Kings, Magellan, and Spock's Beard, with the technical expertise of Dream Theater, and throwing in some references to 70's icons like Deep Purple, Yes, Atomic Rooster, and Uriah Heep, Magic Pie have put together a real winner here.
The opening 20-minute epic "Change" covers every spectrum of progressive rock, from some catchy acoustic moments, to searing prog-metal, to flat out symphonic rock littered with Hammond and guitar interplay. It's really hard to say just who is the star of the show here, as the whole band just shines on every song. Guitarist Kim Stenberg is a monster player, both on electric & acoustic, and the man can shred when he wants to, or lay down a gorgeous melodic passage, plus he can churn out some mean rhythms and riffs as well. Keyboard ace Gilbert Marshall plays a mean Hammond organ as well as various synths, and the rhythm tandem of bassist Lars Petter Holstad and drummer Jan T. Johannessen lock into some incredibly tight and intricate grooves. Vocally, Magic Pie are quite strong as well, and in fact they have three singers, Eirik Hanssen, Allan Olsen, as well as Marshall. Style wise, and it's not noted in the booklet who sings what, one of them sounds like Trent Gardner from Magellan, and you also hear some Roine Stolt and Nick D'Virgilio influences at times as well. There's plenty of harmonies, which gives the vocals a real strong quality as to not get drowned out by the intense musical fireworks going on around them.
The title track has a strong Marillion/Spock's Beard/Pendragon feel to it, with some attractive synths and Hammond melodies from Marshall, and it's clearly one of the anthems on the album. Another of the CD's longer pieces, "Full Circle Poetry", is a song about one mans life journey, and has moments of symphonic prog, folky acoustic work, and hard rock. Stenberg gets in some nasty licks and trade-offs with Marshall's Hammond, and also injects some beautiful acoustic passages as well. On "Without Knowing Why" the band combines Dream Theater & Deep Purple for a heavy, complex sound, featuring crunchy guitar riffs and plenty of intricate keyboard/guitar unison melodies. The three part "Illusions & Reality" is another prog epic with lots of variety, both musically and vocally, and is one of the more endearing pieces on the album. It has a little something for everyone-sumptuous vocal harmonies, pastoral passages, and heavy complex sections. Marshall gets into some intense vocal & Hammond duels here with one of the other singers that sounds like vintage Jon Lord and Ian Gillan. The CD closes with the haunting "Dream Vision", another multi-layered piece that goes from atmospheric and moody one minute to bombastic and furious the next.
Magic Pie certainly flexed their creative muscles on Motions of Desire. Sure, it's a heavy slice of progressive rock, but there are plenty of gentle nuances to be found here as well. Not quite prog-metal, not quite neo-prog, but a happy medium certainly as well as those wonderful 70's influences. Highly recommended!
1. Change (20:05)
2. Motions Of Desire (6:32)
3. Full Circle Poetry (14:15)
4. Without Knowing Why (7:55)
5. Illusion & Reality (Part I) (10:18)
6. Illusion & Reality (Part III) - Final Breath (4:49)
7. Illusion & Reality (Part IV) - Reprise (3:09)
8. Dream Vision (7:50)