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Nathan Mahl: Exodus

It's been five years since 2003's Shadows Unbound, but Canada's prog veterans Nathan Mahl are back with a hot new release, titled Exodus. Featuring stunning artwork courtesy of Michael Bennet (this guy hasn't done nearly as much prog cover art as he used to unfortunately) and great production by the band, Exodus is a complete success, a prog-rock opera that also sees some new members in the band and some new sounds. The current line-up is founding member Guy LeBlanc (keyboards, vocals, recorders), Guy Dagenais (bass, guitar, vocals), Alain Bergeron (drums, vocals), and David Campbell (guitars, keyboards, vocals), though Tristan Vaillancourt plays most of the guitars on the album, but has since left the group.

The one thing you notice right off the bat after making your way through the first three cuts "Burning Bush", "Let My People Go", and "The Plagues", is that there's some newfound 'oomph' to the music of Nathan Mahl. Sure, the playful Gentle Giant influences and the Zappa-ish fusion still remains, but Campbell & Vaillancourt's guitar work is fairly heavy, giving a hard rock/metal muscle to the band's music that hasn't really surfaced previously. Check out the rip-snortin' power chords supporting LeBlanc's wild synth soloing on the furious instrumental "The Plagues" for proof of Nathan Mahl's new found power. Plenty of other hot tracks on this proggy take on the story from the Bible, such as the gorgeous "The Parting", featuring some lush acoustic guitar and flute at the outset which slowly builds into a crunchy and bombastic rocker, the symphonic "Down from the Mountain", and the dreamy "40 Years", a tribute to Camel guitarist Andy Latimer, which not only has a certain Camel feel but also Todd Rundgren's Utopia, especially in the vocal department. Those Rundgren-ish vocals also appear on the pastoral "The Last Climb", which then seques into the quirky & complex little progressive fusion instrumental "Canaan", a great song littered with lots of intense keyboard & guitar work. The dramatic & bombastic closer " The Price of Freedom" ties the whole story together in fine fashion, a great 70's styled number that once again shows what a talented keyboard player LeBlanc is with his vast array of instruments and tones. Also check out the addicting violin work here from guest David Peterson, who makes an appearance on a few tracks.

Exodus is quite a triumph for this band, who have released numerous albums over the last 20 years to varying degrees of success. In many cases Nathan Mahl has always been applauded for their instrumental work, but criticized for their vocals. They seem to have fixed that problem here on Exodus, as vocally this is a very solid album, in addition to being excellent from a musical standpoint.

Sadly, LeBlanc's wife Dawn passed away shortly after the release of Exodus after a long battle with heart disease. As someone who met her on numerous occasions, she was an extremely nice and caring person who gave plenty to her husband and the prog rock community in general over the years, and will be missed by all. This album is a wonderful tribute to her life and her love. RIP Dawn Mitchell LeBlanc.

Track Listing
1. Burning Bush
2. Let My People Go
3. The Plagues
4. The Parting
5. Down from the Mountain
6. 40 Years (for Andy Latimer)
7. The Last Climb
8. Canaan
9. Zipporah's Farewell
10. The Price of Freedom

Added: December 21st 2008
Reviewer: Pete Pardo
Related Link: Nathan Mahl @ Unicorn Digital
Hits: 2949
Language: english

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