The previous albums Brighteye Brison (2003), Stories (2006) and Believers & Deceivers (2008) of the Swedish prog band Brighteye Brison already impressed me a lot. However, the concept album The Magician Chronicles, part 1 is pretty amazing. The music on these albums proves that they know how to create outstanding progressive rock songs strongly related to the music of Yes and The Flower Kings, amongst others. The current line-up of Brighteye Brison consists of Linus Kåse (keyboards, saxophone, vocals), Per Hallman (keyboards, vocals), Johan Öijen (guitar), Kristofer Eng (bass, bass pedals, flute, vocals) and Erik Hammarström (drums). For this new album they were supported by Figge Norling (narration) and Daniel K åse (marimba, tubular bells).
According to the information sheet the band revitalized the mythology of the character of their band name. This was originally initiated on The Battle Of Brighteye Brison from the Stories album. The saga unfolds in full splendour in the first chapter of The Magician Chronicles. The story takes place somewhere far away in a galaxy spanning eons of time. Here a brave knight goes on a perilous adventure in a quest to confront a wicked magician who wields dark magic in order to create a being of super human qualities. A young man unaware of his ancient origin comes to the realization of his purpose and heads for outer space in the most advanced vessel ever designed.
The album opens with the 23-minute long epic piece The Rise Of Brighteye Brison. This track is a real musical roller-coaster that blows you out of your chair. It opens with an instrumental part that strongly resembles the opening of The Gates Of Babylon from the Long Live Rock & Roll album by the British hard rock band Rainbow. This piece starts with the same kind of impressive synthesizer solo before the other band members join in. Next are marvellous harmony vocals that made me think of bands as The Beatles, Yes and Moon Safari followed by a saxophone for some minutes. After some strong Hammond parts the music contains more influences of fusion and jazz rock with even some Latin-like acoustic guitar parts. Then we hear passages that sound like some unreleased parts from the albums Magical Mystery Tour or Abbey Road by The Beatles, followed by some fine Spock's Beard and/or Gentle Giant related parts. You can also enjoy impressive Mellotron parts that sometimes create a very bombastic atmosphere. Then suddenly they cleverly integrate a jazzy and relaxed sounding saxophone. Also included are many Rick Wakeman-like synthesizer solos and strong playing on the Hammond organ. The slapping on the bass changes the music again into a more fusion-like style. Throughout the entire piece great harmony vocals can be heard. After this long opening piece you can only panting for breath, so to say. There's so much going on that you can hardly comprehend during the first listening. It's like an adventurous movie with a lot of action that you have to watch again and again to discover all details.
The second track The Magician's Cave is again a rather long piece. The song has a nice staccato intro and mostly contains a mellower pace. Strange voices tell the continuation of the story. The female choirs on this track sound impressive and the guitar parts are in the vein of Steve Lukather or Lee Ritenour. However, the saxophone takes the lead in this piece more than once. The song ends with a strong climax with fantastic vocals and a great synthesizer solo! The third and last song Mind Fire Menace is the shortest one, but still lasts over eight minutes. Again the harmony vocals sound impressive on this more up-tempo piece. You can enjoy outstanding guitar and keyboard parts throughout this track that sounds alternately like bands as Yes, The Flower Kings and Spock's Beard.
My only negative remark is the length of the album. A total playing time of hardly 44 minutes is much too short for a full-length album nowadays. The story has been divided into two parts and maybe that has something to do with the short playing time. The other 45 (?) minutes of the story will probably be released on the second chapter of The Magician Chronicles. Provided that I'm right it would have been better to release the whole story as a double album. In spite of that I would strongly recommend to check out this superb release to people who enjoy the symphonic sound of analogue synthesizers, strong harmony vocals, Mellotrons, Hammond organs, intricate arrangements and dazzling harmonies. For me The Magician Chronicles, part I is a musical journey beyond imagination! It's also highly recommended to people who fancy the aforementioned bands. This album most certainly belongs to my highlights of 2011!
****+ Henri Strik (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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