When I discovered the music of Magic Pie in 2005 I found out that this Norwegian band were capable to achieve something worthwhile listening to for all prog heads on the globe. Their debut album Motions Of Desire (2005) was the band's first step to make a name in the genre. Two years later Circus Of Life was released on which the musicians reached an even higher level. Especially the epic title track is breathtaking. In 2008, Magic Pie performed at the Symforce Festival in The Netherlands where they proved to be a fabulous live band as well. For me, they were the highlight of this prog rock event. At the time the line-up already featured the band's new lead vocalist Eirikur Hauksson who replaced Allan Olsen. After several live performances they were ready to record their third release. But then the band members were confronted with adversity. Their rehearsal and recording shed burned down to the ground and destroyed most of their equipment and some of the recordings. However, the band showed will-power and resumed their future plans. Like a Phoenix the band rose from the ashes to show the world what they were capable off.
The result of this hard labour is The Suffering Joy, released at the beginning of 2011. It can be considered as being their best work to date. I would like to describe the music on this album as a delicious cream on top of a very tasteful magic pie. The cream of the crop, so to say since everything on this album falls into place. The music is a fine mixture of progressive rock music with elements taken from bands that can be considered as being hard rock bands like Deep Purple and Uriah Heep. This is mainly due to Hauksson's voice. The heavy guitar parts, played by the band's mastermind Kim Stenberg, move towards the music of Dream Theater. However, despite these remarks I wouldn't call Magic Pie a hard rock or a prog metal band. The delicate keyboard performances by Gilbert Marshall and the melodic guitar solos by Kim Stenberg strongly shift the music towards progressive rock music. Bands like The Flower Kings and Spock's Beard with Neal Morse are never far away. The harmony vocals on the entire album are superb and remind me of the likes of Moonsafari, Yes, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, The Beatles and The Flower Kings.
I don't think it's necessary to enumerate the music on all tracks. Sure, the almost 25-minute long opening tune A Life's Work can be considered as the highlight of the album. The Mellotron-intro is awesome and all that follows sets the standard for the whole album. The remaining five tracks are of a very high musical level as well; you will never suffer a dull moment. I want to make a special comment for the two female guest singers Maria Bentzen and Lene Monge Stenberg who deliver outstanding performances on this release. It would be a good idea to include them on the next album as well and take them along on the road. I would also like to mention the art work which is really stunning. In a way it reminded me of Who's The Boss In The Factory by Karmakanic, but that's not that strange if you know that both covers are designed by Thomas Ewerhard.
Reading between the lines you already may have concluded that I will give this release the highest possible rating. The musicians that worked so hard on The Suffering Joy deserve a good evaluation. The compositions are just superb, the musicians perform perfectly and the production is of a very high quality. These are most certainly three good reasons to call the album a masterpiece. And as I said before: a delicious cream on top of a very tasteful magic pie indeed!
***** Henri Strik (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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