Martigan's fifth studio album Distant Monsters was already released towards the end of 2015. But in a way I could not find the right words to finish the review for the successor of Vision (see review). The German progressive rock band released in 2009 a true masterpiece and therefore the expectation was very high for what they would come up with this time. In the past I already wrote too quickly a review for an album made by a band which had also released a true masterpiece earlier. Now after a time of frequent listening sessions I did find time to end my review. Finally the music had settled down in my brain and could be translated into another review of this wonderful progressive rock act. The main question is of course if another masterpiece can be welcomed. Of course I had already heard a lot of the new songs during their concerts I had witnessed in the last couple of years so not everything was new to my ears. Would it affect my judgement?
Right from the start with the opening piece Theodor's Walls the band really kicks ass. This is just how I like to hear my daily piece of progressive rock. Influences of bands such as Genesis and Saga can be heard at several times. The band sets the musical standard already very high on their first album track. The guitar solos of Björn Bisch gave me goosebumbs several times. Wow what a guitar player this man is! But what about his brother Alex Bisch on the drums? A kind of German version of Neil Peart (Rush) can be heard. Also the lead vocals of Kai Marckwordt are of a very strong level often reminding me of the two Genesis vocalists Peter Gabriel and Phil Collins but we must not forget the excellent keyboard parts of Oliver Rebhan. Oliver is sometimes playing a solo and other times doing some wonderful chords. Bassist Mario Koch wonderfully did find his place in the band and already gave the band the sound that it needed for the new compositions. Also on the following tracks the band maintain to keep the musical level at a high level with no signs of settling for less. A fine balance between up tempo tunes and ballads can be heard and makes sure enough variety is available throughout the entire album. Ballads such as Simplicius and Take Me Or Leave Me are certainly fine resting places next to the more epic pieces such as The Lake, Fire On The Pier and the already mentioned Theodor's Walls-songs on which the band brings even more variety in rhythm and instrumentation and these are also songs on which the two instrumentalists can show what they are capable of.
Distant Monsters is an outstanding album full of orchestral keyboard passages, elegiac, soaring guitars, and lined with warm bass lines and driving drumming. The album unfolds great melodies, indulging fervently in symphonic bombast, but also leaving room for nuances and intimate moments. All the included pieces are well arranged and layered, colourful and come therefore varied.
All I can say to lovers of fine neo progressive rock and those who love music made by bands such as Saga and Genesis to not miss this album under any circumstances because this album is full of melodies and astounding developed techniques! The listener will certainly be charmed because Distant Monsters is a highly entertaining and varied album. A strong buy recommendation!
The long wait has really paid off. Martigan did not rush into things to make a fast follow up to their earlier released masterpiece Vision. They did not copy the album and went for something completely new. They did try out the new material during concerts and arranged them for the better resulting in the delivery of another true masterpiece which only can be given the highest rating possible! So all I can say is congratulations for coming up again with only the best music possible! A must have without a doubt and one of the musical highlights of 2016!
***** Henri Strik (edited by Robert James Pashman)
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