Just for a change I start this review with my final judgment: listening to Ataraxia, the fourth album of the American band Majestic is no torture at all, but a very exciting musical adventure! Mastermind Jeff Hamel made a 78-minute long and excellent album assisted by Chris Nathe (drums) and Jessica Rasche (vocals). Starting as a hard rock guitarist autodidact Jeff Hamel learned to play the keyboards and the bass guitar. His debut album Descension (2007) was an instrumental solo album. On his second album String Theory (2008) and on his third Arrival (2009), he was supported by several guest musicians and musical friends.
Next to Nathe and Rasche you hear contributions of his son Jeremy, who plays the guitar in the last song Reflections, Gregg Jones, guitar on Altered State, Jerry Swan, bass on Numb and John Wooten drums on Astral Dream and Delusion. The album starts with someone climbing up a staircase, buzz talking in a pub and heavy rainfall before Jessica Rasche with her angelic voice starts to sing the mysterious lyrics of Disarray. In Faceless I'm rudely waken up by hard rock guitar sounds. The end contains a duet between Rasche's vocals and Hamel's heavy riffs. After catching my breath, Wither is another surprising piece with a blend of gothic rock, space metal and guitar sounds in the vein of Pink Floyd, while Star Bound feels like being in a space capsule travelling to an unknown planet. This time I'm not impressed by the monotonous vocals and the lyrics of Jessica Rasche. Numb is a ballad with a rather dreamy duet. Astral Dream is a seven-minute instrumental piece with long space sounds blended with atmospheric guitar waves quite similar to the oldest British space invaders Hawkwind. In my opinion, Delusion is the weakest song of the album since the spoken words don't match with the weird musical texture of this song. Otherwise Dance Of The Elders is one of the highlights, a kind of mini space rock symphony. Listen to the varied drumming of Chris Nathe, the pumping bass, the sound of the electric guitar and the flashy synthesizer solos.
However, the absolute highlight of Ataraxia is the epic Takes My Breath Away that lasts over fourteen minutes. It contains atmospheric and spacey keyboards, howling guitar sounds in the vein of David Gilmour and dramatic, angelic voices. This piece gradually builds up to a climax with an outstanding guitar solo played by Hamel. Well done! The title of this track exactly expresses what it did to me. Altered State is a brilliant song either containing nine minutes of excellent heavy hard rock. Toward the end the song turns into a more symphonic piece with Jessica's vocals. The epilogue Reflections is again a piece of harmonious and musical perfection in the vein of Eloy and Ayreon.
Unfortunately Ataraxia, the fourth album by Majestic, contains a few weaker songs as well. Otherwise I had given this album a five-star rating, but four stars out of five aren't bad at all... In the meantime Majestic released their fifth album called Labyrinth, but until now I didn't receive a copy to review.
**** Cor Smeets (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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