HardReviews 2
by Martin Popoff

Magellan - One Hundred Year Flood
(Magna Carta)

OK, Trent Gardner's gotta be the progressive pied pier of the new millennium, working everywhere and passionately, producing an astonishing number of works with various projects, most recent triumphs being a second Explorers Club and the vastly under-rated Leonardo project. Now he is back with his core band, owned and operated by the virtuoso and his brother Wayne. The resultant album is more about three chunks that go album-length then stop. Dispensing with the back two, what we get is a six minute instrumental called Family Jewels, which is a moody slash of symphonics loaded with flute work from one Ian Anderson. Closing the album is a confrontational 11 minute prog opus featuring Trent's Chris Squire-like vocals o'ertop a chomping rhythm track that sounds like modern heavy Kansas. It is a looming, luminous track about helping one's fellow man, or not. Now... what you are left with is the record's reason to be, a 34 minute classic called The Great Goodnight, which tells the true and heartbreaking story of a Gardner brother Jack who was killed in battle in Viet Nam. It is a wrenching tale about memory, mother, spirituality, and musically, it goes to many places (for convenience of location, it is demarcated on the CD 13 times). The only part that doesn't work is the wild a cappella at the beginning, but after that, the melodies reign, the drama lifts and evaporates, only to return more boldly cinematic than before. It is as good and grand as any prog you will ever hear and the performances and production match that apex epithet. I kind of wish somehow this piece could extend and sit alone, the album coming out a bit jarring with these three completely separate trains of thought, but I know from talking to Trent, the artist has to let things start and end without force.
Rating 8

Firewind - Between Heaven And Hell

I'm really the wrong guy to be blathering on about what is a traditional power metal act (low tolerance), but beyond the piled-high lyric clichˇs enclosed (band name, album name and band shot... lemme peruse my checklist), this is a pretty triumphant and sweet sounding bit of pompous power. The secret ingredient is the massive guitar tone of Greek prodigy Gus G. (21 years old and counting), the man coming up with some nice lines (re: Yngwie, Scorps, Dio) but really winning the day through those huge dirty power chords. Ex-Kenziner vocalist Stephen Fredrick also adds to this sense of weight, his gritty voice recorded live and boomy, the duo rounded off by a rhythm section that is also punchy and hefty and highly cognizant of groove. And halfway through there's a real treat, Firewind covering Scorpions' obscure Pictured Life like there's no tomorrow, really grabbing the damn thing and shaking it like a pitbull. All told, there are real strengths here. If only the evidently necessary trappings of life as Metal Gods can be somehow updated, refashioned, made over...
Rating 7.5

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