MAGELLAN – Symphony Of A Misanthrope

MAGELLAN - Symphony Of A Misanthrope


Release date: April 18, 2005

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Trent Gardner and brother, Wayne, have been a significantly vital force in modern Progressive Rock. Apart from their Magellan albums, they have given fans one of the best Progressive Rock albums ever: The Age Of Impact by Explorer’s Club (1998). Since then, they have released two more albums as Magellan, and now it’s time to set sail again with Symphony Of A Misanthrope, their 6th album, and a sort of excavation of one man’s distrust of his own kind: humans.

Exploration seems to be a focal point for Magellan, even with this album. They have taken some radical measures, which might seem quite odd at first, regardless of their intentions. The most obvious example is the Techno style rhythm part of “Why Water Weeds?,” but there are also other signs of Magellan’s strife for reaching further and to explore the vast white patches on the map of music.

Symphony Of A Misanthrope is comprised of 7 compositions, where 2 are instrumentals and the other 5 are thematically related, with words of concern and frustration as one common denominator. Opening track, “Symphonette,” is the album’s overture, with its strong symphonic orientation. It would be fun, however, to hear this piece arranged for and performed by an orchestra, as its expression is inhibited to some degree by the synthetic soundscape. Nevertheless, it’s a grand piece and a natural introduction to “Why Water Weeds?,” which is an epic track with one incredibly simple harpsichord-style melody pattern as its guiding star. This pattern is elegantly counterbalanced with the haunting guitar theme, leading onto the chorus, and the surprisingly odd techno beat popping in after the chorus (drums are otherwise all natural). The melody is of typical Trent Gardner origin, mesmerizing and challenging. Sadly, the song is drabbed by a far-from-smooth transition, sounding like a mixing or production flaw right after the initial verse.

The intensity in “Why Water Weeds?” is relieved by the soothing “Wisdom,” at least as far as the music is concerned. It does, however, contain a dark side, presented by the piano arrangement and the frustration in the lyrics. One might call this song a ballad because of its acoustic outfit, and Trent Gardner sure adds to this with his effortless, soaring voice. It is indeed a contrast to the following “Cranium Reef Suite,” which starts in a Pop style, then after an instrumental part, “Youthful Enthusiasm” turns heavier in “Psych 101,” the suite’s second movement. This part offers the intriguing phrases, “You’re alone on the shore of cranium reef,” and, “No one gets inside my head.” The songs character changes into a more symphonic style with the concluding part, “Primal Defense.” All in all, this song stretches beyond 18 minutes and it’s a lot to digest, both musically and lyrically, although with nearly the entire last movement repeated twice, it seems a bit over the top and its purpose being subject to the question: Is all of this really necessary?

“Pianissimo Intermission,” the album’s second instrumental, brings everything back on track with its Bach foundation. Stephen Imbler handles the piano with excellence and makes this a most memorable track.

It’s far away from the acoustic Baroque in “Pianissimo Intermission,” to the purely synthesized and cold, clinical expression in “Doctor Concoctor.” It has a kind of 1980’s Pop/Rock/Metal atmosphere, even in the vocals, which at times are distorted and rather scary. The brief guitar solo sounds a lot like Steve Howe (Yes) dropping by. For some reason, the song is faded out and this doesn’t flatter the composition. Still, this remains the album’s most remarkable track, thanks to the preceding “Pianissimo Intermission.”

Even the finale, “Every Bullet Needs Blood,” is faded out at the end, and one is left wondering why Magellan wants to keep its true end a secret to us. Before this awkward ending, however, we are served one brilliant composition. It has all the dynamics, measure changes, vocal brilliance, lyrical intrigue, and intensity one would expect from Magellan. Unlike “Doctor Concoctor,” the drums are natural and the song has a very organic and massive feel to it.

Magellan’s key signature is definitely Trent Gardner’s voice. It is simply amazing how his voice changes character from pianissimo to fortissimo, from low register to high register and from background to foreground. His easily recognizable voice creates a pivot point for the rest of the musical exploration to take place and sweep around.

Compared to Magellan’s previous efforts, this album is less convincing, much due to a somewhat uneven production and an all over very synthetic sound. Intentional or not, it gives a shrill dimension to the album with a less than flattering outcome. Other than that, it’s a must to every fan and a lesson in musical exploration to everybody else.

Magellan is always

Trent Gardner – vocals, keyboards
Wayne Gardner – guitars, bass, vocals

And this time also:

Steve Walsh – keyboards
Dave Manion – keyboards
Joe Franco – drums
Stephen Imbler – piano
Robert Berry – drums, guitar, bass


  • Frode Leirvik

    Frode was a reviewer here at Metal Express Radio, based out of Norway. His headbanging experience started when his brother-in-law gave him Deep Purple’s Fireball at the age of ten. Since then, he has also been a fan of and active in several other musical genres, resulting in a deep and profound interest in music. Some of his favorites, among all of those who have somehow managed to tap into the universal force of Progressive Music are (in no particular order): Thule, Dream Theater, King Crimson,Pink Floyd, Rush, Spock’s Beard, Jan Hammer and Jerry Goodman, Ekseption, Focus, The Beatles, Deep Purple and Frank Zappa.

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