at Smuget, Oslo, Norway, June 16, 2005

Celebrating 4 years on the web and the release of a recent layout makeover, invited Metalheads to join a unique party at legendary Smuget Night/Music Club in Oslo, Norway. A last minute change of venue caused the host and President Stig Nordahl a few stressful moments and with one major concern: would anyone show up?

Yes, they did! And the more than 100 people who showed up undoubtedly had a good time. Apart from being streamed onto the PA system, the party offered a considerable lottery with hundreds of CD’s to win. Still, the main events of the night was the performances of Progressive Metal act Departure Plan and Progressive Rock act Magic Pie, who’s debut album, Motions Of Desire, has won the critics over world wide.

Departure Plan

For most people, this was the first time to see this 6-piece band. Based in Oslo, the ambitious young men served a massive dose of self-written material. The music is easily described as diversified Progressive Metal, with a tint of Black or Death Metal. Featuring a (supposedly) versatile singer, the band is otherwise made up of two guitarists, in addition to drums, bass and a discrete, but brilliant, keyboardist.

Departure Plan offered a set with promising stage acting and presence, although this music doesn’t normally invite to ecstatic jumping or cheering. Their music had a truly original twist, where a guttural voice often contributed to a dark and pounding image. Songs like “Mr Groove,” “Hidden By Conflict,” and “Perception Of Spaciousness” probably held the darkest aspects, but at the same time with contrasts to more atmospheric parts. The latter also offered the best vocal performance, as singer Åge Trøite might not have been properly warmed up until then.

Speaking of vocals, “Storming Dead Fields” offered a part with sadly out of tune backing vocals by guitarist Tony Kåreid. Also, later backing vocal parts were less impressive, so this is something they might want to look into fixing. The music, otherwise, offered quite intriguing instrumental harmonies, and the two guitarist managed to play these harmonies without cluttering each other’s sound. Also, keyboardist Ketil Renold contributed to the augmented harmonies, but he was unfortunately lost in the mix too often! Departure Plan brought their own sound engineer, but he was not able to justify their complex expression in this club, which is notorious for its awkward acoustics.

Their compositions offered ambitious tempo and theme changes, along with the augmented harmonies. Departure Plan deserves a lot of credit for their bold and gutsy compositions! Nevertheless, they ought to spend time to polish their transitions, as often times those were fumbling and less precise. Undoubtedly, they all possess the capacity of accomplishing this, it’s just a matter of time and practice.

Words were generally hard to catch, still the arrangements left no doubt as to where they intended to go with each song. The weaker song of the set was, however, “Admire the Streams,” where the Death Metal “flirt” seemed out of place and the song suffered from lack of context and originality, compared to brilliant songs like “Scarred Past” and “Mr Groove” (working title).

Guitarist Tony Kåreid was definitely the faster and more creative soloist (like in “Mr Groove” … awesome!), while his counterpart Steffen Stebbing offered impressive tonal control and timing throughout the act. Bassist Øystein Hansen and drummer Kristoffer Øyen both offered convincing backing at (sometimes) insane speed, even if their precision not always was spot on. Singer Åge Trøit fits the band’s expression, but his performance was sadly cluttered by sound problems, and thus he failed to convince. Cluttered was also the efforts of keyboardist Ketil Renold, who really sparkled whenever he made it through the mix.

Departure Plan hopefully pursues their path and thus there is no telling how far they’ll reach. The no-compromise compositions have a huge potential among many lovers of Metal, as long as they sort out the details and get the sound right. A band to keep an eye on, especially since their CD debut, Reference, is expected this summer!


Storming Dead Fields
Scarred Past
Mr Groove (working title)
Hidden By Conflict
Admire The Streams
Searing Flames
Perception Of Spaciousness
Biding Time

Magic Pie

With their magnificent debut album, Motions Of Desire, still warm (read the review here), Magic Pie entered the stage in a state of being willing and able, expected to serve a magic set. For those familiar with the album, their act was a confirmation of this band’s unique sound and music. For those unfamiliar with the album and the band, it was a golden opportunity to make a new acquaintance and to buy the CD at nothing short of a bargain price. For everyone it was an experience likely to be long remembered.

Magic Pie played all the songs from the album, except in a different order. All songs were played pretty much in the same manner as on the CD, bearing witness of a disciplined band and carefully developed arrangements. Still, they left room for improvisations and they managed to create quite a good mood, thanks to “cheer leader” and singer/guitarist Eirik Hansen, who repeatedly had the audience join for clapping. Getting rid of some fumbling pauses between songs, and these guys are likely to be one helluva act in the future!

Just like Departure Plan, Magic Pie brought their own sound engineer. He managed to bring the audience a fairly good mix, but vocals suffered from time to time. Still, the signatures of each singer was more apparent live, and this added to the uniqueness of the band. In addition to vocal sound difficulties, keyboards sometimes lost in favor of lead guitar, like in the solo battle in “Full Circle Poetry.”

Technical problems aside, Magic Pie performed with zest and soul and delivered breath taking versions of “Motions Of Desire,” “Illusion & Reality (part 1),” “Full Circle Poetry,” and “Without Knowing Why,” even if sound problems nearly messed up the 7/8 time part in the latter. On the downside, “Change” had lost its energetic intro, and the pause midway took a lot of energy and pace out of the song. Pausing also took the sting out of the darker “Dream Vision,” along with the aforementioned vocal sound problems. The band managed to pull it off, but some of the soul got lost on the way and that’s a pity.

Looking at the band members, they all deserve credit for outstanding performances. In spite of the lack of routine, they held nothing back and poured their heart out with each song. Extra credit goes to Kim Stenberg for awesome soloing, to Lars Petter Holstad for rock solid bass work (along with his team mate Jan T Johannessen on drums … especially on “Motions Of Desire” and “Without Knowing Why”), and to Alan Olsen for simply outstanding vocals! Man, that fellow can sing! Gilbert Marshall (keyboards/vocals) did a fine job, but lost some impact because of the sound. Eirik Hansen (vocals/acoustic guitar) has already been mentioned for his entertaining appearance, but there is no doubt that his musical contribution was as valuable as the others.

As concluding song “Full Circle Poetry” was drawing to an end, a peculiar version of “Hey Jude” (The Beatles) surfaced, allowing the first sing-along that night. Nice! Magic Pie ended their concert by Eirik Hansen announcing “You’ve been a very nice audience!” Well, thank you very much, Magic Pie, you were a very nice band!


Motions Of Desire
Illusion & Reality (part 1)
Illusion & Reality (part 3)
Illusion & Reality (part 4)
Without Knowing Why
Dream Vision
Full Circle Poetry


  • 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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