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I'd not heard of Magic Pie before 'Circus of Life' turned up for review, but a quick glance at the press release accompanying the CD reveals the band formed five years ago in Norway, and this is their sophomore effort following 2005's debut release 'Motions of Desire'. With influences listed as Yes; Spock's Beard; The Flower Kings; Deep Purple; Uriah Heep; and The Beatles, my curiosity had been stirred, and I listened with high expectations. The main bulk of the album is formed by the 'Circus of Life' suite, an unequivocal metaphorical concept for life as a circus, and comprises 5 pieces of music with part IV, the epic 20+ minute 'Trick of the Mind', broken down into a further four 'acts'. There are also two more lengthy tracks, peripheral to album's title concept, which extend the overall playing time to well over an hour. I sometimes think so called concept albums tread a fine line between pretentiousness and credibility, but when the music is as good as on 'Circus of Life, such a consideration becomes insignificant. The Spock's Beard influence (and I would argue Neal Morse era SB) is prominent in Magic Pie's compositional style in terms of the retro/contemporary dichotomy. Opening track 'Welcome' serves as an effective intro with it's skilfully woven prog-folk essence before letting rip with the technically complex instrumental piece 'Freakshow' full of virtuoso playing; engaging time signatures and scalar diversity. Kim Stenberg's guitar leads impress throughout, and his wah-wah infused solo towards the end of the Floydian 'What If...' is a fine example of poignantly expressive playing, and a nice contrast with the more clinical technicality present in other songs. 'Trick of the Mind' belies its lengthy duration and passes by in no time at all, which is testament to Stenberg's compositional skills, while 'The Clown' has overtones of Pain of Salvation's 'Dea Pecuniae' from their conceptual epic 'Be' with vocals similar to those of Daniel Gildenl÷w. It would be apposite to suggest Magic Pie are progressive generically rather than actually progressive, though the Norwegians achieve a perfect balance between old and new on 'Circus of Life' that outshines many of their peers and have made an album that will have huge appeal to the contemporary prog fan en masse. Highly recommended.
Progress Records
Review by Mark Holmes
30th April 2007
1) pt.I - Welcome
2) pt.II - Freakshow
3) pt.III - What If...
4) pt.IV - Trick of the Mind
5) pt.V - The Clown
6) Pointless Masquerade
7) Watching the Waters
"...an album that will have huge appeal to the contemporary prog fan en masse."