Four years between albums is a long time for any band. However, having been hugely impressed by Magic Pie's second album, 'Circus of Life', and harbouring high expectations for its successor, I can happily report that the wait has been worthwhile. Scoring the Norwegians' sophomore effort equal points to this one, my only minor criticism is that they haven't perhaps progressed as much as one would have hoped during the past four years, hence I can only award 8.5 once again. And every self-discerning prog band should progress, right? But, like I say, that's just a minor criticism as 'The Suffering Joy' is full of the virtuoso musicianship you would expect from Magic Pie, all within some seriously lengthy song structures. The great vocals of Allan Olsen from 'Circus of Life' are now no more, but he's been replaced by a man of equal talent, Eirikur Hauksson. Composition-wise, the songwriting is generally of a high standard although they do occasionally lapse into the generic prog self-indulgence idiom when they interpose core song themes with widdly arpeggios in different time signatures, which can no longer be labelled as "weird time signatures" or "mind-bending time signatures" as they've become all too standard and rife within the music of bands from the prog scene. 'Slightly Mad' is an example of such self-indulgent musicianship and, as the great Rick Wakeman once told me in an interview, bands can fall into the trap of doing such a thing just because they can, fully admitting Yes were also guilty of that. But Yes were one of the genre's pioneers so I find no excuse in the twenty first century when a band decides to shit all over a song's well composed core with mindless virtuosity. Still, it's what many prog fans enjoy listening to so I cannot criticise Magic Pie for following such a musical path, but I just want to make the point that this is generic, not genuine, prog so you know what to expect. Despite my minor rant, and despite Magic Pie's tendency to distance you from their music with sporadic self-indulgent passages, the songwriting is generally amazing with a nice folk-style vibe underlying most tracks' prog-rock foundations. It's also worth mentioning that the album should have originally seen the light of day this time last year but a fire in the band's studio which destroyed the majority of their equipment led to the delay. Oh yeah, the cover artwork is rather atmospheric and stunning too, done justice by the glossy digipak packaging that houses the CD. If you can live with the aforementioned moments of musical masturbation (which I'm sure will be lapped up by many a prog fan anyway), then 'The Suffering Joy' comes highly recommended.
THE SUFFERING JOY
Review by Mark Holmes
28th Jan 2011
1) A Life's Work Part 1: Questions Unanswered
2) A Life's Work Part 2: Overture
3) A Life's Work Part 3: A Brand New Day
4) A Life's Work Part 4: The Suffering Joy
6) Endless Ocean
7) Slightly Mad
9) In Memoriam
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
"...despite Magic Pie's tendency to distance you from their music with sporadic self-indulgent passages, the songwriting is generally amazing with a nice folk-style vibe underlying most tracks' prog-rock foundations."