CD Reviews Magic Pie - King For A Day

Published on 27th May 2015

Magic Pie – King For A Day


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King for a Day is the latest impressive release from Norwegian Symphonic/Progressive Rock band Magic Pie following on from 2011’s well-received The Suffering Joy. This new album develops their usual style and themes with powerful flourishes, flamboyant passages and elements of more subtlety amidst their epic soundscapes. According to the band the album consists of ‘story’ songs with various aspects of the human mind and the different paths we choose with all the curves and bends – some roads leads to others, some just reach a dead-end street.

Album opener Trick of the Trade opens rather spectacularly with a fanfare of keyboards and drums before we hear multi-layered choral vocals, almost in the style of Queen, telling the story of a reckless youngster who took one chance too many. The interplay between excellent new keyboardist Erling Henanger and Kim Steinberg’s unmistakable guitars drive this along at breakneck speed before the boy reaches his tragic end:

“He never knew no wrong from right that boy – and that’s what got him in the end”

After such a rocking foot-stomping start, one of the standout tracks, Introversions, commences appropriately in more subtle fashion. Acoustic guitar plays over reverb effects and synthesizer before erupting into a louder call and response section characterizing the conflicting internal voices of conscience and desire. The early part is punctuated with strange, distorted keyboard fills over Magic Pie’s trademark powerful, chunky riffs musically describing the inner turmoil of the song’s protagonist. Halfway through gentler multi-layered vocals cast some light into the song before proceeding with an interesting throbbing build-up to a measured guitar break into a more introspective reflection. Musically and lyrically the ‘ying and yang’ of the positive and negative, the cautious and impulsive aspects of personality are imaginatively reconciled with an exquisite but controlled short guitar solo before the lines:

“Seems to me we’ve both had better days, So let’s go Soaring…”

Vocalist Eirikur Hauksson has helpfully explained that According to Plan is a continuation of the narcissistic ‘selfish and ruthless bloke’ featured at the heart of previous album The Suffering Joy. Magic Pie pack a hell of a lot into this 6 minute 30 second song, proving ‘Prog’ can really ‘rock’ and also tell a story without always needing epic proportions. The echoes of Queen with the multi-layered choral vocals are heard again over Magic Pie’s characteristic powerful driving rhythms. Eirik Hanssen’s and Eirikur Hauksson’s vocals are particularly impressive on this song, alternating between full on rock and more subtle passages, ranging from the rock tones of Deep Purple to the more refined vocalising of classic prog bands. This contrast reflects yet again the recurring theme of the conflicting thoughts of the song’s main protagonist. Henanger’s swirling keyboards underpin the finale of the song as the Conscience or Father figure observes the high price he pays for his Plan:

“Was it fame you hoped to find? Was it Love you left behind, still taking ‘til there was no more”

As the title suggests, Tears Gone Dry moves us into far more sombre, personal and soulful territory as Hauksson and Magic Pie laments a suicide. The song is a call for the medicine industry and doctors to show more care regarding mental health issues and not just resort to the use of prescribed drugs as the only answer, sometimes with tragic results:

“You Took Your Life, but… how can I survive your suicide?”

Tears Gone Dry opens in suitably sombre Floydian style reminiscent of Shine On You Crazy Diamond with a delicate guitar soloing over lilting keyboards. Further echoes of classic Prog heritage are then heard as a flute like keyboard floats above acoustic guitars in true old Genesis style. This beautiful opening underlines that this song is a love song but also a lament to someone dear. It is also a welcome change of pace and style from the rest of the album which is distinctively powerful and impressive in performance, but the overall feel benefits from introducing a more subtle section. Different emotions of anger evoked by this tragic theme are portrayed in the much heavier music and harsher tones as the song describes the thoughtless commercial agendas of some in the medicine trade. This is briefly contrasted with a cello like keyboard epitaph before the song climaxes with maniacal keyboards thrusting along on the thunderous bass of Lars Petter Holstad, with Stenberg’s rippling guitar takes up the musical baton as the singer laments:

“I’ll Keep the Dream Alive.”

The lyrical framework for The Silent Giant is altogether more surreal, and features strange musings on ‘Nothingness’ (“And what if nothing comes from nothing?”). The formless nature of the theme results in obscure lyrics (e.g. what is ‘The Silent Giant’?) and the least satisfying song on the album, but nothingness never sounded so loud with guitars spiralling crazily around synth lines before a brief finale of Dream Theater like guitar soloing fading away aptly to… nothing! This piece particularly shows the excellent job Rich Mouser has done in mixing and mastering a sonically perfect album with producer Kim Stenberg.

The finale of the album is the inevitable huge Magic Pie epic King for a Day, described by Eirikur Hauksson as ‘the big monster’, at over 27 minutes long. This takes a little stamina and one slight reservation is wondering whether the story may have been conveyed with similar effect without quite such huge proportions. Nevertheless, this is Magic Pie and this is what they do, and undeniably they do it very well indeed! The origins were from an older song which provided the starting point for this tragic song. The eccentric free spirited character played by Robin Williams in Alan Parker’s classic movie The Fisher King was apparently part of the inspiration for the title character, but this takes a tragic twist as the King for a Day apparently cracks and ‘goes postal’ with a shooting – a prog counterpart to Boomtown Rats I Don’t like Mondays? This is rather a bleak story handled with Magic Pie’s customary ear for a good tune amidst the prog rock grandeur and trademark intricate keyboard motifs, driving riffs and thunderous backing from Jan Torkild Johannessen on drums. Magic Pie also interweave into their stories some memorable lines, including the recurring refrain:

“I Am Just a Simple Man, Lost in Faith in Who I Am, I Woke up to Collide with Reality’s Oncoming Train”

Magic Pie clearly reference their main influences throughout the album, but they interweave such styles skilfully into their musical palette with imagination and have evolved their own distinctive muscular and agile prog style. If you are looking for ‘edgy’ and avant garde then this is not for you – if you’re looking for very well crafted and excellently played Prog Rock, with the emphasis on ‘Rock’, with memorable tunes, crunching rhythms, scintillating riffs and artistic flourishes then Magic Pie yet again provide a musical feast to satisfy most prog appetites.

[Leo Trimming would like to thank Magic Pie’s Eirikur Hauksson for his feedback about some of the concepts about the songs on this album.]

TRACK LISTING:
01. Trick of the Trade (6:08)
02. Introversion (12:23)
03. According to Plan (6:31)
04. Tears Gone Dry (12:13)
05. The Silent Giant (5:21)
06. King for a Day (27:29)

MUSICIANS:
Eirikur Hauksson – Vocals
Lars Petter Holstad – Bass, Backing Vocals
Erling Henanger – Keyboards, Backing Vocals
Jan Torkild Johannessen – Drums
Eirik Hannsen – Vocals
Kim Steinberg – Guitars, Vocals

ADDITIONAL INFO:
Record Label: Karisma Records
Year of Release: 2015
Country: Norway

LINKS:
Magic Pie – Website | Facebook

DISCOGRAPHY:
· Motions of Desire (2005)
· Circus of Life (2007)
· The Suffering Joy (2011)

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