I have been a fan of the Norwegian progressive rock band Magic Pie ever since their 2005 debut album, Motions Of Desire and the 2008 long-awaited follow-up sophomore album, Circus Of Life. Both of these albums are fantastic with Circus Of Life being the stronger, more epic sounding of the two. Both album has both log tracks as well as multi-part epic suites.
Now after about a three year wait , the band released their third album, The Suffering Joy which has some subtle changes, mainly in the vocal department. Their vocalist from the first two albums, Allan Olsen left the band and was replaced by Eirikur Hauksson (former Artch and current Ken Hensley lead vocalist).
The music on this album is rooted in modern symphonic progressive rock that upon listening has some obvious influences from current bands like Spock's Beard (especially The Light, V and SB-X), Transatlantic and of the classic era, Genesis, and Yes. They also remind me now, as a a muscular sounding The Flower Kings or even Hasse Froberg and Musical Companion.
The album opens up with the monster 24-minute, 4 part epic titled "A Life's Work". This song alone is a prog lover’s wet dream. It has all the right ingredients that makes prog epics so special. I even found myself starting over and listening again. The next track, "Headlines" (9:29) continues in the momentum of the ‘first‘ suite has started. It leans slightly towards the neo-prog side of the spectrum but that doesn’t diminish their credibly (at least not to me).
The remaining 5 tracks flow seamlessly, so I feel they should be spoken about together, starting with a beautiful short acoustic piece "Endless Ocean" (3:11) that leads right into the next track "Slightly Mad" (9:48), which is a heavier symphonic song with some complex moments throughout the almost ten minute track. is the heaviest track on the album and features moments of a complex symphonic piece.
Next up is "Tired" (15:21) is a softer song that around the 8:00 mark, the band slowly gets some muscle and has some of the best elements from the album. “In Memoriam” (8:39) a hauntingly beautiful prog ballad that ends this amazing and special album just perfectly (in my opinion, of course).
While it’s barely the half way point of the year, and I know that I will feel exactly the same way about The Suffering Joy, now as well at the year’s end. This is one of the very important albums in my cd collection. I can safely say that this is Magic Pie’s ‘masterpiece’ thus awarding it as a very highly recommended album of 2011!
Reviewed by Ron Fuchs on May 30th, 2011