Review by J-Man
The latest outing from Norwegian progressive rock band Magic Pie has been garnering rave reviews in most prog circles, and after hearing The Suffering Joy for myself, it's not hard to understand why. I have no hesitation in calling Magic Pie's third full-length album one of the best progressive rock albums of the "new"-era. Although my interest in the modern symphonic prog scene has waxed and waned over time, Magic Pie's third effort is one of the best things I've heard in a long while. My first listen to The Suffering Joy left me speechless, and every other consecutive listen further increased my enjoyment. This was my introduction to Magic Pie, and I think it's a great place for anyone to check out these Norwegian behemoths.
The music on The Suffering Joy is symphonic progressive rock with obvious influences from The Flower Kings, Spock's Beard, IQ, Transatlantic, Genesis, and Yes. Although one could criticize Magic Pie for wearing their influences on their sleeve, the end result is still unique and (most importantly) expertly crafted. The frequent vocal harmonies especially remind me of The Flower Kings, and Magic Pie pulls off these harmonies every bit as excellently as their Swedish neighbors. In the music itself, there are melodic neo-prog sections, jazzy electric piano and guitar bits, and even some borderline-metal riffs. This is a fairly unique and eclectic album, and never does Magic Pie come across as a "clone band" of any sort.
The album opens up with the monster 27-minute, 4 part epic titled "A Life's Work". Filled with everything that a prog fan could possibly dream of, this epic could really give Transatlantic a run for their money. The next track, "Headlines", has a bit more of a neo-prog flavor and is another highlight. The short acoustic "Endless Ocean" is a beautiful track and actually one of my favorites as well. "Slightly Mad" is a heavier symphonic piece that even hints towards the heaviness and complexity of Echolyn. "Tired" is a softer song that nods especially in the direction of IQ or Pendragon. This 15+ minute epic is yet another brilliant highlight. "In Memoriam" is a stellar conclusion to this masterpiece, and yet another expertly crafted song from Magic Pie. This is an album with "all filler, no killer", so to speak. Try as I might, finding a weak spot is a difficult task.
One of the best things about Magic Pie is their talent as musicians, vocally and instrumentally. In addition to the breathtaking vocal harmonies I've mentioned earlier, the band is one of the most musically gifted out there. Add in a terrific production with a professional sound, and you have one of the most aesthetically pleasing prog rock albums in recent memory.
I was blown away at first listen by The Suffering Joy, and my satisfaction has only increased over time. Magic Pie is a relatively new band to me, but this masterpiece assures that they won't ever fall off my radar. The Suffering Joy can honestly be considered one of the finest modern prog albums I've ever heard - and I've heard more than my share of those! I'll give this a 5 star masterpiece stamp and an "essential purchase" label for any prog rock fan. Expressing my excitement about this album in review form is difficult, but the only thing anyone needs to gather from this review can be summed up in one word - MASTERPIECE!