Usually when undertaking an album review such as ‘Parallel Worlds’ it can take simply ages of ardent research in order to piece together the introductory paragraph or more specifically details about the band, where they are from and how they got together etc. But in the case of ‘Magnatar’ everything, including an outline musical description of each individual tracks is spread out before you in both their ‘Facebook Page’ and more so in their comprehensive ‘webpage’. And so, all that was left to do was play the tracks, sort out some photos and assemble my thoughts!
Even though the music of ‘Yes’ is undoubtable a major flavouring running through the backbone of this album, it is done so in a fairly unique way inasmuch that whilst the there is a similarity of style, ‘Magnatar’s music expands far and beyond with an overall freshness and singularity. In fact and more importantly, the whole affair has been extremely well constructed with oodles of sumptuously arranged instrumental passages. Each separate passage fusing the entire band together as a single unit with wonderful synchronisation and an undoubted team spirit. One can sense the sheer joy of this guys playing together and, during the compositional process of, adding their own contributions to the mix. The term jigsaw comes readily to mind as you work your way through the individual tracks and successively bathe in the harmonious arrangements as each instrumental component part comes to the fore subsequently locking together and forming the overall splendour of a wondrous picture in sound.
It is clear that this album represents an immense amount of hard work and coordination in the working out of arrangements and musical sequences. It is also fascinating to learn that the great majority of the foundation work was initially developed utilising the mandolin and then expanded by the individual musicians adding their own contributions. There is an extremely high level of musicianship throughout this album and these guys certainly do deserve recognition and a vast amount of success in the future.
Summary: A really great instrumental progressive rock album full of interesting arrangements and superb musicianship. Top Score Album.
01 - Parallel Worlds
02 - Fourth Passage
03 - Solara (Intro to New Galaxy)
04 - New Galaxy
05 - Night Changes
06 - A Walk in the Park
07 - Five Pieces of Six
08 - She Flies
09 - Augmented Reality
The Following Information Was Provided By ‘Magnatar’
‘Magnatar’ represents three generations of musicians that share a common interest in creating original music with a unique but still accessible progressive influence. The lineup is :- Glenn Smith on Mandolin, Joey Costa on Bass, Reed Hayes on Drums, Ryan Rivas on Guitar, and Dave Norton on Keys. Glenn has been the principle songwriter to this point, composing his songs on the Mandolin. He presents the arrangement to the band and then each member develops their own parts and sounds. The new album is about half older compositions from some of the earlier days of the band, and the other half are new songs written with the current line-up in place.
The band works very hard to give each song its own unique identity. That said however, there is still a distinctive sound and style that runs through the album that defines the band. Many of the songs blend a big full sound with touches of a quieter, even delicate feel. Always present are soaring guitar leads at times powerful and heavy, and other times more spacey and melodic. Driving drums and biting bass lay the rhythmic foundation, while the keys fill the gaps and add many different textured sound layers. The mandolin serves as the “thread” that sews it all together from beginning to end and everything in the middle.
The title track, Parallel Worlds, opens with a bang and then moves to a slightly offbeat syncopated rhythm as the song slowly builds to the big middle section that lays a touch of orchestral rock on top of a bolero style drum beat.
Track 2, Fourth Passage, after a big opening section, it quickly moves into a straight-ahead rock song.
Track 3, Solara (Intro to New Galaxy), is a short, melodic piano solo, which serves as the lead in to track 4, New Galaxy. New Galaxy is probably the fan favorite of this group of songs. It explodes on the heels of the piano solo and then transitions to an easy going, almost jazzy chord progression. This leads to the middle break where the guitar and synth each take turns with short leads before coming together in harmony before moving back to the main riff.
Track 5, Night Changes, incorporates a number of different moods, and starts by taking a turn back into a heavier rock sound. The beginning riff almost has a dissonant feel to it before turning into a hard rock riff, which then turns into another mellower, almost swing type feel. This then transitions into a very pretty, melodic and spacey guitar break, which then breaks out into a hard hitting full on rock climax before yielding back to where it started.
Track 6, A Walk In The Park, is an acoustic guitar solo that showcases the virtuosity of guitarist Ryan Rivas. Enough said.
Track 7, Five Pieces of Six, is the longest song on the album coming in at just under 8 minutes. It opens with a somewhat haunting melody that quickly explodes into a huge orchestral type sound with a driving, pulsing beat. This eventually leads up to another big middle break, again with a more subtle orchestral sound, which then circles back to the opening melody.
Track 8, She Flies, is probably the most different sounding track on the album compared to the others. A flock of birds and a little special effect shifts to a few power chords before giving way to a very slow and melodic section of guitar and mandolin interplay, layered on top of bells and choir. This then transitions to an irresistible, toe tapping 4/4 middle break guitar lead. This finally ends with an accent-laden progression before the return to the opening riff.
Track 9, Augmented Reality, has been the signature song of the band going back to its earlier days. It has 3 distinct movements starting with a strong rock feel that transitions to a more subdued, melodic middle section, This section slowly builds back up to the third section with the guitar and synth again taking turns with leads before the big climactic ending.
The band is very proud of this self-produced work and sincerely hopes others will enjoy it as well. We are already beginning the initial work on the follow up album, which we hope we can complete within the next year or so. Thanks for listening.
If interested, below is a brief history of how this band came together. A most unexpected, but fortunate series of events.
The roots of Magnatars' debut album, "Parallel Worlds", can be traced back in part to certain events and relationships of over 40 years ago. Bassist Joey Costa and Keyboardist Dave Norton were classmates in high school together when their individual musical interests were first beginning to develop. Their individual paths eventually merged in 1971, when they helped to co-found the group Hot City, which eventually was signed by Flamingo Music out of Miami and released a single titled "Leaving", on the London Record label. That group eventually became Fantasia, which was one of the most popular touring bands around the southeast club circuit in the early to mid 70's.
Meanwhile in this same period of 1971, Dave's cousin, Glenn Smith, had his life forever changed after a chilly winter night in our hometown of Deland, FL, when he saw YES in concert perform "Fragile", just two weeks after it had been released. The impact of that night still provides the inspiration for Glenns' songwriting. By the mid to late 70's everyone had gone their own way. Dave left music all together for a career in medical sales, while Glenn and Joey continued to play in various groups over the years. Fast forward to about 10 years ago when Glenn and Joey after having played together for several years in a band called Catfood, decided to form their own new group. In those early days that band was called Buckets and Strings. For the first few years, a number of musicians cycled through the door, but even then the group was focused on all original instrumental music written by Glenn, who at this point had settled on Mandolin as his instrument of choice.
The next step that laid the groundwork for the Magnatar of today, was when through a chance encounter about 6 years ago at a local music festival, Glenn met Reed Hayes, a well-known and respected drummer in the area, known for playing in Rush tribute bands touring the east coast. He was intrigued by the very unusual and unique sound of the band. The seed had been planted and it was not long before the opportunity for Reed to join the band arose. Reeds' presence and approach to the music immediately elevated the band to a level it had not yet achieved.
The next event that served to elevate the band to yet another level occurred when Joey introduced the band to a very young guitarist that he had taken under his wing since he was a teenager, and exposed him to progressive rock when he was still learning to play. Enter Ryan Rivas. Ryan came in and from day 1, picked up the music so fast he spun everyone’s head around. Magnatar was now officially underway and the band was at a place it truly had never been.
The final piece of the puzzle involved a confluence of events that is too long to describe. Suffice it to say, that a purely happenstance event at a high school reunion, brought Glenn, Joey and Dave together in the same place. Dave had been asked to join the original lineup of Fantasia to play two old cover songs that the band used to play. Initially Dave did not want any part of this as he was still working and living in Atlanta at the time. The bottom line is he yielded to his old band mate’s pressure and agreed to do it. He had not played keyboards at all in 38 years. Truth be told he did not play very well, but through the experience of being on stage and playing again live with his old band was a thrill he had long forgotten about. Before that night was over, an almost unthinkable conversation between Glenn, Joey and Dave resulted in a commitment to join their group and at least give it a try.
And the rest as they say, is history.