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Explorers Club
Age of Impact
Magna Carta

Age of Impact is yet another Magna Carta release with a who's who cast of nineties prog rock. Written by Magellan's Trent Gardner, with performers including Terry Bozzio, Billy Sheehan, James LaBrie, John Petrucci and Derek Sherinian, all of who should be fairly recognisable names to anyone interested in the progressive music of the nineties. There's even a guest performance by good ol' Steve Howe in there.

At first listen I was a bit disappointed. Apart from a few nice melodies on the first track, the music didn't really seem to have any focus. But when playing the disc a second time revealed new things, a third listen gave me yet another perspective, a fourth try made me think "Hmm, this isn't so bad after all..."

The thing is, this is a concept album in that classic seventies style (but with a nineties sound), which means it might take a bit getting used to. After a while you'll notice certain musical and lyrical themes that occur several times throughout the CD, keeping a focus of sorts. The lyrics deal with the frustrating commercialism of music, making me think that they should put Trent Gardner in a room with Robert Fripp - that could be interesting!

The musicianship is, as you might expect, outstanding. Much like with Magellan, this exploration team is fronted by Trent Gardner's songwriting and keyboards. He also does a bit of singing, but really does take the back seat to Bret Douglas (Cairo), Matt Bradley (Dali's Dilemma), James LaBrie (Dream Theater) and D. C. Cooper (Royal Hunt). The singers all do a fine job with Gardner's distinctive style of melody. Sheehan's rumbling bass and Bozzio with his gargantuan drumset keeps the Explorers' ship steady. But the most outstanding performance comes from guitarist John Petrucci of Dream Theater, who does the bulk of the guitar solos on the album. Fans of Petrucci should not miss this.

And of course there's also Trent Gardner's obligatory trombone solo!

All in all, a good album, not really an outstanding "instant classic", but worth the money if you're a fan of prog. Three and a half dinosaurs out of five.

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