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coverpic flag US-California - Luna Kafé - Full Moon 13 - 11/14/97

Test of Wills
Magna Carta

Just as Magellan the explorer sailed uncharted waters and changed our perception of the planet we live on, Magellan the band have the potential to find yet undiscovered musical oceans and change our perception of a much-ridiculed genre of music. Yes, we're talking "progressive rock" here. With their third album, Magellan are breaking most of the rules and bending the rest of them. Like their namesake, they're sailing against the stream, and these sailors are much cooler than those Whitbread wimps.

As far as nineties progressive rock goes, Magellan is one of the best bands right now, showing influences from the past (Jethro Tull, Kansas, Gentle Giant and many others) without trying to sound like a tribute band. Their unique blend of styles range from metal riffs to pop-like vocal harmonies and beyond.

The three members of Magellan are Trent Gardner - lead vocals, keyboards and trombone; his brother Wayne - guitars, bass and backing vocals; and newcomer Brad Kaiser - drums. Kaiser replaces Magellan's previous drummer, the competent but somewhat stiff mr. Drum Machine. As can be expected from a prog-rock band, the bandmembers have more technical skill than your average band. Trent's effective keyboard melodies, Wayne's hard and complex guitar riffs, Brad's roller-coaster drumming, with the high point being Trent and Wayne's larger-than-life vocal harmonies.

Magellan seems to be Trent Gardner's brainchild. He writes all the songs, does the lead vocals, and he engineered the album. The intricate twists and turns of the songs combined with good melodies show that Trent has a very good command of the craft of songwriting. But it still comes across as a band effort, both Wayne and Brad get to show their stuff more than once.

Test of Wills starts off with a weird recording of a person apparently demonstrating a musical instrument. This leads us into Gameface, immediately showing off Trent Gardner's keen sense of vocal melodies and Wayne's heavy riffage. Then, to celebrate that they finally have a real drummer, Brad Kaiser gets to solo for the first minute of A Social Marginal. The album continues to surprise, Walk Fast, Look Worried starts with an acoustic guitar before turning into keyboard based rock. The polyrhythms of Test of Wills (the song) leave you gasping for air. Behind every island there is something new and different, and any nasty reefs are mostly avoided with skillful navigating. Trent's lyrics are biting social/political commetary that fit in with the dark sounds of the band. Black and brooding pieces with filthy bums and worried looks. It's an interesting journey, with only a couple of wrong turns - the album closer Critic's Carnival goes kind of nowhere at times, and has Brad Kaiser missing in action - replaced by a drum machine. But you'll forgive them for such minor things when you hear Jacko (Great keyboard-with-piano-sound performance), A Social Marginal (Check out those harmonies!) and the eleven-minute title track (Two million time-changes and a trombone solo). It'll be interesting to hear what these boys can come up with next.

I bet you never thought you'd be headbanging to a trombone solo.

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