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Maybe the best progressive rock album in decades - 98%

kluseba, June 20th, 2016
Written based on this version: 2002, CD, Magna Carta Records

Magellan is probably among the most underrated progressive rock and metal bands and the band's fourth full length release ''Hundred Year Flood'' is another proof of the band's ambitious song writing, stunning musicianship and unequaled diversity. In addition to band leader Trent Gardner on vocals, trombone and keyboard, his brother Wayne Gardner on guitars and bass and drummer Joe Franco, there are several famous guest musicians that were involved in the making of this gem. These additional musicians were neoclassical power metal guitarist George Ballas, Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson on flute and Tony Levin who was involved in bands such as King Crimson was featured on bass guitar. Producer Robert Berry also played some bass and guitar sounds on this album. Just by reading these household names, any progressive rock fan realizes that this must indeed be a high quality output and the band doesn't only fulfill all expectations but even goes far beyond them.

At first sight, there only seem to be three songs on this record but the majestic opener ''The Great Goodnight'' is actually split into thirteen short individual tracks for a total running time of more than thirty-four minutes. Each part sounds different but the transitions are so smooth that this epic tune has a great flow and sounds much shorter than it actually is. This track feels like a cinematic journey back to a gloomy past including narrative passages and soundtrack elements. The intense story and outstanding music suck the listener in and never let him go until the very end. There isn't one single unnecessary section in this song and the first reflex after the track's coda is to hit the repeat button and to go on this emotional journey again. Some parts of the tune are progressive metal with heavy riffs, dynamic drum patterns and a darkly brooding bass guitar that gives this masterpiece a menacing sound that suits the lyrical purpose dealing with the death of another Gardner brother during the Vietnam War. Let's note that these heavier passages are only one element among many. In general, the band offers progressive rock and not metal on this release but it's without a doubt one of the greatest songs of its genre written in the last twenty years. Some sections feature jazzy trombone sounds and dual vocal efforts recalling bands such as Queen and Yes that add an epic touch to this ambitious tune. Other vocal efforts even recall gospel sounds and add a sacral and sacred element to this soundtrack. The soulful vocal lines by mastermind Trent Gardner also recall Genesis' Phil Collins here and there. All these vocal efforts in this track are so strong that they feel like an additional instrument that is on par with the stunning instrumental work that never fails to impress and surprise without being pretentious or complicated. Despite its ambitious concept, this tune is easy to digest for both genre fans and occasional listeners.

The other two songs are also great but obviously not as mind-blowing as the creative flow of the opener which might be the best track the band has ever written. The instrumental ''Family Jewels'' comes as a welcome break and is dominated by enchanting folk-inspired flute sounds. This new age pearl somewhere between classical music, folk passages and soundtrack elements steadily develops into a more symphonic composition where appeasing, mysterious and sometimes even disturbingly dark sounds shift and change and ultimately lead to an unexpected climax that you won't forget anytime soon. I'm usually not a fan of purely instrumental tunes but this track is absolutely brilliant.

The closing ''Brother's Keeper'' doesn't only have a strong lyrical message but is also the catchiest tune on this release. Acoustic folk rock built around acoustic guitars, string passages and melodic vocals lurks the listener into peaceful soundscapes before this track also gets constantly darker and heavier. Especially the bass guitar play is taking a lot of gloomy leadership and sounds like a mixture of sinister progressive rock, doom metal and even harsher industrial sounds. This mixture recalling elements of King Crimson, Black Sabbath and even Morbid Angel is interchanged with some calmer bridges including hypnotizing acoustic guitars, unusual drum sounds and almost spoken-word passages that could also come from Mike Oldfield or Cat Stevens. This balanced mixture of peaceful and aggressive sounds makes the charm of this unusual yet completely successful experiment. This tune ends an outstanding record on a majestic note and even includes a short hidden message at the very end.

If you even remotely like progressive music of any kind, stop reading my review, listen to this masterpiece and go buy it right away. The three songs included on this album are all quite different but somehow manage to all fit together quite smoothly. In a certain way, ''Hundred Year Flood'' is a summary of the best progressive rock and metal sounds in history played in Magellan's very own vivid, emotional and ambitious style. If I only had to choose one progressive record to take with me on an isolated island, this release would be my first choice.