Tuesday, January 14, 2014


Welcome once again fellow progheads to the concert closet.  In an effort to maintain the momentum 2014 started with, I am continuing my quest for new and exciting prog music.  During my search this week, I found myself in an interesting discussion about music and what constitutes "mainstream" vs. "indie." Unfortunately both terms conjure up (at least for me) one of two images:

First, the "Corporate" attack on radio that has numbed the mind, heart, and soul...reducing music to 3-minute empty choruses about love and cars.  Playlists have been reduced to 27 songs in total and they are played faster than intended in a never ending loop designed to guide you through your plastic day...

Second, the self-proclaimed "Independent Thinker" who believes he/she is the smartest person in the room.  Most of the indie artists heard today are produced (and thus owned) by major labels.  It is akin to artisan beer that is actually bottled by Budweiser or Miller--how new and original can it really be?  Ahhh, but I digress...

Coming back to Planet Prog I am happy to say things are different here.  Music is appreciated and respected for what it is.  Prog is different because prog doesn't try to conform to any specific target audience--you either like progressive music or you do not--and either answer is acceptable.  Prog may re-invent itself along the way; that is part of the draw for me.  Past and current artists inspire and mentor; the next generation picks up the torch and marches headlong into the fray...and with that in mind I chose a band this week that seems to re-invent itself with each song...a band that is difficult to pin down on every front except one--the sound and the music are fantastic.  This week progheads, I bring you Majestic.

My first selection from the Majestic Music Smorgasbord is a song called "Whispers/Freefall." A very intriguing sound; at first I find it difficult to make a comparison...which makes for a good first impression. Original is always nice and the soothing undertones to this song force my hand; I have to clear my head and focus.  The vocals are soft yet right out front.  There is a keyboard playing in the background that grabs your attention a little at a time...a very interesting tune--a bluesy/jazz fusion mood seems to have wrapped its arms around the song and massaged its way into the sound...and then without warning I get a hint of Genesis-meets-King Crimson and suddenly all bets are off.  Intermittently I am hearing an alternate version of King Crimson's Red album with a little of Genesis' Wind and Wuthering mixed in for fun.

Off to an excellent start, I eagerly return to the buffet line for a second helping and find "Dance Of The Elders."  I admit my first attraction to the song was the title...fortunately anticipation did not kill the expectation.  The song opens with a much different and more distinct sound; a definite Alan Parsons Project feel this time.  Keyboards and drums fill this song to the rim without making your head hurt.  Majestic seems to taunt you with its ability to change everything from song to song.  There really is no point in pigeon-holing Majestic--the band would simply re-define itself 15 minutes later in the middle of the same song!

Liner Notes...Majestic was created in 2007 and is the brain child of self described producer/artist Jeff Hamel.  Ranging from "atmospheric passages" to "symphonic prog," Jeff manages to hit every note on the progressive music machine as he puts together what I consider individual orchestral prog pieces.  Majestic has collaborated with Jessica Rasche, Tara Morgan, and Dave Cagle on vocals, Mike Kosacek and John Wooten on drums, Jerry Swan and Scott Hamel on bass, and Gregg Johns on guitar.  This however is by no means a complete list--I would spend less time listing the Minneapolis area phone directory than the artists and musicians Jeff has worked with to make Majestic what it is...a myriad of incredible prog music.

For my third and final sampling this week I chose "Darkened Worlds." The acoustic opening with deep vocals starts to draw me in almost immediately;  I am on a beach and in the middle of Manhattan at the same time searching my subconscious for meaning...Majestic is truly on a par with the the best prog has to offer.  If progressive music had forefathers they would be proud...

The track below is "Voyage Ends."  I wanted to present one song that sort of summed up who Majestic is--but that is like describing the Sistine Chapel as a "pretty church."  You might be right--but you left out the good stuff.  There are strong hints of Dream Theater and even a bit of Beardfish in this tune. With Majestic it is best to simply lie back, breathe deep and slow, and simply forget everything you know (or thought you knew).  Learn more about Majestic at www.majesticsongs.com.

Hard to believe progheads but another week has passed us by faster than a trip across the George Washington Bridge.  Majestic has convinced me there are prog bands out there just waiting to be discovered.  There are worse things I could do than search them out and bring them to you--but there aren't many things better!  Of the things I like about Majestic--and there are many--the constant restructuring of the band based on which direction Jeff wants the music to go in seems to me the most fascinating.  I have been listening to Majestic all week and I am amazed at the contrast from song to song.  Well, it's time to say good night fellow progheads; I hear keyboards calling...until next week...

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