Majestic – Ataraxia
Tracklist: Disarray (3:02), Faceless (7:57), Wither (9:23), Star Bound (4.43), Numb (4:05), Astral Dream (7:38), Delusion (4:06), Dance Of The Elders (8:18), Takes My Breath Away (14:14); Altered State (9:43); Reflections (5:14)
Not to be confused with Richard Andersson’s short-lived Swedish Prog-Metal project, this is the fourth release for another Majestic musical project; that of American multi-instrumentalist Jeff Hamel. A new band for my listening discography, I’m unable to offer qualitative comparisons between Ataraxia and the first three Majestic recordings: Decension, String Theory and Arrival.
However this is a strong, full-sounding release for those who enjoy plentiful Yes and Genesis tendencies, mixed up with a broad sweep of epic symphonic prog and a host of more contemporary influences. The musicianship is tight, the production is well-rounded and warm, and the compositions strike that delicate balance between solid melodies and extended instrumental sections. Sometimes it’s light and atmospheric, sometimes it’s heavy (not in a metallic sense).
Majestic by name and nature, Hamel’s project follows the tradition of epic, conceptual music. Ataraxia features 11 tracks which seemlessly flow from one into the next. Clocking in just short of the full 80-minute mark it is a long album. However as an artist, Hamel has learnt to use the full palette of shades in his arrangements, which prevent a listener from becoming tired by repetition. There is a strong emphasis on the keyboards, but the more guitar-dominated sections work equally well (Hamel plays both instruments across the bulk of the album). The vocals of Jessica Rasche are delightful.
Ataraxia refers to a state of freedom from disturbance of mind. I can say that relaxing back into my arm chair with this album to accompany a fine bottle of Bordeaux, there was very little of a disturbed nature in my mind.
For those who like their symphonic progressive rock with a little bit of a bite, Majestic offers plenty to get your teeth into.
Conclusion: 7.5 out of 10