Saga

The Human Condition

Written by: NB on 02/05/2009 00:59:29

The way I ended up doing this review consisted of TL saying "you're reviewing Saga now; I'm glad you agree with this". So, here are my thoughts on what is a refreshing break from my usual metal promos: the genre this time is "progressive / classic rock" according to Saga's MySpace. MySpace is also the place I go to when I want to work out how well-known and popular a band is and whether I ought to be ashamed not to have heard of them. Well in this case there is no shame because, despite Saga having apparently been around since 1977 and having produced 20 studio albums and five live ones, they would seem to have been doing so mainly out of passion for their craft rather than for the moolah. I am basing this assertion on their 155,592 profile views. To put that number in perspective, a band like In Flames has well over seven million views and way at the top of the scale people like Kanye West and Rihanna have 63 million and 85 million respectively, on the other hand I actually struggled to find a band with fewer views than Saga, the Taming (formerly the Finely Tuned Assassins) managed this with around 50 thousand. I should mention though that this is a very inaccurate way to establish a band's success. Iron Maiden for example have only 6 million views and Bury Tomorrow a local Southampton band have over a million (although this might mainly be accounted for by me and AP wanting to hear their brilliant upcoming single a lot) so perhaps my conclusion is that Saga is for the older generation (as opposed to the MySpace generation). Around 300 words so far! That's about a review's worth isn't it? Only joking... here we go.

With many prog releases you have to wait a while to get to the substance of the record and, to be honest, you are sometimes still waiting by the end of the last song. Luckily "The Human Condition" kicks in somewhere towards the middle of the first track with some mellow space-age vocal work, speedy keyboard sections and limited drumming. However, the feeling of actually listening to a proper song drifts in and out and this "less is more" approach kind-of sets the tone for the rest of the album. The second track "Step Inside" is the first time you get one of those choruses that has a feeling of gravitas and emotion it's followed by a bridge of uplifting, rising notes and a fairly fitting melancholic ending. This song is an example of where the music is a little unsatisfying: you have to go through a muddle of interesting, but not necessarily coherent, progressive riffs, licks and endless sweeping pad sounds from the keyboards before getting to an actual song. I feel like I have to be doing something else whilst listening to this stuff because if I stopped to concentrate on it I would be frustrated with all this waiting around for something to happen whilst not really getting that much-craved spine tingling from what was currently happening. Add this to the fact that a couple of the songs really build up to no climax at all in a rather laboured and self-indulgent way, leaving me on the fence as to whether the band is struggling for ideas as to what to play to fill the album's 47 minutes or whether they are genuinely the crazy, experimental sound-smiths that all progressive musicians should be. What I want from my progressive bands is the kind of care-free but confident sound we hear from bands like Between the Buried and Me and Mastodon where the outlandish noises are actually woven into some sort of cogent narrative.

I won't deny that there are some exciting moments on this album, such as the bizarre intro to "A Number with a Name" and a good number of excellent solos, but there are an equal number of experimental moments which I would have to say just don't work. Maybe this album appeals to those people who have been fans since the 70s who are prepared to wait for the occasional flash of brilliance but for the instant-gratification-seekers of the MySpace generation it's easier just to look elsewhere.

5

Download: Step Inside, A Number with a Name
For The Fans Of: Dream Theater, Pallas
Listen: MySpace

Release Date: 27.04.09
InsideOut/SPV
Provided by Target ApS

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