Review: Majestic’s “V.O.Z.” (Majestic Records, 2013; two disks–”Voyage of Zosimos”). Produced by Jeff Hamel, with two full-time members of the band: Hamel (guitars and keyboards) and Mike Kosacek (drums, percussion). Additionally, there are four vocalists: David Cagle, Tara Morgan, Chris Hodges, and Celine Derval.
From the moment I received a physical promo copy of Majestic’s latest CD in the mail, I was intrigued. Two disks, a concept, and with cover art equally enticing as well as disturbing (a wraith/priest/mystic/monk? holding its own eyeballs).
And, who is Zosimos? My first thought was of the Eastern Orthodox priest and saint, Father Zossima, from Brothers Karamazov. But, then there’s also the early Christian heretic, Zosimos of Panopolis. A wonderful set of options–orthodoxy or heresy? When I wrote to Hamel, asking about all of this, he responded, it’s most closely related to Greek tragedy.
Well, that means it could still be about the Orthodox or the Gnostic! But, this is totally fine. I’m happy to leave it a mystery. The lyrics carry as much a sense of artistry as do the composition and production of the album as a whole. Clearly, the lyrics involve a journey, and that journey, as all good ones do, involves wonder, tragedy, and joy. Disk two, even proggier than disk one, seems a series of vignettes–perhaps the visions of Zosimov.
No matter how many times I listen to this CD, I find it enthralling. While certainly “prog rock,” VOZ has unusual sounds, atmospheres, and mysteries around every corner and at ever turn of this stunning album. If Jeff Hamel is half as interesting in real life as he is in the studio, an astounding person he must be. Indeed, though listed as producer and primary song writer, he is, for all intents and purpose, a director and an orchestrator. Truly, every aspect of this release is a work of art.
I’m not always a huge fan of comparing one person’s art to those of others, but if I had to, I would ask the reader of the review to imagine Edgar Allen Poe or Washington Irving as lyricist, Tangerine Dream as creator of atmospheres and atmospherics, and Rush for song writing hooks. And, if someone forced me into comparing Hamel’s work to a modern-day Progger, I would certainly think of him as the North American equivalent of Arjen Lucassen.
According to Majestic’s website, this album took two years to write, record, and produce. I’m not surprised in the least. VOZ has perfectionist written all over it. And, thank the good Lord! Who wants half-hearted art? Certainly, no Progarchist.
Official website for the band and the label: www.majesticsongs.com, its physical offices located in Minnesota. It’s a wonderful website–with lots of musical treasures and much to explore.
This will certainly not be my last Majestic CD. I’m more than eager to explore Hamel’s back catalogue. I give VOZ my highest recommendation.
And, on a personal note–Jeff, thank you. Thank you for not dumbing down or commercializing your art. Don’t get me wrong, I hope your music makes you a wealthy man. But, I hope this happens through what you’ve shown already to be immense integrity. Yours, Brad (ed.)