We are Legend goes way beyond any previous work Magenta has released, taking a high energy, dynamic and extraordinary journey through three epic pieces. I will front load this review by saying this is required listening for any progressive rock fan, you will be blown away at the depth of the songs which have all been masterfully recorded by band leader Robert Reed. Surround sound enthusiasts are advised to hold on to their seat, the 5.1 mix is off the charts amazing, launching you into pure aural ecstasy.
This impressive and imaginative release from this outstanding Welsh progressive rock band is a clear demonstration of Magenta’s talented musical credentials, trust me when I say it delves much deeper than just their great technique, the melodies liven the soul and the storylines fascinates the mind. Fans know that Magenta has never made compromises in their music, group leader Rob Reed set aside mainstream success to deliver music that pays homage to some of his childhood favorite bands Genesis and Yes. For those who are not familiar, Magenta has created their own unique sound featuring the electrifying guitar work of Chris Fry, Christina Booth’s luminescent vocals and Rob Reed’s stellar Piano and Keyboard playing.
fsThe real benny is it can be heard on a region free NTSC DVD as a DTS 24bit / 44.1k 5.1 mix or as a Dolby Digital 5.1 version. Naturally, I preferred the DTS version, and this is selectable after first selecting to play the 5.1 mix which defaults to the Dolby Digital codec. A little quirky on the menu layout, but we are all here for the music, right?
We Are Legend contains three distinct songs, each carrying their own narratives and atmosphere, yet cohesively fit together. Taking a cue from the proggy days of vinyl, the first side features a 26 minute epic track, while the second side continues with two shorter 10 minute songs
The album opens with “Trojan,” fading in gently with synths swirling and swelling up around the room. Shortly in, the song explodes with soaring guitars over a pounding of bass and drums, continuing to immerse the listener from all corners of the room. Bass digs deep while drums are crisp and full spreading widely across the front channels. The dynamic range is fantastic, absolutely rocking the space with incredible impact. By no means is this exuberant progressive rock surround mix held together by the loudest elements in the mix. No, no, no, instead it is the subtleties that make this one of the best 5.1 mixes I have heard to date.
When Rob wrote to me he mentioned his passion for multi-channel mixing, and it is evident in this superbly creative surround version. From the transparency of Christina Booth’s angelic vocals to the back channel harmonies, Rob’s older brother Steve Reed lyrics have taken Magenta to another level. There are Floydian sections which stitch together multiple parts that breathe and slowly decay while piano and keyboard parts tickle the ear at the back. If you are like me, you will probably love the section about 16 minutes in where Booth’s vocals are harmonized across the soundstage with an acoustic guitar strumming from the back channel. But, wait as Booth sings, “I look around, in disbelief,” I feel it as this mix just keeps getting better, with a staccato guitar chiming in from the front right channel, all perfectly balanced, so very rich and vibrant.
It is about 20 minutes into Trojan, and there is no letting up on the aural journey. Percussion percolates from the back channels while drums respond up front, making for a total surround percussive section accented by vocals, keys and bass. Listen for the synths that dance around the front channels, and plenty of other less prominent parts that are incredible ear candy.
I was given the opportunity to check out a FLAC 24 bit / 48k 5.1 version of the release, and other than minor coloration differences most likely attributed to mastering, I am still blown away by the audio quality of the DTS codec on the DVD. Colours opens with a child’s musical box which splits elements between the front and back channels. This leads into a jolting rhythm which penetrates the space spreading across the entire room. Additional effects pop up around the sweet spot, and you may want to try to catch the Moog tat seemingly moves across the right side. Reed masterfully places the piano at the rear during a quiet moment while vocals soar from the front.
It is wonderful how Magenta’s imaginative music carries you along as you swim through the multi-layered parts. The range between soft and loud is nearly earth shattering, and the deep lows of the bass are smooth and resilient. The last track on this 2017 release could be considered the title track, but simply is called “Legend.” As it opens, post-apocalyptic cinematic sounds zip around the room before a crunching combination of drums, bass and guitar puts the listener firmly into the setting. The band’s long time live bassist Dan Nelson joins them along with new member Griffiths’ exacting rhythmic drum work. Yet it is Booth whom is center stage on Legend, and in high resolution audio it is easy to hear her breath and emotion which simply is entrancing. From the near symphonic to the delicate piano and vocal parts, the lyrics in Legend repeat “It’s over, it’s over,” which clearly fans like myself only wish would never happen.
But, we do get more, as the DVD does contain several bonus tracks, which include interviews and music videos with multi-channel mixes. These are effectively promotional selections from the various projects Reed and Magenta members have had their hand in. Certainly well worth the listen (and viewing) for listeners who are new to the canon of work by the various Magenta members.
In We are Legend Magenta have created a stellar album by daring to go to places they haven’t been before. This is my favorite progressive rock albums of 2017, and the music alone makes this a must have for progressive music fans. The outstanding surround mix takes the album to an entirely new level, and I wouldn’t listen to it any other way. This is another release that pokes at stereo aficionados pushing them to move to multi-channel listening. Legend is already a classic in my mind.