albums. Tell me, who doesn't love a good concept
album? The Who's "Tommy"
Floyd's "The Wall"
slabs of musical wonderment. And, with Queensryche's
disappointing release of "Operation: Mindcrime
II" earlier this year, this album fits the
vacant glass slipper better than any Cinderella
you could possibly imagine.
How's this for a concept? Norwegian native, Mattis
Sorum, starts constructing this masterpiece by himself
back in 2003. He decides to call his project Pictorial
Wand, and hires in musicians to play everything
except guitars, synthesizers, and organ, which he
decides to play himself. Upon hearing this unorthodox
method of creating recorded music, I was skeptical
as to how tight these musicians would sound as a
unit. But, with Sorum bringing in a cast of over
15 performers - including a cellist, flutist, and
three different female voices to compliment lead
vocalist Petter Selliseth - his conceptual vision
is vividly brought to life. This is the best concept
album I've heard since Queensryche's "Operation:
Mindcrime." This is a perfect record in every
The concept deals with someone who wakes up to realize
that he is ashamed of how he has been living his
life, and starts on a journey of retribution. The
seven deadly sins are incorporated into the song
titles, and some wonderful spoken word passages
add an eeriness that really binds it all together.
To lump this into the stack of cheap "Operation:
Mindcrime" rip-offs, or into the landfill of
overly dramatic prog rockers would be a travesty.
This is a record that has many of the great qualities
that "Mindcrime" had, and it is a prog
masterpiece, no question; but this is a record that
lives and breathes without the life support of any
From the very beginning of this two-disc journey,
we get great melodies, some spoken word, and classic
rock hooks with "The King & His Land -
Pt.I." We also get a deeply passionate and
yearning vocal exhibition from Selliseth and three
female voices, along with a brilliant orchestral
arrangement and stunning guitar work on "The
Gate Of Lost Souls." The album has a musical
flow equivalent to the fluid motion of a lava lamp.
The tempos rise slowly and dramatically, linger
in a few dark areas, and start to descend with a
gripping ardor that really is something to behold.
The sound ranges from the classic rock heaviness
of Queensryche to the atmospheric artistry of Pink
Floyd, with a little Jethro Tull folk, ELP and Kansas-like
classic rock, and traditional classical influences
thrown in for good measure. And no matter how many
diverse influences invade these songs, they still
remain structured, systematic, and thoroughly interesting.
The fervent and dramatic guitar solos
complex keyboard sequences
intensity of the orchestration
vocals - all intertwined and woven together like
an elegant quilt that makes your body tingle when
you wrap yourself in it. Besides being a perfectly
choreographed album of music, this is a record that
makes the album's artwork come alive. Take one look
at the foreboding cover art and you immediately
start hearing the music. This is a well thought
out, complete package all the way around.
While listening to both discs straight through,
I felt like I was cast out upon an ocean of sound
and melody; transported to another place. I have
not heard an album this solid in a very long time.
To take so many elements of sound and fit them together
seamlessly would seem to be a dauntless task; one
that has been fulfilled perfectly by Mattis Sorum
and his talented cast.
OVERALL RATING: 10 PERFECT!!
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