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NEAL MORSE - Sola Scriptura cover
4.48 | 36 ratings | 6 reviews
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Album · 2007

Filed under Metal Related


1. The Door (29:13)
2. The Conflict (25:00)
3. Heaven in My Heart (5:10)
4. The Conclusion (16:34)

Total Time: 75:59


- Neal Morse / vocals, guitars, keyboards
- Randy George / bass
- Mike Portnoy / drums

Guest musicians:
- Paul Gilbert / guitars
- Chris Carmichael / violins, viola
- Wil Henderson / vocals
- Rachel Rigdon / violin
- Michael Thurman / French horn
- Hannah Vanderpool / cello
- Debbie Bresee / backing vocals
- Wade Browne / backing vocals
- Revonna Cooper / backing vocals
- Richard Morse / backing vocals
- Amy Pippin / backing vocals
- Joey Pippin / backing vocals
- April Zachary / backing vocals

About this release

CD Inside Out 79362 (2007)

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After spending 2006 concentrating on non-prog endeavours - putting out more worship music, a collection of cover versions, and a singer-songwriter album - Neal Morse put out his next prog album in the form of Sola Scriptura. As with his previous prog solo album, "?", this avoids the all-too-common pitfall of explicitly Christian-themed music by actually doing a deep dive on some subject from the rich history and literature of the faith, rather than just harping on the same limited set come-to-Jesus themes that all too many "Christian rock" bands limit themselves to.

This time around, he's offering a concept album about Martin Luther's theological confrontation with the Catholic Church. This is a thorny subject - in the liner notes Neal mentions he almost reconsidered the project after he learned about some of the virulently antisemitic writing Luther put out, but then decided to go ahead since that isn't the aspect of Luther's career the album is about, merely adding the caveat that Luther was a flawed man trying to reform a flawed system.

That shows a level of nuance which suggests a thoughtful approach to the subject matter, and largely that's what you get here. The album doesn't flinch from criticising some of the stuff the medieval Church said and did in very stark terms, but I don't think this extends to being knee-jerk anti-Catholic so much as it involves portraying the central conflict (and it would be disingenuous of Neal to try and be "both sides"-y about this when he clearly believes that on many of these questions Luther was in the right). Also, it should be remembered that the Catholic Church of today isn't the Church that Luther was rebelling against - they actively implemented a bunch of reforms since then in part to shift away from some of the excesses he was objecting to.

So much for the concept: what about the music? Well, Mike Portnoy's on drums, as he had been for all of Neal's prog solo albums to date, and Randy George is on bass again as he had on the previous two prog albums from Neal; having cemented themselves as Neal's regular rhythm section, they accompany Neal throughout the album, with other instrumental offerings from a pool of the usual suspects (the string section have all appeared on past Morse albums, as has Michael Thurman on French horn, and the backing singers include a number who also sang on "?").

With personnel like that, you'd be right to expect that this is more or less business as usual for Neal - indeed, he's shifted back to the sort of long songs he likes to tackle, after "?" was made up of shorter songs (though those could be seen as short sections in one long piece).

As has been the case since the earliest Spock's Beard material, he goes broad when it comes to the range of influences he throws in, rather than focusing on one approach exclusively, which is helpful: there may well be bits here and there you don't enjoy (for instance, All I Ask For drags on a little long to my taste) but you at least have the consolation that it won't be like this throughout, and if some of the sections go on for a bit Neal at least does a good job of using them to build to appropriate emotional climaxes.

There's the odd touch from gospel here and there, especially in terms of the use of the backing singers, but this is quite tastefully done (and it's not like Neal hasn't been dipping into the worlds of gospel or musical theatre from time to time to add a flavour to his prog material that other prog artists don't touch on so much.) For instance, Keep Silent feels a lot like a somewhat more upbeat take on Pink Floyd's Dogs combined with a gospel chorus, which works surprisingly well.

Some of the material also hits harder than much of Neal's prior solo material, Neal making good use of Mike Pointer's talents to work on some heavier and more metallic sections. Do You Know My Name? has this dirty-ass funk metal air to it, which then lurches into a sort of prog metal transition section as it shifts into Party To the Lie, which has this sort of jaunty Kansas-esque note to it, or perhaps a whiff of Genesis circa Trick of the Tail.

Taken as a whole, the album is another solid effort in the same general style that Neal had been working since he left Spock's Beard, and whilst some of the individual moments are somewhat shaky, he pulls off the trick again of bringing it all together in a big emotional conclusion right at the end. I'd certainly put it on a par with "?", and whilst I don't think it quite gets the fifth star, it comes awfully close.
One of the finest efforts from Morse, full of progressive elements that would satiate the pallete of any proghead (like myself).

It begins with the blistering 29 minute epic The Door which is broken into many parts like a multi movement suite in classical music. This is an incredible sophistocated piece of prog that thunders at times with awesome guitar riffs and at other times there is a solitude of acoustic and mellotron beauty. Portnoy on drums is at his best as usual, but it is Morse's vocal performance that gives this a majestic quality outside the realm of the type of material he was doing with Transatlantic or for that matter Spock's Beard. His heart and soul is poured out on this CD in 76 minutes of musical virtuosity par excellence.

The Conclusion is a mini epic running for about 17 minutes. It is a worthy addition to the Morse catalogue with complicated tempo changes and metrical patterns that range from Adante to Presto time signatures - 4/4 standard to complex couplets or triplets in 9/8 and beyond.

Heaven in my Heart is a beautiful ballad in true Morse style with emotional depth about his pure faith in God. Listen to that heavenly guitar for a great example of accomplished musicianship.

It ends with the wonderful 16 minute The Conclusion. What else? The concept of theological church history is strong but never overbearing towards the music as a whole. I appreciate how Morse has not sold out his prog roots even though his music has changed direction from the SB years. In fact the material on this album is some of the heaviest Morse has performed - including crunching guitar riffs and a very dark tone overall.

This is definitely an Excellent addition to any music collection.

Oh my God!!!, said the words out of my mouth when my ears first descended upon the auidble pleasure that were to emit from my speakers when the first notes hit me in the face. The story of how I bought this was quite funny. There I was, in a very secluded small and worthless HMV, pondering for good albums, when out of the corner of my eye i spoted this amongst the waste of popular garbage that surrounds most cd shops. I remembered the name from a leaflet that you would see from Inside Out telling you about what cds they have. "Neal Morse, i've heard that name before, is he anygood," i asked my compadre, my brother. He replied "Yea, but he's Christian prog" "Does that even exist", i shuddered. Christian rock is just whiney abuse on the ears (Jonas Brothers are a plain example) But then my brother replied, "Mike Portnoy plays on it" "Oh, then it must be bought", even though Mike Portnoy is probabbly the most annoying man on the face of the planet, he is still one of the most talented man to hold sticks in his hand since Mr. Miyagi. Another point of pleasure for me is that it has only 4 songs on it, 2 of them over 25 minutes. I couldnt care if the Spice Girls had a 4 song album, i would still buy it, becuase with long songs you have 2 options 1. They will bore you to death or 2. It will be pure heaven, because the band knows how to keep the listener intrested through a long piece of music (some mistakes that some bands make now and then)

"The first song is 30 minutes, it will start off slow i bet", were the words I later regret. I was so wrong. I nearlly fell of my amp (yes, i sit on a guitar amp). Oh My God where the words I fettered.

So I will know tell you of what each song sounds like:

1. THE DOOR: As i said, this piece starts off with a bang, a crescendo of guitar, keyboards and drums, with an epic choir sound. I was drawn in by Neal's powers. The intro again takes off but with a different theme being played, again my heart stopped, then started again. Crescendo upon crescendo. After that the main riff is played, a riff that follows me everywhere i go, it possesses me so much that every time i'm near a keyboard, i have to play it, it's just, "phowa". And in the middle of that, Neal expresses some amazing piano arrpeggios, that would have Jordan Rudess cutting himself with ivory over the amazing talent displayed. After that an amazing Bach inspired piano part is played, very dark and quite disturbing. Before the first lyrical contributions are displayed, Neal expresses some lovely keyboard harmonies, and prepares you for what is to come, then a pause before the vocals, and Neals voice can be heard, with amazing dark melodies and quite cyncial lyrics about his own faith, Christianity (which i loved, anyone who can take a quite dark turn at their own faith must be an amazing person), e.g. "Calls himself the bishop prince, and blood's his favourtie wine." Just pure genius. Then after the verese the chorus comes in, "In the name of God you must die." Neal...what are you saying...but as all people should know, he is just giving us a taste of what medieval faith's were like at that time of Henry Vth's reign. Just amazing. Throughout the piece even more fantastic muscianship is being played, even though my ears are still listening to this audible anectdote, my brain is thinking, "How does a human write such epicness, is it because he's a Christian, should i convert," not really, but as a man with no faith, the only thing that makes me tolerant towards Christiantity, is Neal himself, an amazing human being, and an amazing composer. If he was here 500 years ago, music would have been very different...and maybe there would be no absolute tripe in todays popluar culture, maybe people would be listening to prog alot more. Maybe not, that would just ruin music, Prog is supposed to be for actual music fans only. The rest of the piece is just pure prog heaven, with no boring moments yet, even after 20 minutes of listening to the same track. Now if you listen to this, and get to minute 23 in The Door, prepare for some of the most beautifull moments in music history. The mellotron and violin add to the pure beauty of a beautiful ssection, before ending with a fading guitar note. It is time for the end. Upon the door is probabbly the only thing that could make me cry, even live, Neal can feel the emotion that the audience are giving him, that he even sheds a tear,and performs something so art like that would make Peter Gabriel look in the mirror and cry, leaving make up rivers around him. The mellotron lightly plays these absoultely beautiful chords around this beautiful melody. Then one of the most beautiful guitar solo's is played, by Paul Gilbert, one of the best axeman in the world, each note reflecting the soul of every listeners heart. Could this solo be bettered...yes it can where was the feeling i realised when i ordered my Sola Scriptura & Beyond dvd, this guitar player couldnt play this solo, he looks about 12 but could he play, his fingers portaying his own version of the solo, better than Paul Gilbert, imposible as it may seem , but true. Paul Bielatowicz, an absoulte gem, and probabbly one of the best axeman i have ever seen. He was so good, people started to aplaude so loud, it even matched that of the loud pa. The only time that the audience applauded in the middle of song the whole night, Neal knew this and smiled, he had been matched, and he was proud of what he had done. The song ends very successfully, but we still have 3 songs to go.

2.THE CONFLICT: "This sounds like Janes Addiction with Dave Navaro on speed", said I as i listened to the intro. After Do You Know My Name, it goes into a link which is probabbly one of the better moments of prog history, it's just so catchy and powerfull. Then the gospel inflienced Party To The Lie is heard, amazing vocal melodies and harmonies at the end, and an amazing chorus, very addictive. After this an amazing keyboard solo, which Neal should be very proud of, is very Spock's Beard like, a trate he will take to the grave, ever since he formed that incredible band over 15 years ago, and left about 7 years ago (a reunion is prayed for i expect, i mean he was able to go to Transatlantic again, but then again, Transatlantic don t jump on keyboards.) After Undeground, a slow intresting depressing Leonard Cohen inspired ballad, it goes into the flamenco styled 2 Down, 1 to Go. Amazing guitar work by both Neal & Paul Gilbert,and lovely latin beats by Mr. Portnoy. After this it goes into The Vineyard, with more alternative rock roots, but great enthusiam in the vocals, before going into the beautiful Already Home, an amazing ballad that ends the song perfectly, with precision and wise knowledge. Yes this piece defiently matches up to the Door, and is even more light hearted and enjoyable, The Door is more emotional and can actually make a man cry. But now a christian rock ballad is prepared.

3. HEAVEN IN MY HEART: Probabbly my least favourite song, but still very enjoyable. Beautiful harmonies and amazing epic choir and symphonic sounds add to the beauty of the song. Not as good as the other 2, but it is shorter, so we can give him credit, and very catchy. A bit preachy, but meh, who cares.

4. THE CONCLUSION: Very good jam at the start, it reflecs the darkness of the Door perfectly, and then leads to the cheesy Long Night's Journey, cheesey and cathcy, perfect, very Spocks Beard and even a little Genesis vibe. Another instrumental is heard, witch is basically a more watered down version of the intro, amazingly played and makes the reader aware of the varied themes throughout. Then the album ends with 2 more ballads before going to the ending, perfectlly written and exlpore minor and major keys, taking both the emotions portrayed in The Door & The Coflict. I think the ending for the album as beautiful, lovely and quiet, for the albums concept ends with a happy note, when Neal tells us "Mabye it is you he's looking for" His love for his fans emerges,and you are left very happy, and to be honest very audibly disheveled, you just heard probabbly the greatest sounds you will ever hear in your life in the space of an hour. I recommend sitting down, and breating very camly. It wasn't Neals fault he made such an amazing piece of music, well at least i don't think he meant to, and if he did, then he is as cunning as he is genius

MY CONCLUSION: Buy this album please. I couldnt imagine my life without it. I never get sick of it, it is just absoultely, and pardon my french, ORGASMIC!!!. Is this the best album ever made...well if it isn't then it definetly is one of them. I never new music could be this good. I have never heard such perfectly writte music before in my life. If you see this album, or consider it, please get it, you will never regret it, i did, and i've never looked so much like a fool in my life. Even though i payed £16 for it, it is still worth every last penny. I would give it an infinite rating if i could, but i can't, so 5 will have to do.
Mix Dream Theater and Spock's Beard...

In 2002, Neal Morse, celebrated prog musician from Spock's Beard, Transatlantic, and Yellow Matter Custard announced he was leaving the prog world to pursue his recent conversion to Christianity. Through the 5 years since then, Neal has gone on to become a solo artist, his primary genre being Christian Rock. However, every once in a while he slips back into his comfy shoes and makes a tasty prog album. Fist with Testimony, then with One, then with ?, and now with this epic masterpiece, Sola Scriptura. The album consists simply of 4 songs... but runs for nearly 80 minutes. Long epics pepper the album, consisting of Neal in all his prog (metal) glory. Whipping out his amazing song writing skill, he has no problem writing 30, 25 and 16 minute long tracks, each of which are essentially amazing. Of course Neal mixes in his faith with a concept of Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation. Also he manages to slip in a little Christian rock, but it barely detracts from the album.

The Door is the 30 minute epic of the album. But, unlike most massive epics, the song does not take a minute or two to build up. This track right up and slaps you in the face in the first couple seconds. No, it's not some insane technical death metal riff, but neither is it a slow lap steel guitar solo. Neal shows off his ability to wow a crowd with his amazing overture, as any lengthy epic should have. With plenty of tricks, the song easily modulates from major to minor to major to haunting to happy to epic to fast to slow to melodic to metal and about 35 other feels. Overall, the simple overture is purely amazing. And we still have 25 minutes left. With contributions from Mike Portnoy also, the music is given a great fusion feel - mixing the symphonics of Spock's Beard with the metal of Dream Theater. The only negative point is the cheesy qualities of both "In the Name of God" and "All I Ask For," both of which have some..... not-so-preferable qualities, with some overbearing Christian rock influence and some really cheesy melodies. But, the rest of track, including quite a few infectious little proggy sections, balance this song into stardom. Overall, The Door kicks Sola Scriptura into hight gear, making this a highly recommended release already.

The Conflict opens right off with a heavy metal riff and a totally bitchin solo courtesy of Paul Gilbert. The intro has strong Alice in Chains and other alternative metal influences. Throughout the song, we see a few themes explored by the overture furthered, and some great ideas blossoming into beautiful sections. Although the song does slip back into a little bit of Christian rock again, the song sticks to it's prog metal guns for 90% of the time. The song has one of the strongest Spock's Beard influences, with some cool jazz fusion feels going along with it during "Two Down, One to Go." Overall, this song presents yet another amazing furtherment of Neal Morse's incredible songwriting ability.

Heaven in my Heart is the downer of the album. Only 5 minutes long for one thing, it is essentially a pure Christian rock song, consisting of mainly just piano, strings, and some drums. Compared to the two amazing prog epics preceding it, it presents a less than satisfactory effort from the good man Neal. Of course, the melodies and piano work is nice and pleasant, as are the string quartet work. However, the overall feel of the album isn't exactly what I was looking for in the album.

The Conclusion is, well, a really good conclusion. Smashing open with a crazy instrumental jam between the three main members of the band, it also finishes all the main themes of the introduction, as well as re-introducing the album.... again. It does have some cool riffs though! This song really picks up what Heaven in my Heart left off, because it left a lot. A lot of this song functions mainly as just a cap to Martin Luther's story and then after that a massive instrumental jam where all the guys show off what they can do - which is a lot of stuff. The Re-introduction is a crazy and infectious prog jam, which reprises a lot of the material covered in the previous two epics. Overall, this song is a fantastic conclusion to a fantastic album, summing up an epic concept and ending the album with one of the better riffs of the album. Bravo!

ALBUM OVERALL: This album really sums up what Neal Morse can do. Consisting of 3 long epics and one shorter track, the whole album oozes genius. Form sweeping prog rock and metal riffs to simplistic melodic sections, the whole album has an aura of a musical genius at work. Neal Morse can easily dish out just about anything after this album. However, the album has its serve of negative points also. The songs dip into Morse's Christian tendencies, detracting from the overall feel of the album considerably. However, overall the album does present an absolutely amazing ride of music, and I highly recommend it for any experienced prog head who isn't afraid to listen to a 30 minute long track - it's worth it! 5- stars.
Neal Morse has released many albums since leaving his progressive rock band Spock’s Beard, varying between rock, progressive rock, Christian worship (you read that right) and even a folk album. Sola Scriptura is considered to be Morse’s fourth prog album and it is quite the beast. As warning bells are undoubtedly ringing by now in the heads of a metal community, yes you’re right, this album does have Christian lyrics. However it’s not Christian for the sake of being Christian, unlike his worship albums, it is also a concept album telling the story of German theologian Martin Luther, therefore it has a purpose which is what makes this album more enjoyable for me, since I freely admit that Christian lyrics can really irritate me if all they are about is preaching.

The core band is made up of Morse (vocals, guitar, keyboards), his Transatlantic bandmate Mike Portnoy on drums and one Randy George on bass. Guitarist Paul Gilbert is featured as a special guest. Musically this album goes all over the place as prog is wont to do, with the guitars getting pretty heavy at times to the point that the riffs can be considered metal. In fact although Neal Morse is first and foremost a progressive rock artist, I can't help but consider some of his work, especially Sola Scriptura to be metal. Just compare the sound here to his work in Spock's Beard and the difference can be heard at once. If this isn't a metal album, then it is a very very very heavy rock album, one that I think will appeal to fans of both progressive rock and metal.

The album only has four songs on it and clocks in at just under 76 minutes. It’s three epics and one shorter ballad. The first two songs are both 20+ minute jobs, with opener The Door not much under a full 30 minutes. The Conflict (the album’s best song in my opinion), clocks in at 25, and the third epic, track four, The Conclusion, though slightly shorter, is still 16 and a half minutes. Each epic comprises of six sections. Since this in a concept album parts of the music are occasionally revisited between the epics.

I find myself really wanting to talk about The Conflict so I am going to do so. “Wait, what about The Door?” I hear you say. Well The Door is pretty good too, but The Conflict is one of my favourite songs of all time and I feel it showcases just what Morse is all about so I'm going to make it the centrepiece of this review.

Starting very heavy and with some tasty lead from Gilbert, there is something very spooky about The Conflict’s first movement Do You Know My Name? That is because there is a section which has a very Alice in Chains like quality to this movement, with the vocals sounding very like that of the late Layne Staley. If I didn’t know better I’d think that Morse had used his new found relationship with God to arrange a guest appearance from the ghost of Layne. I confess to needing to do a double take when first hearing this song. It has to be heard to be believed. Flowing into the next section Party to the Lie with one of the best prog transitions I’ve ever heard, the song gets a bit lighter and starts to actually feel a bit more Christian. I have no problem with this because it still sounds good. Later in the song there is some flamenco guitar from Gilbert during the Two Down, One to Go section, and some more heavy stuff in The Vineyard. In short The Conflict is like the very blueprint of what a prog epic (rock or metal) should be. Highly recommended that you check this track if nothing else.

Another notably section is The Conclusions opener Randy’s Jam, a bass solo with some wild keyboards as backing. Pretty interesting beginning to the end of the album. The whole of the Door, while nothing stands out as much as in The Conflict, is a pretty solid piece from start to finish. The Conclusion is the weaker of the epics, though by no means bad. In fact the whole album is of a very high quality, even the ballad Heaven in My Heart, which is a much more traditionally structured song in comparison, lasting for just over five minutes and sticking to a single style, doesn't come across as a piece of filler amongst these epics.

In conclusion this is easily one of the best albums that Morse has put his name to, and I am counting not only solo work in that statement but also Spock’s Beard and Transatlantic. I highly recommend this.

(Review originally written for Heavy Metal Haven)

Members reviews

As a progressive metal fan and a Christian, Neal Morse has been an incredible recent discovery for me thanks to Prog Archives. I love both this album and “?”. Sola Scriptura has all the elements to satisfy my tastes. Throughout the album it is full of excellent composition both in terms of melodies and complex passages played by highly skilled musicians. It has sufficient heaviness in places and meaningful lyrics in others. I know that non-believers can find Neal’s lyrics overly evangelistic, but in the words that appear on this album, “How can I keep silent when I know the truth?”

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