NEAL MORSE — Sola Scriptura (review)

NEAL MORSE — Sola Scriptura album cover Album · 2007 · Metal Related Buy this album from MMA partners
4.5/5 ·
Andyman1125
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.
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