NEAL MORSE — Testimony 2 (review)

NEAL MORSE — Testimony 2 album cover Album · 2011 · Non-Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
4/5 ·
Testimony 2 is a 2011 album release from American musician Neal Morse (ex-Spock’s Beard, Transatlantic). His last two solo releases The River and Mighty to Save were a part of his ‘Worship Sessions’ series of Christian rock music, making Testimony 2 Neal’s first progressive rock album since 2008’s Lifeline, which was an album that I personally found to be a disappointment, especially since it had a tough act to follow in the metal inclined Sola Scriptura (2007). Testimony 2 is also a sequel to Neal’s first solo prog rock album, Testimony, which was released back in 2003. The album is a double disc affair, although only the first disc contains the conceptual material. There is also a limited edition that includes a making of DVD.

Musically Testimony 2, perhaps expectedly, harks back to Neal’s earliest prog solo work which includes the original Testimony album. That means symphonic styled progressive rock, which has a little bit more of a kick to it than some artists I’ve listened to, with Christian themed lyrics which are essentially three new chapters in an on-going musical biography of Neal’s life, specifically his conversion to the Christian faith. Personally speaking I can’t call myself a Christian, but such lyrics don’t bother me, so long as they aren’t Christian just for the sake of being Christian, if you get my meaning. By making a concept album the lyrics get a deeper meaning to them, which works very well for the creative genius that is Neal Morse. This is why Lifeline wasn’t so good for me. It had no concept, and the lyrics were Christian just for the sake of it. If I wanted that from Morse I’d listen to his Worship albums (I don’t, by the way). Fortunately with another concept album under his belt Neal Morse returns to form in style with Testimony 2.

There are two discs for the album. The first is essentially Testimony 2, while the second contains three additional unrelated tracks. You may consider them bonus tracks perhaps, although the third and final, Seeds of Gold, is actually one of Neal’s epics, with a running time only just shy of twenty-six minutes, and personally I’d call it one of the most essential tracks that the package offers us. This is certainly a man that knows how to write a lengthy epic the right way.

While most of the music is firmly in the progressive rock vein Neal also showcases those heavier tendencies from Sola Scriptura as well, mostly notably on the excellent instrumental Overture No. 4. Neal’s keyboards naturally play a large role in his music to give it its symphonic flavour, and the bass guitar of Randy George has a very prominent position in the mix on parts of the album. The album also features guest slots from Neal’s former Spock’s Beard band mates Nick D'Virgilio, Alan Morse and Dave Meros, who provide additional vocals on Time Changer, which is a nod to Neal’s time in the band is in a very similar style to some of Spock’s Beard’s work.

What really holds Testimony 2 back from being masterful though is that although it’s certainly a much more enjoyable effort from Neal than Lifeline, for an album of this length it does start to feel a little samey by the time you’re reaching the end of the second part of the main concept album, which is only just shy of eighty minutes of music in total with still over half an hour to go by this point. This is a good album all the same, but it’s that non-concept track Seeds of Gold that I mentioned earlier that really pushes my overall opinion of the album up for me.

So while Testimony 2 doesn’t quite stand up to Neal’s best works across his multiple projects for me, this is most certainly a solid and worthy addition to his sizeable discography that I think his fans are going to enjoy immensely.


(Originally written (in 2011) for Heavy Metal Haven:
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