Nathan Mahl

Heretik, Vol. 1: Body of Accusations

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Heretik, Vol. 1: Body of Accusations is the first of a two-part series (actually a two-CD set released as two separate CDs). The follow-up to the 1998 CD The Clever Use of Shadows, this album puts Nathan Mahl's progressive rock chops to a much more ambitious work. The result is interesting, but not really convincing, at least not at this stage of the project. In the center of this concept album is a heretic, a man being punished for "speaking his mind and his heart." What he did say or write is left uncertain. Being persecuted by some kind of inquisition, he is left in prison at the end of this CD, waiting for his trial (the subject of Heretik, Vol. 2: The Trial). Whether the story should be understood as a medieval recreation or as a modern-day allegory is left to the listener's own speculations. Honestly, one should not bother with the concept for too long, because the real interest resides in the music, an exciting concoction of complex progressive rock. Leader, keyboardist, and lead singer Guy LeBlanc wrote some of his best music yet, taking the Gentle Giant-inspired melodic side of the band and developing song structures further than on the band's previous effort or his solo album Subversia (another loosely knit concept with stellar music). Organs, keyboards, and pianos abound, often taking center stage, as on "Heretik Part 1" (with beautiful piano passages), but LeBlanc is not alone. Guitarist Marc Spénard, drummer Alain Bergeron, and bassist Claude Prince handle their parts with brio. Only one concession is made to commercial rock radio: the first minutes of "Heretik Part 3," but the piece quickly takes a left turn. Fans of Spock's Beard will find the same kind of technical prowess and exciting shifts, without the Beatlesque attraction to melody. The music can become very crowded at times, but it usually flows nicely. LeBlanc's musical vision is an exhilarating one: prog rock on the verge of fusion, full of twists and turns, blending a technical edge with rock stamina.

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