ACID DRAGON (France), Summer 2000, pp. 23-24
Ed Macan is one of those guys that make you ever so slightly envious—the writer of the first comprehensive book on progressive rock music, Rocking the Classics, a College lecturer, and, as if that weren’t enough, he is also on this evidence an accomplished musician. Oh, and I just found out he has also written a book about ELP!
Although I’m not convinced the album’s opening track ‘Jacob’s Ladder’ transfers easily from Rush’s guitar driven rock to a vibraphone and marimba treatment, the piece is intelligently interpreted with Nate Perry and Matt McClimon providing sterling support as the rhythm section.
The highlight of the recording, though, is the title track, a 41 minute suite in six movements with Andy Durham taking Perry’s place on bass guitar. Within this track, I’m pleased to hear Macan give Egg their true place in prog rock history as the opening movement ‘Barbarian’s Gate’ proves he has listened to and absorbed a lot from the legendary Dave Stewart-led trio. ELP are also quoted, of course!
The second movement is entirely played on soprano recorder and ARP string ensemble- a brave move and one which places a lot of onus on Durham’s bass and McClimon’s cymbal work- a challenge they are more than equal to.
‘Last Stand’ (the 3rd movement) sees Macan return to the vibraphone, marimba, ARP instrumentation- Durham sounds uncannily like Egg’s Mont Campbell here—blissful memories! This is a wonderfully dramatic movement with some of the music reminding me of the atmospheric soundtrack album ‘Twin Peaks.’
‘Lament’ demonstrates what a fine touch Macan has on his Steinway as he adopts the traditional Prelude and Fugue classical format, the entry of drums in the third minute giving a jazz inflection in much the same way as ELP did all those years ago.
The use of Hammond organ on the longest movement ‘Leviathan and Behemoth’ is a return to an ‘Egg like’ sound (with ELP later in the piece) Also, the spirit of great church organ music by Buxtehude and J.S. Bach is lurking. My only reservation is the use of the ARP which, to my ears, has rather a ‘tinny’ sound for such a refined piece. Nevertheless, it is used sparingly and helps contribute to the unique combination of instruments.
Macan’s use of soprano recorder/ piano/ Hammond in the middle section is ingenuous and there is so much to admire in this movement it’s difficult to know where to start. ‘State of Grace’ is quite simply the ‘icing on the cake.’
His rendition of ‘Tarkus’ (recorded live on solo piano in 1992 with no edits or overdubs) is darned near perfect and also contains many original variations. The only problem here is that including such an epic composition inevitably puts his own work in the shade and this is most unfair to such a talented composer as Macan.
Highly recommended and bound to be one of the most memorable of the year’s releases, Hermetic Science are a talented and inventive band whose leader Ed Macan has produced some noteworthy original pieces invoking the spirit of Egg and ELP as well as brilliantly interpreting works by Rush and ELP.