THE LUMBERJACK (Humboldt State University, Arcata, California), February 2, 2000, p. 29
It’s difficult for the average college rock critic to know what to make of a CD like Prophesies, the new release from Hermetic Science.
Hermetic Science, a progressive rock band in the tradition of early 1970s bands such as Emerson, Lake and Palmer and Yes, is the brainchild of College of the Redwoods instructor Ed Macan.
In their work, Macan has set out to create a forum for truly progressive music. According to Macan, a band isn’t a progressive rock band by merely copying the work of classic seventies prog bands, but instead should stretch out and take chances and explore new stylistic directions.
All of that said, Hermetic Science’s new release, the first since its self-titled CD in 1997, is not an easy listening experience. The entire album in instrumental, atmospheric, and not exactly one to rock the house with.
Macan composed, arranged, and mixed all the songs on Prophesies, except for two cover pieces, “Jacob’s Ladder” by Rush and “Tarkus” by Emerson, Lake and Palmer. Among these songs is the “Prophesies” suite.
Throughout this suite, the ear is treated to Macan’s vision of a prog-rock dreamscape. We hear a variety of unusual sounds from instruments such as the vibraphone, marimba, Hammond organ, Micromoog, soprano recorder, Steinway grand piano, and a string ensemble. Behind this shimmering fan of eclectic sounds, we have Andy Durham on bass and Matt McClimon on drums.
Both turn in professional-level, imaginative performances. Durham’s playing especially has a dreamy, conscientiously open-minded quality reminiscent of Eric Avery of Jane’s Addiction.
The highlight of the CD, however, is Macan’s solo performance on the cover of “Tarkus.” This performance, done live in Whittier, is captured without any editing or modifications. It is Macan alone on the Steinway grand piano. Here we get a glimpse of Macans ambitious virtuosity in a more traditional classical forum, which is perhaps where he belongs.
As for the rest of the album I must admit that while I applaud the ambition of Macan to offer something original and adventurous, the album leaves me cold.
Also, Macan doesn’t give the other musicians in his group enough to do. He seems so determined to be the next Peter Gabriel that the rest of the band seems relegated to reciting cryptic phrases while he takes choruses and solos.
Prophesies is worth a listen, and it’s good to see bands interested in an area of seventies music other than Crosby, Stills, and Nash. But in the end it’s still a frustrating music experience. That’s the problem with progressive rock—it promises something new, yet seems hopelessly stuck in the past.