TRESPASS MAGAZINE no. 2, April 2003 (Italy)
If arranging is a pleasant rivalry between the more symphonic of the prog bands, then Hermetic Science wins the first position flying away.
Hermetic Science is more a project of the Californian Ed Macan, a keyboardist/mallet percussionist of robustly Emersonian extraction (and nearing the publication of a book on ELP . . .), but of solid jazz roots, than it is a band true and proper. After two albums in which our Ed cultivated his own personal association between “vibes-based jazz” and rock, apocalyptic symphonic and fusion arrives here as the final peg of the ideal trilogy.
In En Route Macan realizes a perfect form of chamber-symphonic rock, with markedly classical and solemn connotations. Not serene and hopeful like Flower Kings, nor bombastic and swaggering like Transatlantic, but restless, subtly mephitic, insidious, dolorous. One feels a certain displeasure at seeing the much loved vibraphone and marimba de-emphasized in favor of an immense stable of keyboards, however, the work is really more interesting as a result, especially in differentiating itself from the usual symphonic prog dustbin that is often presented to us. In the lineup also is bassist Jason Hoopes and drummers Matt McClimon (tracks 1-5) and Joe Nagy (tracks 6-8), skilled instrumentalists who have been students of Professor Macan at College of the Redwoods, Eureka, California.
The album is inspired by the figure and the works of J. K. Huysmans, one of the principals of the European Decadent movement, author of, among other works, Against the Grain (1884), the novel in which a revolutionary stream-of-consciousness narrative technique is introduced.
A concept of this type merits a musical depiction of elevated density: stripped of all the tinsel, the affectation, and the individualist pretensions, situated within a menacing platoon of execution, thus the ELP influence . . . After the opening appearance of yet another cover of Holst’s “Mars” comes the main course: “En Route,” a majestic suite of nearly forty-five minutes.
It is high-level apocalyptic chamber rock that Hermetic Science plies, serious, chest thrust out, carefully worked out, evoking a restless Middle European atmosphere (“Against the Grain, part 3”), with frequent appeals to the earlier experience of cool jazz (“Against the Grain, part 2”), well-conceived insertions of “world,” specifically oriental touches (“Raga Hermeticum”), and influences of the European Romantic tradition (the coda, “En Route”). Passwords: anguish, drama, obsession.
One feels a sense of astonishment when one gazes at this monolith and has an appreciation for the variety of its themes and instruments: the dense amalgam of vibes and keyboards is perfect, the Hammond a successful lead and the ARP strings background just slightly less colossal (“La-Bas”); to draw on comparison with the best exponents of “chamber rock,” one might mention our Gatto Marte, the Russians Horizont, and here also the name Gentle Giant suggests itself.
If the fanatics of symphonic rock were to give up paying attention to the hype, everyone will be better off. As with After Crying, Miriodor, and Univers Zero, also with Hermetic Science, we hope for gold, we feel obliged to discount the blindness (or the deafness . . .) of the same progressive music audience. If there are faults that afflict En Route, if it is in some areas inferior to its predecessors, it is an album of granitic impact and of unquestionable artistic respite. Donato Zoppo