This is the second album from progressive Irish trio M-Opus, who comprise Jonathan Casey (vocals, bass, keyboards), Mark Grist (drums) and Colin Sullivan (guitars) alongside various guests including Anto Drennan (Genesis, Mike + The Mechanics, Clannad, The Corrs), Conor McGouran (Xerath) and Michael Buckley (Dave Liebman, Kenny Wheeler). Some may recognise Casey better as Arch Stanton, and under that name he recorded two albums as part of the David Cross Band. The album is a narrative piece that includes a cast of actors and guest performers; part rock album, part audio play, part soundtrack, and contains 28 tracks over two CDS, taking more than five years to pull together. The concept is a science fiction story based in 2187 and revolves around a washed-up, drunk, genius scientist called Miller McKee.
I am an avid science fan and have been since when at a fairly young age I realised the library contained Star Trek books. Having read all they had, I moved onto other stories by the same author, James Blish, and then discovered whole new worlds with the great Isaac Asimov, Heinlein, Van Vogt, Pohl and so many others. In recent years I have thoroughly enjoyed the releases by Hibernal which are science fiction stories with music, so I was really looking forward to this release.
That the guys can play is never in doubt, and much of the music contains great hooks, and some of the songs are simply outstanding. The voice actors also play their parts well, but the biggest problem is that for me the story doesn’t work, or at least it doesn’t with the words they are able to use – it may work better as a novel where it can be fleshed out. There are times, such as on “Perfect Day For Flight For 2019”, where there are just too many lyrics in a line, and it jars. Too often there is the feeling the music is being moved around to make room for the words which need to be included to get the story across. The album may be well in excess of two hours in length, but for this to really work it actually should have been much longer: would a listener sit through it?
The result for me is something which feels quite contrived, with nothing really working as it should and each element having a negative impact on the others as opposed to lifting them up. Unlike many concept albums this is a story or audio play, so it needs to be played from beginning to end, no picking certain pieces to play to again as it just does not work that way. There have been many very positive reviews of this album, but having already played this through a few times, when I realised it was next on my list to write about I actually groaned out loud as I didn’t want to play it again. A great deal of work has gone into this and the musicians are superb, but I would much rather hear an album of songs as opposed to this. Given so many people have said nice thing about it, people who enjoy commercial progressive rock combined with dialogue may find something there for them, but it is not for me.