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Neal Morse – Testimony 2: Review

May 23 is the date in which Neal Morse‘s long awaited sequel to the acclaimed album Testimony was released. It is entitled Testimony 2 and was released through InsideOut records. It is a continuation of the theme behind the prequel as well as the universal appraisal. Having never heard the first one, I cannot compare the two. But one thing is for sure, Testimony 2 is a masterpiece with or without its predecessor.

The Music (rating: A+)

Disc 1

  1. Mercy Street
  2. Overture No. 4
  3. Time Changer (with Spock’s Beard)
  4. Jayda
  5. Nighttime Collectors
  6. Time Has Come Today
  7. Jesus’ Blood
  8. The Truth Will Set You Free
  9. Chance of a Lifetime
  10. Jesus Bring Me Home
  11. Road Dog Blues
  12. It’s for You
  13. Crossing Over – Mercy Street Revisited

Disc 2

  1. Absolute Beginner
  2. Supernatural
  3. Seeds of Gold

I guess I should point out that Testimony 2 is more or less a Christian rock album. I do not consider myself religious, but try not to let such matters interfere with my appreciation of music. In any case, instead of being preachy and pretentious, the record more so explores Morse’s personal journey and self-discovery with Christianity. The former might possibly have turned me off, whereas the latter (and actual) made this record relatable on a personal and emotional level.

Testimony 2 is a symphonic progressive rock album. It draws influences from classic progressive acts such as Yes. However, it is saying it is progressive is far from a pinpoint. The truth is that Testimony 2 is an extremely diverse album. There are classic rockers, ballads, bluesy tracks, symphonic pieces, and intricate progressive ones as well. At times it gets heavy (not quite to the modern-day metal standard) and at times it gets soft. This album does nearly everything from a stylistic point of view, and the only way to justifiably classify it is with a broad description such as “symphonic progressive rock”.

Perhaps Testimony 2 is able to expand over such a vast range because of its vast length. It is two CDs comprising nearly two hours of music. Fortunately, there is sufficient substance to warrant such a great length. In a way, Testimony 2 is comparable to Ayreon’s Into the Electric Castle (another fantastic album) in that both push themselves far past the limits of their respective genres and do so with double-disc albums. But with both, I found it hard to listen to the whole release in one sitting not because of any shabbiness in the musical quality, but because it truly is a very long time. I suppose that is the good thing about the two-disc album: it gives you a quick breather and puts you right back into it. However, in Testimony 2, the second disc is unrelated to the first and is seemingly less significant. That is not to say it is bad, it just seems more of a bonus than an integral piece of the record… albeit, a very pleasant bonus.

Although there are thirteen tracks on the first disc, they are quite well separated into three different parts:

Part Six

  • Mercy Street
  • Overture No. 4
  • Time Changer (with Spock’s Beard)
  • Jayda

Part Seven

  • Nighttime Collectors
  • Time Has Come Today
  • Jesus’ Blood
  • The Truth Will Set You Free

Part Eight

  • Chance of a Lifetime
  • Jesus Bring Me Home
  • Road Dog Blues
  • It’s for You
  • Crossing Over
  • Mercy Street Revisited

It begins at Part Six because that is where the predecessor Testimony left off (which I have unfortunately not yet listened). Within each of the parts, there is a remarkable amount of depth and diversity. And furthermore, in the context of the album, transitions between parts serve very well as warranted breaks between what are essentially 25+ minute songs. With relation to one another, the three parts feel like they belong in the same record. Testimony 2 is amazing at providing variety and flow simultaneously.

With Testimony 2, it need not be said that the musical creativity and instrumental performances are beyond greatness. Neal Morse himself is a brilliant composer, and with the help of musicians such as drumming legend Mike Portnoy, not much can go less than wonderfully with this album. Even recruiting the vocal assistance of Neal’s former band, Spock’s Beard, worked in beautifully in “Time Changer”. The pacing in the album is great from start to finish, as is the songwriting and composition. The vocals are very catchy and not irritating and are mixed extremely well into the densely layered and tightly composed music; they are truly the fine polish on an already spectacular record.

To say the least, Testimony 2 is an amazing album. It is a master craft of the brilliant Neal Morse and his extremely talented recruits. The record has smooth flow yet an immense range of dynamics. Though the second disc feels unnecessary and slightly out-of-place, it is filled with solid material. This is the first album I have heard by Neal Morse, and I am most certainly won over. Christian or not, the grandeur of this record is undeniable and must not be passed up.

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