Prog is often criticized for being bloated, self-important, and pretentious. At its worst, prog is obsessed with self-gratifying instrumental sections, musical references to classical compositions, and obtuse narratives of their own writers’ inventions…
The lead opener, the famed “Carry On the Wayward Son” is the most immediate track. But it doesn’t go easy on the prog tendencies—half of its five minutes are spent ripping through solos.
It’s a good look at what to expect, but don’t expect the rest of the songs to rock this hard. Hooks (and vocals in general) are far and few between on this album, saddled between lengthy instrumental passages that are, if nothing else, deftly played, traveling everything from baroque to metal. There are even a couple spots that feel a bit hoedowny.
While most of the tracks sound like they could have been radio hits in the 70s, the closer, “Magnum Opus” goes full prog. It’s a six movement suite that breaks eight minutes—most of that time spent without vocals. Is it bloated and self-important? Sure. But’s it’s hella fun too.
And that’s the story of this record. It indulges in all of prog rock’s cardinal sins, and still manages to be an enjoyable listen. Nowhere near as painful as certain other prog records.