The Magical Mystery Machine (Chapter One)

PreHistoric Animals

First let me say, I've been reviewing a lot of Black Metal lately and it's […]
By Ian Yeara
October 18, 2020
PreHistoric Animals - The Magical Mystery Machine (Chapter One) album cover

First let me say, I've been reviewing a lot of Black Metal lately and it's a wonderful breath of fresh air getting to review something as fresh and melodically inclined as this.

PREHISTORIC ANIMALS is a Progressive/Alt Rock band from Sweden, and everytime I stumble upon a new Prog band from Scandinavia I always feel like I should be familiar with their work already. I looked around the internet and apparently people were quite thrilled by their first album and I can see why. This band offers a fresh take on what it means to be Prog; most Prog bands take the classic 70s approach which is closer in style to Jazz Fusion, but with a formal structure. This is more on the 80s neo Prog side, with a considered focus on melody with a rich and complex tapestry of drums, bass and keyboards underneath the whole time.

One thing I almost never find myself complaining about in Prog is boredom, regardless of how long a song is, there's almost always something going on and unlike more straightforward metal and rock bands the vocals are rarely left alone out in the open supported only by chugging from the rhythm guitar. No, despite the lack of faster tempos this album has an electric energy underlying the whole thing. Even when they do reach a more repetitive section, they add layers and layers of sound until that repeated motiff almost sounds completely new and far more bombastic.

This band kind of reminds me of FROST*, but without quite as strong a focus on keyboards and pop song structures, this is a rock album first and foremost and even where it indulges in some 80s sounds, at its core the album is far more rooted in 90s and early 2000s Alt Rock. This type of sound is exactly what I would show someone not already accustomed to Prog Rock. It embodies all the best innovations in Prog from the last 30 years or so and I know I used this word before, but I would definitely call this a fresh take on the genre.

It's my own fault, but I often lament that I end up feeling hurried writing these reviews because I feel like I end up delving into it as deeply as I might have, had I more time. Then again, if not for deadlines there's a good chance I would just procrastinate till the end of time. Deadlines force me to really break down how I feel about an album. I say all of that to preface this paragraph because I'm having a hard time picking out moments from individual songs, not because they're so samey, but because they're all so good.

The best way to talk about this album is to split into groups of two. The opening track "Floodgate" kind of breaks this approach, but the rest of the album kinda operates in groups of two, one song more melodically inclined the second more riff oriented. A perfect example of this is the transition from "The Magical Mystery Machine" to "No Mortal Girl Has Ever Seen the Light Inside".

The title track is (for the most part) a light, upbeat song with a really excellent hook. In fact, this song reminds me the most of the band FROST* on this album. "No Mortal Girl" however opens with probably the heaviest riff on this album. My favorite duo on the album has to be "First We'll Go To Mars" and "Into Battle Like my Father", aside from being a clever play on Roman paganism, these songs are closer to the classic 70s style Prog which is always my preferred style of Progressive Rock.

All of this speaks to something I find really important: pacing. Usually this is a term heard more in theatrical critique, the narrative pacing being an important aspect of any story. However pacing is just as important when it comes to an album, whether it be a 30 minute album or an hour and 30 minute album, the rise and fall of action is still just as applicable, though the concept is a little more esoteric when applied to music.

I think the idea of going from a lighter, more hook oriented song to a more dense Prog song is a perfect way to handle the pacing on an album like this. The last two songs really form one whole song and it's easily the most involved and intricate songwriting on the album. In fact before I got to the last two tracks I was ready to give this album the "it's good, but it's missing that special something that takes it to the next level". That's exactly what these last two songs do, they are bombastic, dramatic, and dripping with earnest emotion.

"First We'll Go To Mars" is the most metal song on the album, while "Into Battle" is a little more emotive and makes for a phenomenal finale. It's amazing to me how this album can go from poppy Neo-Prog to heavy riffs reminiscent of bands like DARKWATER and ANTHRIEL in a heartbeat. The transitions aren't awkward at all, they're brilliantly executed which is really hard to do in this genre, in fact I would argue that it's the Achilles Heel of Dream Theater and the many bands that have followed in their footsteps.

The best moment on the entire album for me has to be the last minute or so of "First We'll Go To Mars", the whole song has been building up to this point and the breakdown just absolutely nails it, which then perfectly transitions into "Into Battle (Like My Father)". "Into Battle" has this wonderfully mournful tone about it that is juxtaposed against breakdowns putting the guitar front and center. Pacing is all about the rise and fall of action and this song is an amazing example of good pacing in Prog.

At this point, I feel like I'm just stumbling around looking for more nice things to say. This album isn't like the greatest thing of all time, but it's quite impressive and I think the more I sit with it, the more it will grow on me, regardless it's definitely getting a spot on my year end list.

Combining Neo-Prog, Alt Rock and a hint of Progressive Metal is a challenge and in most cases would end up creating a disjointed mess of an album, somehow this album keeps all of it's influences under control and manages to use them appropriately with great care. PREHISTORIC ANIMALS impressed me with this one and I shall follow their career with great interest.

9 / 10

Almost Perfect








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"The Magical Mystery Machine (Chapter One)" Track-listing:

1. Floodgate
2. The Magical Mystery Machine
3. No Mortal Girl Has Ever Seen the Light Inside
4. A Good Start
5. What a Lucky Day!
6. First We'll Go to Mars
7. Into Battle (Like My Father)

PreHistoric Animals Lineup:

Samuel Granath - Drums and keys
Stefan Altzar - Lead vocals, guitars and keys
Daniel Magdic - Guitars and vocals
Noah Magnusson - Bass

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