Tragic tale of ancient grace given a rock symphony treatment with a stellar cast for texture.
Multi-instrumentalist Robert McClung doesn’t think small, but while 2014’s "The Legend Of Goody Cole" felt like a parochial downshifting from his project’s Biblical debut, name guests notwithstanding, “Hypatia” takes its thematic and moral focus somewhere else and aims much higher. The album’s heroine – a scientist who was murdered in 370 BC, aged 19 – can be perceived as an early feminist figure and enlightenment mover now, but that’s not the drama laid out here. It’s a fiction of sorts, as the events depicted in “The Burning Of The Library Of Alexandria,” given an elegiac edge by Scott Page’s sax, didn’t take place until years later, and there was no Arabic music then in Egypt so the Eastern ring of “Teacher” comes incongruous, yet a sense of greatness prevails.
This time the composer reined in the personalities of famous bands’ associates who helped him realize the concept, via spoken interludes and epic instrumentals, although Oliver Wakeman projects his ivory touch over “Philosopher” where Durga McBroom-Hudson’s vocalise shapes the protagonist’s role. The heavy metal approach feels surplus to prog requirements for the most part there, but “Astronomer” displays a wonderful contrast between the guitar bombast and pastoral violin and flute before the folk vibe gets woven into riffs. They cede in the orchestral depth of “Mathematician” that’s lost in the shredding of “Murder” as if to bring the story to our days for one of the theatrical “Scenes” interspersing the music. If only it carried the concept melodically, with recurring themes, that sense of greatness could have turned palpable.