Review Summary: A very solid, musically diverse and ambitious offering from Neal Morse and Co.
Neal Morse is a prominent figure in the world of Progressive Rock, with the incarnation of Spock’s Beard, Transatlantic and the string of albums he’s released since, he has reached exceptional musical heights and Sola Scriptura is no exception. This is a concept album written about the life of Martin Luther, an early 1500s Christian reformer.
What is respectable about Morse is his ability to seamlessly transition and go through many different styles in the course of one song, his vocals lean more towards a pop style (he tried his hand as a pop singer earlier on in his career for those that didn’t know), that coupled with his heavy use of his signature Hammond organ sound makes for a very unique musical combination that is instantly recognizable. Neal Morse’s brand of Progressive Rock is very melodically driven and theme-based, he is also a very proficient keyboard and guitar player, even if the music goes off on many different tangents, his attention to melody, harmony (especially vocal harmony) and use of themes keeps his songs cohesive and is arguably more accessible than other Prog groups.
The strengths of this album lie especially in the first two cuts “The Door” and “The Conflict”, clocking in at 29 and 25 minutes respectively. The songs takes many drastic turns throughout and many influences can be heard, from metal riffing to blues soloing to Beatles-influenced gospel sections to Latin-influenced sections that strongly recall Spanish folk dances to even a short Liszt-esque piano solo that emulates the bravura of a Classical concert pianist. Morse has always been an open book about his religious beliefs, starting from “Testimony”, most of his lyrics in his solo albums revolve around Christianity and his love for god in general, as shown on the ballad “Heaven In My Heart”. “The Conclusion” serves as a stunning finale to the album, quoting key musical themes from the preceding songs and rounding off the album in a way that is absolutely grandiose.
At certain moments, Morse will reprise certain musical themes heard earlier, bringing unity to the piece, he has a knack for reintroducing these themes at the right time, never making them sound out of place or like an afterthought. Long time band mates Randy George on bass and Mike Portnoy on drums really step up to the plate and aid Morse through his musical journey, at the same time infusing their own playing style into the music, Paul Gilbert guests on the album and plays two really awesome solos in “The Door” and “The Conflict”, arguably two of his least known solos but well worth a listen.
This is a musically diverse and ambitious album and a very solid offering from Morse and Co, whether you’re into prog, pop or metal, there is something for everyone here, personally I feel this is his best album with “Testimony 2” coming in at a close second. If you’re a Christian, there is no doubt Morse’s lyrics will speak out to you and his beliefs in tune with yours, if you aren’t religiously inclined (like me), that shouldn’t stop you from enjoying what he has to offer musically, some of his lyrics are very positive and uplifting and do not need to be interpreted religiously.
Sola Scriptura is:
Neal Morse - Vocals, Guitars, Keyboards
Randy George - Bass
Mike Portnoy - Drums
Paul Gilbert (special guest) - Guitars