Explorers Club is a project around brothers Trent and Wayne Gardner, of Magellan fame, assisted capably indeed by Terry Bozzio on drums and Billy Sheehan on bass. Especially Bozzio really lets rip; I've heard him before on a few albums but I never quite understood what drum fanatics were going on about - I do. He's completely insane! But that's not where Explorers Club stops. Missing a singer in their ranks, they have made use of the services of Bret Douglas, Matt Bradley, James LaBrie an D.C. Cooper, while Trent occasionally adds harmonies; and on guitars or keyboards there is an impressive line-up including John Petrucci (he plays most of the solos), Steve Howe, Derek Sherinian, James Murhpy and Frederick Clarke. Michael Bemesderfer occasionally enriches the sound by using a flute and wind controller (he also played on Jason Becker's "Perspective").

The CD only contains five tracks, but don't let this put you off - the tracks are just over 10 minutes long on average, leaving plenty of space for the musicians to excel whereas the vocalists do quite a good job too. "Age of Impact" is a generally pretty heavy CD, with slower sections thrown in. "Fate Speaks" is probably the heaviest track (and clocking at 16 minutes exactly), whereas my personal favourites are "Fading Fast" (doesn't start off too good, though) and the closer, "Last Call".

"Age of Impact" is not just a musician's CD like the (excellent) Liquid Tension Experiment, but has found the right balance between musical craftsmanship and proper songwriting. At times reminiscent of a heavier kind of Genesis, the album provides a great listen and at least two tracks - the two faves mentioned above - that might as well be cast in the progressive metal hall of fame right away.

Magna Carta should get some kind of Nobel Prize. They manage to bring joy to the lives of many lovers of good music, and as far as I am concerned a fitting Nobel Prize category should be concocted this second.

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Written September 1998


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