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Pipeline Magazine Review of Carpe Noctem

The Madeira: Carpe Noctem

The latest from American guitar group The Madeira manages to be exciting and dynamic whilst still being as varied and polished as we have come to expect from one of the best groups around. The 13 tracks range from clean echo ballads through six-string bass twangers to soaring exotic pounders and the group’s brilliant, expressive playing is matched by inventive arrangements that wring all possible emotion out of every melody. Additionally notable is the fact that all bar two of these melodies are originals. It takes a couple of plays to familiarise yourself with the material and then the investment really pays off, giving you an album that will delight for many years to come with its scintillating lead work and oh-so-effective real rhythm guitar throughout. Patrick O’Connor’s mastery of this underestimated art is the perfect foil for Ivan Pongracic’s accomplished lead and he also shares the writing credits.

The album opens quietly with the title track Carpe Noctem, which features duetting guitars before building to a mean and moody climax and then breaking down again. Wreak Havoc! is a fast flying east European flavoured piece with lightning licks and furious drumming that gives way to Undercurrents, a beautiful uptempo echo guitar theme that recalls the finest from the ’60s with its emotive treble lead. Rolling Thunder is another fast and furious piece with an eastern influence, featuring echo lead and reverb embellishments. Shimmering chords support the edgy slowie Infidel and the first cover is the Euro bass twanger El Flaco with its proud melody over a classic galloping rhythm, embellished with tasty guitar touches.

The Indian-flavoured foot-tapping acoustic raga Hamsa provides a break midway through the album and then it’s back to the fast flying style on The Saracen with its exciting, catchy whip-cracking guitar breaks. The second cover is, unsurprisingly for an Ivan Pongracic project, an Atlantics track. This time it’s SOS (Stomp on Stomp) with its furious pace, deep driving lead and flying treble fills – great stuff. Tangaroa is a pretty electric twang ballad with acoustic backing and Surf Fidelis the closest to a traditional surf rocker with some delightful damped picking. A quick-fire rhythm riff drives the exotic Sahar and the finale End of the Circle is a dreamy piece featuring tasty echo guitar phrases over a simple, sympathetic backing.

Without forgetting the fabulous playing and fine melodies, it is the time spent polishing the arrangements and the care with which the album is sequenced that ensure Carpe Noctem will be a favourite for years to come.

Alan Taylor
Pipeline Magazine #78

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