Mostly flying under the radar, Canadian prog outfit The Midgard Project - led by multi instrumentalist Marty Midgard - released their first album, Music of the Spheres, in 2016 to little fanfare. As they now unveil their second full length, their name begins to demand some recognition. The Great Divide might be bound in heavy layers of melodrama, but it’s all deserved thanks to the plentiful passion on display in every part of the production. From the operatic touch that opens it to the massive prog closer, The Great Divide offers a multitude of flavors and touches all delivered with marks of great musicianship. Aside from Midgard, carrying both guitar and bass and absolutely smashing both parts on here, The Midgard Project consists of tight ass drummer Dennis Dumphy, whose immense drum lines and precise timing set the stage for a dramatic venture into realms both melodic and riff driven majesty.
The phenomenal Stu Block (Into Eternity, ex- Iced Earth) lends his talent and immense presence to the album, replacing the underrated Rob Lundgren (ex- Salvation’s End) who sang on the debut. Right from the start Block’s range is on display, opening with an operatic tenor in the opener At the Failing of Light’s introduction. Though mostly sticking with the mid ranged tenor of his Iced Earth tenure, later down the line he unleashes some harrowing, epic harsh vocals putting the gilded edge on highlight Yuki-Onna. Midgard’s own musicianship paints vast soundscapes across the runtime, vivid colors of life in the wild, of bitter winter winds blowing and of life at the precipice; tales of nature and folklore and humanity given vivid life by Block’s vocals. The songwriting invokes the obvious influences of Symphony X and their progressive like, folding in the Iced Earth-isms lent by Block, as well as some more extreme metal influences poking their heads in. Winter Slumber is positively massive and brutal, a show of force as Midgard's riffing tears ice cold through flesh and bone; meanwhile The Wolf an the Raven or the title track offer lofty power metal-esque escapades, memorable choruses that demands some singing along (in the car great wilderness, where no one can hear you).
The track list is a mere seven songs, stretching over 42 minutes, making for a fairly condensed full length that leaves little room for filler or bloating. Repeat listens keeps revealing the hidden intricacies in each of the songs, each minute warranted and building the whole, taking it to new levels. Sometimes the production could use a little more oomph and bombast to emphasize the scope of some of the choruses - At the Failing of Light could definitely use more weight put behind it - but the scaled back nature does work well and cloaks the music in a dramatic solitude - The Wolf and the Raven gets that epic alone in the wilderness feel, Block delivering with passion. The keyboards add to those layers of dramatic flair, echoing the European school. At a first glance, The Great Divide seems pretty humble, unassuming, but as you delve further into it, experiencing the mythos it builds for itself, it turns out anything but; an incredibly gripping affair with the wild, and a haunting, beautiful work of art that demands recognition.
Standout tracks: The Wolf and the Raven, Yuki-Onna, The Great Divide