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Saga - "The Human Condition" (CD)

Saga - "The Human Condition" CD cover image

"The Human Condition" track listing:

1. The Human Condition
2. Step Inside
3. Hands Of Time
4. Avalon
5. A Number With A Name
6. Now Is Now
7. Let It Go
8. Crown Of Thorns
9. You Look Good To Me

Reviewed by on May 21, 2009

"One of the most memorable, palatable, and accessible prog albums of this decade - An instant sing-along classic."

Canada’s Saga have traced a long path through time. Debuting in 1971 and still making albums after a break-up that spanned two decades, Saga has placed themselves at the forefront of the traditional progressive scene, both in rock and metal, with “The Human Condition.” The most noteworthy element of this album is the vocal styling of new vocalist Rob Moratti, but there really isn’t an unremarkable element on “The Human Condition”.

The new blood in the Saga system, Moratti replaced prior vocalist Michael Sadler in April 2008 after Sadler’s departure due to other interests. Formerly the vocalist of Canadian act Final Frontier, Moratti’s talent on the new Saga album belies his short time with Saga. Moratti sounds a lot like a mixture of the voices of Journey’s Steve Perry and Queensryche’s Geoff Tate, and lifts the Saga sound up into the sky. Even after only one listen of the second track, “Step Inside,” Moratti’s voice lingers in your head. Clear, bright, and traditionally melodic is Moratti’s style, and his harmony vocals are as memorable as his leads, which cut through the mix and warrant many a repeated listen.

The rest of Saga’s elements are bold, modern, and sharp without the sickly-sweet taste of forced prog parts. The directions the songs take on this element are more traditionally prog than most bands are taking nowadays, and they work well to reinforce Saga’s sound while still vie for a position of relevance in the diluted music world of today. Guitarist Ian Crichton offers a wealth of parts on this album that both shredders and fans of “tasteful” prog will love, from his assisting rhythm parts to his leads on songs like “Now Is Now,” “You Look Good To Me,” and “Step Inside.” Keyboardist Jim Gilmour also shines new light on old-style prog keyboard parts, offering quite a bit to both sides of the tasteful/excessive divide, utilizing high-quality lead and rhythm sounds for his high-technicality parts.

The rhythm section on this album, bassist Jim Crichton and drummer Brian Doerner, really locks in throughout the songs. All together, the 2009 Incarnation of Saga has created an unforgettable record sure to go down in the annals of true progressive rock and metal history. From the forceful instrumentation on the opening title track to the swingin’ rock anthems of “You Look Good To Me,” “The Human Condition” is a phenom of an album, one that seems classic, feels modern, and gives you an insatiable hunger for more. Adding to all of this is a heavy, clear, and yet unobtrusive production job – by far, one of the best in the genre.

Highs: Superb memorable vocals, musicianship, and leads, as well as true progressive feel

Lows: None discernable. Each song is a high and somehow, there's just no filler.

Bottom line: With talent to spare, Saga have created an unforgettable album in all respects.

Rated 5 out of 5 skulls
5 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)