REVIEW: Paul Maged – ‘Diamonds & Demons’

Artist: Paul Maged
Album: Diamonds & Demons
Genre: Rock

With influences ranging from Billy Joel to Green Day, it’d be easy to assume that Paul Maged’s sophomore effort, Diamonds & Demons, would vary wildly in style and sound. And with a whopping 17 tracks, collectively clocking in just shy of a full hour, the album indeed does…mostly. Does a long runtime with a heavy haul of songs that span several areas of rock guarantee an interesting and fulfilling listening experience though? Sometimes, sure. Many times even. This time, however, it might just be too much.

While Diamonds & Demons certainly offers rock fans plenty in way of variety, aside from a few tracks that set themselves apart entirely, said variety is really only found in subtle nuances scattered throughout. Unless you put your focus on the music, a lot of the songs tend to blend upon repeat listens, which could be due in large part to Mage’s vocal delivery. Don’t get me wrong, his pipes are strong and almost always take the lead, but the structure and his inflections start to feel a tad repetitive over time. Beyond that, 17 tracks is just simply a lot to take in. That works for a mixtape or greatest hits release, but D&D is neither of those things.

Apart from those afflictions, we have to take the album for what it is, and it’s really a solid rock record through and through. Ofttimes channeling both Bruce Springsteen and Meat Loaf simultaneously, the majority of this album should surely appeal to fans of either of those greats. Backing Maged’s aforementioned vocals is impressive instrumentation from Maged himself on piano and keyboard with Ari Friedman contributing all guitar parts and drums from Marc Hoffman. A lot of the album is high in energy with a ’70s and ’80s ballad-esque or arena rock feel, but there are moments when it’s toned down with a balance of beautiful piano arrangements and more poignant bits.

Tracks such as “Paradise Island,” “Somber Song,” and “64th and 1st” are the most different of the bunch (save for the short closer whose placement works), and are unfortunately all crammed into the final third of the album, making the balance in variation as a whole quite uneven. However, even within the rock-heavy first two thirds, there are bits of change as previously noted. “Human Warfare” offers a faster paced punk vibe, “Cause and Effect” meshes Journey with Rush, and “Annastasia” serves as a loving ballad (and one of my favorites on the record). As with “Annastasia,” a lot of the lyrics revolve around love, as well as various other relatable topics that have always made for solid themes in any story. Maged recently shared with us, “Though there are a handful of songs on the album about social issues, the larger part of the record is just about living an everyday life and the emotional struggles we endure as we navigate through our own individual journeys. Growing up, getting older, loss of loved ones, being nostalgic for another time, sadness, wanting to get away from life for a while, finding true love. This to me is what my album is about.”

If you have an hour to spare, you could spend it doing worse things than listening to Diamonds & Demons. You may find yourself skipping a song here or there and you might notice that the production gets a little muddied in the mix from time to time–ultimately taking the wind out of the sails of a guitar riff or a drum beat–but overall, there are many memorable moments throughout this record. It’s not flawless, but few things are, if any at all. I still say it’s too long, and I could probably pick a small handful of tracks that wouldn’t have made the D&D team after try-outs, but it’s not my record. Maged crafted it the way he wanted to–whether you want to enjoy it that way is up to you.

SCORE: 6.8/10
Review written by Brian Lion — (Follow him on Twitter)

Brian Leak
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