“The Quest For Prester John, Volume 2”

By Dr. Abner Mality

Just a few months after releasing the first part of their epic tale, ScienceNV have returned with the second act of “The Quest For Prester John”.  These guys are pure prog with a medieval  bent and not exactly the easiest band to get into. “Volume One” contained some intriguing aspects but also some notable flaws. How does “Volume Two” stack up?

I would say this is better all the way around, though not without its hiccups. The songs seem tighter and more energetic (though some still meander quite a bit) and the story also seems clearer and easier to understand. Like “Volume One”, this album starts with a huge multi-song that explores the mind of a single character who searches for the mysterious monarch Prester John. This time around we get “Roderick’s Tale”, which tells the story of a crusader in the holy land encountering death and disillusionment.  The medieval feeling is pretty strong with opener “Farewell”, which has a sprightly upbeat tone a little like early Yes.  There’s a lot of ambience and synth noodling on some of these tracks which remind me of ELP. “The Carnage At Al Samu” has a dark and heavy song as it relates the story of a massacre. Lots of guitar skree and skronk here. The “Roderick’s Tale” section ends with another upbeat and zesty tune “A Good Man Goes Home”. All in all, this is much more successful than the “Eleanor’s Tale” track on “Volume One”.

The rest of the album seems only slightly linked to the Prester John concept. “A Byzantine Interlude” and “River of Jewels” are drifting low key and ambient instrumentals that might test your patience. Much better is the very cool prog jam “30 Ethiopian Ambassadors”, which has lots of neat guitar effects and some awesome guitar and synth interplay. At times this almost sounds like jazz fusion mixed with a smoking hot ELP jam. Just as good is the album ending “End of a Legend”, which really soars.

ScienceNV is a very acquired taste even for prog fans, but there’s ideas here well worth checking out.