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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Mastermind

Broken

Review by Gary Hill

I've seen these guys listed as progressive rock pretty much all over the place. There are some definite progressive rock tendencies here, but having not heard their previous albums, I can't attest to Mastermind fitting into that category. Still, we have previously included them there, and since there is precedence elsewhere, who am I to argue? I would have to say that a lot of this disc fits more closely into heavy metal, but even that doesn't work entirely. I suppose a prog leaning, crunchy hard rock would be a good description, but the end result is a solid album that rocks out pretty well. While I wouldn't say it is a favorite of mine, I can say that it definitely has some moments that I like a lot. You have to understand, though, with as much music as I hear and review, getting into that favorite category isn't easy. So, that's definitely not really a knock on this disc. It should definitely appeal to folks with a taste for classic guitar dominated rock. If you have a bit of an open mind about your prog, you too should like it.

Track by Track Review
Broken
The title track opens up the disc with a keyboard sound that seems lifted straight from the intro to Rush's "Tom Sawyer." The group turn this into a driving, super heavy metallic pounding. Vocals (both female and male) come across as does an Arabic sort of texture. The chorus is especially effective on this one. While the overlayers here provide some differing textures, this one is a pretty straightforward number. Of course, anyone who has read a lot of my reviews knows that I'm a sucker for Eastern tinged sounds, therefore this one gets bonus points in my book.
Break Me Down
A ticking clock starts this, then some vocals come in with an odd sort of texture. A tentative nu-metal sort of texture enters, then eventually takes command of the track. This one is really dark and heavy. They put in some cool twists and turns on the track, but never waver far from the general textures that dominate for a while. It moves out into a heavy prog instrumental jam later that is a real smoker.
Weak and Powerless
Balladic guitar with a tinge of Spanish texture starts this. The group gradually join in and then launch out into a fairly fast paced prog excursion that is a nice change of pace from the metallic structures of the last couple numbers. Don't get me wrong, this one still has crunch, but there is a more melodic sound to it. They crescendo then seem on the verge of going back to the balladic mode. Instead, the cut moves out into a fairly short instrumental break that takes it back to the verse segment. There is also a killer guitar solo segment with layers of non-lyrical vocals over the top later that truly sets this song apart.
The Queen of Sheba
Percussion leads this off, then the band launch into a fast paced, fusion like jam that has more of those Eastern textures of which I'm so fond. This one has some incredibly tasty frantic instrumental work, but also drops back to a more simplistic verse segment. The chorus has an almost punky frantic rhythmic structure, lending an odd sort of element to this piece. In fact, this segment reminds me a bit of The Dickies' cover of "Nights In White Satin." This track also really does have some of the best instrumental virtuosity of the whole album. After a particularly frantic guitar solo break it drops back to more sedate, almost psychedelic space rock texture. This instrumental segment wanders through a lot of incarnation and brings a lot more of that Eastern sound into the mix. The vocals eventually come back in over this spaced out, wandering sort of texture, reminding me just a bit of some of Led Zeppelin's more adventurous music. Eventually, though, they power it back up into super frantic territory over which the guitar simply shreds. After a while it makes its way back to the song proper, but then the most Eastern elements of all emerge in a duel between the guitar and vocals. A noisy cacophonous extended crescendo ends it. It takes a little while to get a grip on this composition, but it's worth the effort as it is one of the highlights.
William Tell Overture
Yep, they cover this classical piece. With their crunchy prog take on it, I kept expecting to hear "Hi, ho, Silver!" This is fun - a bit odd, but fun. It's also a definite guitar showcase feeling rather like Yngwie Malmsteen at times.
A Million Miles Away
This one comes in with spacey tones, then eventually a crunchy guitar heralds in a pounding, but slow paced metallic jam. They move this through some minor changes before it becomes the basis before the verse section. The vocal arrangement on this one really steals the show with its powerful performances. They move this up organically for a time, then break it back down for a meaty guitar solo that leads back into the verse section. As this intensifies there are moments where it feels to me like a turbo-charge Jefferson Airplane. They launch this out into another screaming instrumental break, then into an especially effective chorus. There is definitely some Zeppelin like guitar soloing on this track.
I'm So Glad
Starting with a back porch blues scratchy recording sound, the band then launch into a full on production of this classic track that was made famous by Cream. Their version in some ways doesn't vary much from that take, but the vocal arrangement and a bit more modern sound make this their own. There is also some very tasty guitar soloing on this one. I think I prefer the Cream rendition, but this one is cool, nonetheless.
Broken - Extended Mix
This is a different version of the opening track.
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