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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Mindgames

Actors In A Play

Review by Gary Hill

Hailing from Belgium, Mindgames create a new form of progressive symphonic rock that is based quite firmly on the rich history of that musical style. The vocals on this release seem most of the times to fit within a range bounded on one side by Jon Anderson and on the other by Fish. The music wanders all over the musical landscape at times touching on such groups as Genesis, Marillion, Yes, King Crimson, Pink Floyd, The Flower Kings and others. This one, like all great progressive rock, takes a while to sink in, but when it does you'll realize you've come across a new treasure that brings the best of old and new prog together to the table.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2006 Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
The Benefit of Anxiety
They jump straight in with a tasty jazz-like excursion. They wander through variations on this for a time, then twist it around into a killer Yes-like keyboard dominated segment. This twists around a bit in faster, then slower, then faster again sequences. The guitar puts in a classic rock styled solo that turns a bit Rushish over the top of this backdrop. Then it shifts to a more mainstream rock format, and drops back after a time to something a bit like Pink Floyd. They drop it way back down to a keyboard based ballad structure for the first verse of the song - and those first words are about three minutes into this roughly 9 minute track (and this is the second shortest track on show here). They build and rebuild this ballad type motif in very potent ways. Then it eventually shifts to a new instrumental segment that is part ELP and part more modern prog. This explodes out after a while into an expansive sort of excursion that is quite strong. Then a shifting sort of jam comes out of this. Eventually this resolves out to the next lyrical segment, one that is very melodic and somewhat based on a ramped up version of the earlier verses. After a time keyboards start accenting the vocal lines as the arrangement becomes more lush. This has quite a bit of a Yesish texture throughout much of it. A killer jam that seems part ELP and part Genesis ends it.
Dramatis Persona
Starting with playful sedate classical type tones, the vocals come across this backdrop in a weird sort of an arrangement. As some other instruments gradually come in, this begins to feel a bit like the stranger side of Pentwater. Eventually it powers out in almost metallic fashion for a very short time until a keyboard dominated section that is part Genesis and part mid-era Rush moves it onward. This turns into a killer instrumental section with keyboards soloing over the top. After this, they drop it to a dramatic new jam that has a great texture for the next section of the vocals. Then it jumps up to another new section for the continuation of the vocals. After a while they move it back out into another Yesish jam. This turns to a quirky sort of nearly off-kilter fusion like texture then resolves into another new element. This time around they come in with a great classic rock type of texture. The next vocals come over this as it takes on more balladic prog stylings. This section feels to me like old Genesis and a bit of Marillion. It drops down to very sedate modes that seem a bit like the super mellow type of stuff that King Crimson used to do in their early days. Then they pump it up to a harder edged powerful modern progressive rock movement. As they work this up it has a very slight Yes texture to it. It gets quite powerful, then moves into the earlier Yes-like jam. This crescendos, then a more sedate keyboard oriented movement, very textural takes over and carries the cut to its conclusion.
The Statue
This time around they start the cut off with a very retro sounding organ, and that instrument begins weaving lines of melody, feeling like a church service. Then it turns to a very classical organ solo sort of mode, getting both quite energized and potent. Other keys come in to take it forward. The rest of the band join in and they are off on a very cool prog jam over which the guitar eventually solos in a classic rock sort of fury. The bass manages a couple short solos during this, and then some very mysterious dramatic sounding keys (accompanied by just a bit of percussion and bass) take it for a while. Then textural guitar lines come in to add to the drama. This turns to a very tasty prog rock jam based on these themes, the guitar weaving some killer lines. It suddenly changes gears to a Starcastle like bouncing keyboard-dominated excursion over which the vocals are spun. After the verse ends, they turn the corner into another short, oddly timed progression, then as it shifts into related territory the vocals come in with a slightly too fast meter. This eventually drops back down to just keys to move it in more mellow ways toward the next part of the song. As new elements are added to the mix this is another section that feels just a little like Yes. Eventually they burst out into a slightly metallic jam that is one awesome groove. The group still throw Yes-like textures over the top of this background in this new instrumental progression. The cut shifts back to the oddly timed area for the next vocals. After this verse it shifts gear again to a more rock guitar dominated segment that still has some unusual timings. They work in some exceptionally meaty jamming here. Keyboard and guitar solos alternate, then the cut drops to a bouncing structure that serves as the backing for the next vocals. They move it downward after this verse to a percussion-based interlude with odd sounds coming in and out. Charged into a slightly more full, but still quite sparse, arrangement this serves as the backdrop for the next vocals with a definite Fish era Marillion type sound. As this charges upward it feels a lot like Animals era Pink Floyd. Then a new prog rock jam comes in through the guitar progression. That instrument takes another extended solo over another fast paced prog backdrop. This gets quite powerful as it carries on. Eventually this morphs into the next vocal segment of the number. This is one of the most effective passages of the whole disc. The powerful directions they take this in are pretty awesome. It eventually changes gear again. At first it's a keyboard solo that takes it, then a new jam with some very fiery guitar soloing takes over. Keyboards take it to end. At over 16 minutes, this epic is the longest cut on the CD.
Sagittarius
Starting with a balladic acoustic guitar melody, layers of keys come over the top of this after a time, but the general ballad feel stays. The vocals join in on this motif, and the effect is a bit like early Genesis. More Yes-like textures also show up, but this mode stays the order of the day. The vocal arrangement in particular with its layered textures contributes to this effect. They work this up into a pretty powerful ballad, and at times it reminds me just a bit of Kansas, too. The later segments in particular bring in more of that Genesis sort of sound, but perhaps a little King Crimson, too. In fact, the last verses of the track really does feel a lot like the ballad-like modes of "In The Court of the Crimson King." At less than 7-minutes this one is the shortest cut on show here.
Royalty in Jeopardy
Here the band create another mellow texture, based on guitar and keys with an odd bouncy feel as the opening. The first verse comes over this, then it sort of breaks back down afterwards and a tentative, rather atmospheric layer come in for the backing for the next vocals. They move it back to the opening modes to carry forward. And then a similar alternating pattern keeps it up. After this next vocal section, though a short linking segment gives way a new, slightly more energized segment over which the next lyrics come. This is less of a reworking than it is a revitalizing. Eventually a Genesis/Pink Floyd like instrumental journey takes over. Both keys and guitar get solos in this format. Once again, the Floyd Animals texture is prevalent here, particular in the David Gilmour-like guitar solo. When the vocals come back in the music that serves to back it up also reminds me of that musical source, as does the keyboard solo after the verse. The instrumental segment that follows is another tasty journey, this time with some sound bites thrown in over the top. They break it down to a more sparse, mellower sort of segment later with both prog rock and classical elements - still laced with the sound bites. This then leads into a more expansive and powerful jam afterwards. This one gets a bit Yesish and also very lush as it carries on moving through a large number of changes. They drop it back eventually to the opening segment for a reprise and carry it through to its end. A keyboard flourish serves as the actual outro here. 
Both Sides of the Show
Keys start this one off in a pretty and sedate manner. Piano dominated they run through an unaccompanied solo that makes up the first minute or so of the piece, and feels a bit Wakemanesque. Eventually guitar joins, and the vocals come over this backdrop, a ballad-like section that feels very much like Yes. This launches out later into a very tasty guitar dominated prog rock jam. After this instrumental excursion a new segment that feels rather like The Flower Kings and Yes put together takes it. Flute over the top later brings a touch of Jethro Tull to the mix. Then a very ELP-like keyboard dominated segment takes it, but metallic flourish serves to break it up. They carry forward after this extended break with more vocals over a bouncing staccato pattern that feels a bit like Marillion. After this verse the vocals continue over a more sedate keyboard based pattern. The bouncing returns after this. This time out they cut it back into the instrumental jam with an even more pure Celtic texture. Then we're back to the bounciness for the next vocal section. This gives way to another killer instrumental segment before they break it down to more balladic elements to carry it onward. The vocals come back in over this. This gets quite evocative and powerful, but mostly due to the vocal performance. Another dramatic soaring prog segment takes it afterward for time, then they drop it back to the balladic to carry forward. They pump this back up after a time through one of the most emotional segments of the disc. As it moves out into more soaring prog later the sound contains healthy helpings of both The Flower Kings and Yes with some other elements thrown in for good measure. The closing movement of this piece is probably the most effective music on the whole CD, making it an excellent choice for the ending slot.

 

 
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