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Album titles can sometimes be a bit deceiving, especially when it comes to albums that have either a partial or heavy progressive character to them. It isn't unheard of for a group of artists to throw the listener a curve ball in the form of an extremely complex album with a title that would suggest something simpler, or likewise as in the case of Andre Matos' sophomore effort Mentalize to throw the fans an album title that would suggest something far more elaborate and wide in scope than what comes about musically. The name itself would suggest something that Rush might put together, and what is actually going on musically isn't all that far removed from something that a power metal band would do while occasionally emulating Rush and Dream Theater, but it's definitely a very different experience than the longer and saturated debut Time To Be Free that Matos and company first unleashed under their front man's name in 2007, despite having all the same musicians in congress.
The either intentional or unintentional deception smacks one right in the face the minute the album gets going with a Brazilian tribal chant and percussion section that would definitely hint a move towards the style of Angra's highly ambitious sophomore effort Holy Land. While the opening song "Leading On" is among the longer and more involved songs involved here, it comes off as a fairly conventional power metal song with a gimmicky intro, albeit one that follows the more rhythmically mixed and grooving character that Matos and the holdovers from Shaman have carried with them since the mid 1990s. In fact, despite the greater emphasis on the South American tribal folk elements via auspicious placement at the beginning and on another occasionally moving, occasionally grooving anthem in "Someone Else", the stylistic composition of this album isn't terribly different from the usual mixture of classical, jazzy, speed/power metal and folk elements that typified the last Matos album and preceding works with Shaman and Angra, but instead are presented in more bite size song packages.
Interestingly enough, this more streamlined approach serves this band a bit better than the longer and more adventurous approach of a few years prior, and manages to give what most fans of Angra have likely been craving, namely a power metal album with a few progressive quirks rather than a progressive album with power metal elements. They really hit musical pay dirt with a string of Helloween inspired speeders with triumphant choruses like "Shift The Night Away", "Mirror Of Me" and the fast paced and fun closer "Powerstream". Naturally there is also a decent helping of songs with more quirky elements, but generally these songs are built on a foundation of catchy melody and flashy instrumental chops, as heard on the groovy rhythmic episode "The Myriad", the chorus steeped and classically tinged dramatics of "When The Sun Cried Out", and the charming and dense choral work of "I Will Return". It all speaks to a band that has kept all the flash and intrigue of yesteryear, but are more content to shore up the foundation a bit more rather than dwelling too much on the ornamentation.
Matos' work in various projects has always been of a high caliber, and while none of the albums put out under the Andre Matos moniker have been an exception, those with any affinity for his prior work with Angra and Shaman will probably want to go for this album first. Actually, this is probably the best album to start with for those not familiar with the aforementioned projects and are cut from a more standard power metal crowd, given that it's one of the more streamlined and straight forward takes on progressively tinged power metal to be put out in the past 5 or 6 years. It's sophisticated enough to still be a desirable listen for an average Dream Theater fan, but would also be an inviting experience for someone who tends more towards the plainer yet still fun and elaborate character of lighter German speed/power metal in Helloween and Freedom Call. Don't allow the off-kilter album cover and introspective sounding title be misleading, this is a much more digestible take on a technically charged brand of metal than might be expected.
My first experience of hearing the voice of Andre Matos came when I first got a hold of the Angra album “Fireworks,” several years back. Since then, even though he never approached my favorite vocalists, I always considered him a unique and powerful voice in the field of Power Metal. Still, I had few expectations when I found out that I would be reviewing his second solo album. Even though I had not heard his first solo album, I know that most solo albums done by former singers of relatively well-known bands are often uninspired at best.
Andre Matos was the original vocalist of Brazilian Power Metal kings Angra. In 2001, the band split, with Matos as well as drummer Ricardo Confessori and bassist Luis Mariutti leaving to form SHAMAN. He first started his solo band after departing from Shaman back in 2006. He recruited some Shaman and Angra alums and released “Time To Be Free” in 2007. “Mentalize” is Matos’ second solo album, with the same lineup as the first.
Andre Matos’ voice is in fine form throughout. Even though I doubt he’ll ever top his performance on “Fireworks”, he certainly does an excellent job. His backing band certainly is competent, although no one shines out, which means (predictably) that the spotlight is mainly on Matos. There are some decent solos and riffs present, and the drumming doesn’t follow all of the typical Power Metal clichés and varies itself somewhat.
The best song on here is the title track, which has some killer riffs. I wish more of the album was like this. “Leading On” and “I Will Return” are the best songs vocally, fans of Matos’ voice will love these. Another song that I enjoyed a lot was “The Myriad”, it reminds me of Avantasia. There is an admirable consistency throughout “Mentalize” thanks to strong songwriting.
Even though this is unlikely to top Andre Matos’ work in Angra, this is a solid album that fans of Power Metal are likely to enjoy quite a bit. Perhaps with some more emphasis on building strong riffs and leads, Matos can match or exceed his previous work.
(Originally published at www.metal-temple.com)