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Wow! Mind's Eye, for all their talent, worked up an album of ten songs that won't add anything to your life. I am a thorough progressive rock fan and as a result are more able and more willing to digest all manners of weirdly arranged music that presents itself in the name of prog. In addition to that fact, I am a fan of Mind's Eye's work and will listen in greater detail where others would do a general sweep and quickly dismiss, but this is unbelievably dull!
"...Waiting For the Tide" sounds like a band drained of all their bite and are colored strengthless. There's melody in spades and yet not a phrase sticks out as quickly memorable. The songs are constantly shifting and so aggressively multi-layered that when it comes to adventurism, the band cannot be faulted. Ironically, though the better songs are those that utilize the traditional song format. Take "A Pond of Thoughts" for instance. Although insanely "progressive" in the verses, it has a bridge and a strong chorus that will get you singing along. It also breaks down nicely and leads to a pre-solo, masterful riff out where Frederik Grünberger and Daniel Flores do an ambitious and worthy call and response that builds up a fabulous head of steam for the solo.
"Circles in the Sand" is another of the album's highlights and works because of Novak's soaring vocals in the big chorus. "Calling (Father to Son)" has a few delicious prog bits in an ultra-jazzy fashion as does the two-part "Spirits in the Room", but if we are to speak concisely and, as a consequence, generally, this one falls under "forgettable efforts".
Mind's Eye share one other fact in common with Pain Of Salvation aside from the fact that they both hail from Sweden and that is that they can both be undeniably boring bands when they choose to. I can see this album growing on me eventually but I'm reviewing it from a general perspective.
To someone who has only heard a pinch of progressive metal, especially the more riff-heavy power metal-oriented stuff like Symphony X and Blind Guardian, or the radio friendly material of Queensryche, this may be a bit hard to decipher even at its most elemental level.
Mind's Eye is a very emotional band, but not in the sense of providing gut-wrenching piano-fueled balladry or Ray Alder-like vocal assaults. Instead, they sound like a kid throwing a tantrum. It is insanely cyclical music that is as chaotic as it is calm. The guitar solos sound superior, yet make no sense whatsoever. The keyboards are very agile in movement and add all these different shades to each song deftly like the world's most tireless ballerina. The vocals are nothing special; Novak actually put up a stunning performance on later albums, but here he sounds mostly dour and subdued. Daniel Flores on drums, though, is a major highlight and will, for reasons self- evident, be the most appreciated band member. He sounds like a logical line between Alex Holzwarth and Mike Portnoy.
The album opens with four calm songs that would fit perfectly behind a day spent gazing at aquarium. The lyricism is lovably opaque and ingenious, but is still the usual run of the mill in prog rock and metal circles. There's a lot of clean arpeggios played where you can almost taste the strings on your tongue because after awhile it feels as though you're being force fed. Truly heavy riffs are few and far between, and when they come it is the usual chugging stuff Metallica laid down for all and sundry aeons ago and that Dream Theater bastardized behind keyboards for the brave new prog world.
But the album isn't entirely without charm. "Primitive Light", which easily sounds like a Fates Warning song around the time of "Inside Out", showcases at a most essential level the importance of dynamism in prog metal. The band plays so wonderfully tight, yet changes on a dime from a heavy groove to a spacey philosophical fog (more arpeggios, darling? You fucking betcha!) to a stunning race-against-time ending.
If "Jealousy In Disguise" didn't feature Daniel Flores pounding away like a man possessed, I think Jon Anderson would sue Mind's Eye for plagiarism. It genuinely sounds like it was conceived during the "Tales From Topographic Oceans" sessions. Even the guitar solo sounds very Howe and that wonderful keyboard fanfare towards closing - LOVELY! The whole song even feels like it could go on unhindered for 20-some minutes except that Mind's Eye is Mind's Eye and not Yes, and this is not the fucking '70's where bands were allowed to play unhindered and seemingly unaware of time constraints. And that is why this album is not accessible and easy to enjoy by any minimal stretch. You get the feeling that Mind's Eye don't know when to stop. Most of the songs seem to drag on endlessly and then they cease abruptly, leaving you dazed and unable to quickly comprehend and surmise what just went on. It made me smile at one point and frown in annoyance other times. The two "Spirits In The Room" songs are the examples I'll give you. The exception is "Circles In The Sand", which is Andreas Novak's bravest performance as he is not just speak-singing to chant largely unsingable phrases. It also has a strong chorus that soars intensely and dramatically. The band's major weakness is their failure to craft a good ending, but at least here they give it a shot.
They don't know when to stop. They don't seem to know how to rock. There's lots of "they don't s" if you choose to look for them . But the album has its merits as well, the first being it is one you can choose to mull over and carefully untangle to fully appreciate and understand. Still not convinced? Fine, just carry it with you the next time you visit an aquarium, or when you sit by a pond and muse (and be sure to play "A Pond Of Thoughts"), or just ignore it completely and listen to their stunning epic "Sahara In An Hourglass" off the "Walking On h2o" album instead, or totally ignore Mind's Eye and go back to your daily dose of pseudo-darkness shite from "generation whine". Now you have options.
Man, that was boring. Sorry guys, but why are you keeping things meandering? There are some hints that you could do better (sadly enough it’s even worse on the follow up). Well, maybe not better, because the execution is more or less and flawless and the production is crystal clear. One could call this a progressive, but while listening you suspect them to try to hard to sound that way for the sake of being different. After 15 minutes the mind is slipping, and in the end nothing remains very memorable. Also this lacks that “Hey, I didn’t like it in the first place but it’s interesting enough to store it for later investigations” thing (as far as I am concerned this goes for quite a number of releases, and it pays of in the end). And then this singer, he’s quite annoying. Sometimes I thought I was listening to Genesis or Fury In The Slaughterhouse for a brief moment (tricks of the mind, I think).
The best of this album is actually the little tune at the end called “Fade out”, which has a little bit of the right feeling. The rest lacks either atmosphere / epicness (for Power Metal), drive (though not being lame) or the right kind of progressiveness (for good progressiveness).
Résumé: Tolerable as background whatever, avoid (even more so the follow up) if you intend to get hooked up by the music. For the next time guys, please let the pieces fall in the right place ...