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A Day At The Aquarium - 50%

FateMetal, December 6th, 2011

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.