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Plankowner View Drop Down
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Direct Link To This Post Topic: Mind Over Four
    Posted: March 26 2009 at 20:44
I was talking with Sebastian and I remembered this band and I was wondering if anyone else here has spent anytime with their catalogue...
 
I found this article and will be looking forward to reacquiring their albums...
 
This was cut from this article and webpage and found it to be a fun read: http://www.peacedogman.com/guitargumentsweet.htm
 
 
 
Dorsey's underrated pick: MIND OVER FOUR – “Half Way Down" 1993 (Restless)

Peak Billboard Chart Position: N/A

Ray's review: Being a sports fan, I’ve always liked records & the trivia that goes along with ‘em. You know, like “Name an Oriole catcher who hit 4 doubles in a 9-inning game?” Dave Duncan. Well, ok you get the idea. Consequently, my interest in things like that spills over into music and hence, the question: “Name a band who put out 6 albums, each on a different label?” And, of course you know I’m going to tell you the answer to this one: California’s MIND OVER FOUR. From the release of their self-pressed “Desperate Expression” (each copy complete with it’s own hand-drawn cover!) in 1983 up through their swan song, “Empty Hands” in 1995, this 4-piece went on a sojourn that took them from Triple X Records to Destiny to Caroline to Restless to Fierce. Each successive commercial failure went hand-in-hand with virtually no label support, sporadic touring and a trip each time back to the Left Coast to snag regular jobs again while writing new songs & shopping for a deal. An added little twist to the story is that in the midst of all this business futility, the band consistently produced some of the most unique, vital and yes, “progressive” metal I’ve had the pleasure to hear.

Interestingly enough, that initial “Desperate Expression” was not really very heavy. It’s a crazily rare record and probably the quirkiest of them all, having a sound more akin to NOMEANSNO than metal, quite short in length but featuring M/4’s longest song. “Out Here,” in 1987 saw the guitars of Michael Jensen really beginning to become more of a force, although the record could probably still be called more of a college-rock-type sound. Still, cuts like “The Other With The Other/The Letter” were like an icy breath of fresh air, with Jensen sounding like a metalized-early-Edge and Spike Xavier’s vocals taking on a distinct Sean Harris rich wail. Lyrical statements like “…Listened to Bowie…he gave me a new anatomy” were odd and striking. The first MIND OVER FOUR album to really exemplify a “heavy” guitar sound was 1989’s self-titled opus on the German Destiny label. Jensen must have bought a couple extra Marshalls for this one, as the amp-ed up axe volume gave an extra kick to some of the band’s coolest songs yet, like “Vernal Equinox” and “The Black Orgasm.”

The lean toward things more crushing continued on 1990’s “The Goddess.” With this record, everything MIND OVER FOUR had done seemed to come into sharp focus. Their ability to play heavily, certainly metal songs, and yet infuse them with melody and structural ideas that were at once unusual and yet never overblown. It may seem like a misnomer to some to consider this band “progressive” metal when their songs were usually in the 3-4 minute range, but they managed to pack more into something like “Ice Water Steam” or “Autumn’s Here” than a lot of so-called prog-metal acts could in a 10 minute opus. That being said, “The Goddess” also features one of the band’s only real attempts at such an epic, “Prayer For The Dying/The Goddess.” Having none of the pompous pseudo-intelligence of the tweedle-prog crowd, it flows more like a series of interconnected songs, a mini-metallic-Side-Two-of-Abbey-Road deal. I remember at the time that I was thinking “The Goddess” was going to be M/4’s centerpiece. That was until “Half Way Down” hit my mailbox in 1993.

I remember seeing the cover, a green exposure of Spike Xavier at the microphone on the cover and then opening it to see a similar shot of Jensen in mid-stroke on his Les Paul, hair flying in true metal form. My mind went back to the cover of “Vol. 4…” but who could hope for such greatness from anybody?!?! Well, these guys came damn close on this one. As full-on metal as they would ever be, MIND OVER FOUR offer up an absolute clinic in merging top-level musicianship with original song ideas and lyrics on this disc. Listen to “Barriers & Passages,” “Jack The Throne,” “Funny Pocket” or “Coffee.” Tell me one song you have ever heard that sounds anything like any of them. Sure, you can tack 15 different rhythm changes together, write some words about dungeons & dragons and call it prog-metal. But meld together crushing guitars, flowing riffs & riveting vocals into a song that sounds different enough to have come from another planet and yet kick-ass enough to get you rolling down the car windows and that’s the definition for me.

“Half Way Down” is truly a magnificent work by a fantastic band operating at their very peak, with no artistic interference and nothing to limit them but the panorama of their own talent. Rich Castillo and Mark Fullerton lay down rhythms that are anything but just that. In the manner of Side Two of the first SABBATH disc, they go way beyond laying down a beat, taking a cue from jazz masters by moving to counterpoints and off-time stuff yet still bashing your skull. Over it, Jensen is a crush-master, guitar set to stun and laying down riffs who’s creativity is right there with someone like Piggy of VOIVOD…and, wildly, the subtleties, the brushstrokes he began to dabble in as far back as “Out Here” are still in sure evidence. Finally, atop the controlled maelstrom, Spike Xavier gives a vocal performance for the ages. His voice is at once resonant and commanding and yet in a second can move to punk-like snottiness without missing a beat. Lyrics like those in “Jack The Throne” speak at once from the streets and from stark intelligence: “We witness a country in decline…America…schools are closing, artists are crying…screaming bloody murder as they mourn their fallen majesty…the young boys hold their drunk mother…they love her, they find it hard to pledge of allegiance…they find it hard to believe that god shed his grace on thee…steel fibers in my soul.” There’s very little that can remain to be said about “Half Way Down.” It’s one of those records (Ok, CD’s) that to me, hits on all 8 cylinders from beginning to end. For MIND OVER FOUR, they achieved not only their heaviest, most metallic sound on this disc, but also took an unusual, at-times-quirky style of writing and elevated it to a level here that needs no washes of keyboards, nor 20-minute opuses, nor concept pieces about Greek mythology to be utterly progressive. Massive.

Popoff: Ray, I agree with you, although the strange thing is, I'd put the final products (FW and MOF) closer in final value. But it's the philosophical abstracts that really put the MOF in better light. Both albums were progressive metal, yet FATES WARNING had more to do with the corporate, clean, almost hair band mentality, especially at that time, and MIND OVER FOUR had more to do with post-punk, post-grunge, wild, unpredictable, underground mentality, which of course is cooler!

Marchman: Indeed. While I think my favorite MOF album is "Empty Hands", there's an undeniable streak of creative groove-heavy edginess that penetrates their albums. Stuff like "Barriers and Passages" still sounds radical. I always thought Spike and Co. would get snatched up by the Rip generation. They seemed like the perfect bridge to link up fans of QUEENSRYCHE, PRIMUS, even JANES ADDICTION and up-and-comers like TOOL. Sadly, the don't seem to get get any credit for the transition. Not to mention that they pushed the envelope musically without binding themselves to that KANSAS / ELP formula.

Popoff: I got to interview Spike for that album (or the one after) and he was a really smart, thoughtful, creative dude. I was VERY impressed. I love the way that band changed and surprised the listener so much. Really, it's just a parallel to grunge which I thought was one of the most magical moments in music history, this ass-kicking of hard rock with something BRAVE. Spike's band was all about that. They were literate, complicated, obstinate, and probably, weirdly, most seductively (round the back door) of all, they were in no hurry to impress with hooks. It was a little atmospheric and ragged, much like the item from grunge that was most filled with a strange alien integrity - the first SOUNDGARDEN EP. Fact is, MIND OVER FOUR was defiantly original, and FATES WARNING , like I say, especially at that time, despite being prog metal, was sort of aseptic, second-guessing, corporate, self-important, and snobby.

Dorsey: It's interesting, you look at a band you mentioned like KANSAS and surely you can hear aspects of them in later things by FW and DREAM T, albeit far more watered-down. KANSAS had the idea of what doing something new was. Listen to "Song For America," the title song or even "Incomudro- Hymn To THe Atman" or stuff on "Masque." That was totally different than what, say a contemporary like YES were doing, with incorporating the violin, multiple lead vocalists and even aspects of harder guitar rock and things like bluegrass. But FW at the point of "Parallels" were offering nothing that hadn't been done before by QUEENSRYCHE , etc. Of course, later in life, KANSAS really went down the crapper big time! But not before doing some great stuff.

 


Edited by Plankowner - March 27 2009 at 00:31
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: March 28 2009 at 16:12
No one eh?
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: May 01 2009 at 18:06
I've long been a fan of theirs.  I've got their entire catalog save Desperate Expression.  I'm really torn over which of the rest are my favorites.  Each album has some brilliant moments.    The Goddess was the first album of theirs that I bought, so I have a particular affinity for it.  Each side starts off brilliantly with Prayer for the Dying / The Goddess on side one and Gemini / Ice Water Steam on the second.  I do think that Vernal Equinox of of the self titled album is my favorite song of theirs.

Someday I'll track down Desperate Expression. 
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: May 01 2009 at 18:59
The Goddess is Amazing!!

"I've walked on water, run through fire, can't seem to feel it anymore. It was me, waiting for me..."
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: February 26 2010 at 19:00
...and they have been added :-)
The Progressive Rock record labels project: http://www.progarchives.com/forum/forum_posts.asp?TID=85100
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