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Mastermind - Angels of the Apocalypse  CD (album) cover




Eclectic Prog

3.72 | 41 ratings

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4 stars I guess I am in a heavy prog mode once again, intrigued lately by Sabbath's Tyr, Roswell 6's mesmerizing new recording, a longing look at the Rocket Scientists albums and now a long delayed revisit of my small 2 album Mastermind collection, so I wiped off the cobwebs and blown away the dust on "Angels of the Apocalypse". Not really heavy metal or prog-metal, more like turbo-charged epic rock with colossal Wagnerian themes blasted by mastermind guitarist Bill Berends , a Keith Emerson wannabe but who uses an axe instead of a Moog! There is even a cover of ELP's commanding "Endless Enigma". "The End of the World" is a cataclysmic eruption of crunchy sounds and raunchy themes, powerfully fueled by the extremely attractive Lisa Bouchelle's sterling mezzo-soprano, while Bill grooves intensely, his brother Rich bruising the beastly drums with sharp Palmerian impunity. Jens Johanssen of Stradivarius fame has allegedly way too much caffeine while tickling his various ivories, often with zippy savvy. "Perchance to Dream" is a dramatic rumbling rockslide, full of loopy rhythms and a harsh buzzsaw edge, veering pretty darn close to heavy metal at times, whirling synths not withstanding. Bouchelle can certainly sing with great drama and theatrical audacity. The guitar solo is like the contrail of a speeding missile, irrevocable, insistent and deadly. The subtly brutal "2000 Years" keeps an eye sternly on the darker side, a neo-gothic rants that conjures images of Odin and Valhalla, one can think of a harder edged Blue Oyster Cult, a rave-up track fueled by some blistering guitar flurries. A cool jazzier section slows down the pace of the outro brilliantly. "The Lover's Heart" increases the pulse quite a bit with a furious cadence that threatens to steamroller ahead unpunished, with a stunning mid-section: "guitare espagnole" meets stringed synths in stellar fashion, injecting some serious Latin passion into the fury. "The Queen of Sheba" displays a blitzkrieg of sound, a hissing pseudo- Egyptian theme that is propelled manically by the cohesive ensemble, Lisa's vocals soaring above the somber sonic pyramids, the guitar shredding at breakneck speed, soloing in a frenzy rarely witnessed. On the all-instrumental "With Dignity and Grace", the boys stretch out their glorious chops with unabridged ardor, a hard-edged fusion workout that rocks as well as sears, a tremendous display of seismic prog. The addictive"A Million Miles Away" is a dreamier expanse with a terrific howling Bouchelle vocal sounding more male HM than usual, a leisurely hard ballad with some archetypal tortured leads peppered throughout, sounding almost like a lost Robin Trower classic. "The Beast of Babylon" injects some more epic drama, a return to some blistering mid-eastern motifs that seem to be a Berends signature, all blinding fast, relentless and furious, amusingly kitsch to say the least (the growling beast!) but really not my cup of tea. The disc concludes with 2 bonus tracks , the ELP cover is an unmitigated success, mainly because the band decided wisely to take a quite different slant on this rather enigmatic piece, presented in a slightly heavier setting, pleasingly more electronically dissonant and widely adventurous. Rich Berends certainly has his Palmer riffs down pat, as he muscles through the sweeping guitar-synth forays, the shrill Johansson colorations and Lisa's completely different from Lake's vocal. This never was an easy piece by ELP standards and Mastermind acquit themselves rather succinctly. The destructo guitar outrage is impressive, as close to the manic Emerson persona as you will ever witness, all overt technicality wrapped in some heavy virtuosity! The famous fanfare section is noisier and disheveled, befitting a metal crew and showing no sign of prog by numbers. For that alone, they are to be applauded. The second add-on is a rollicking adventure "Only in My Dreams" that fails to capture my imagination, a rambling bluster that showcases the band's strength (power) and weakness (repetition). The disc should have ended with the previous opus. Enjoyable but no masterpiece. 4 catastrophic seraphs
tszirmay | 4/5 |


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