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Mystery - The World Is a Game CD (album) cover





3.98 | 366 ratings

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4 stars What a great year it's been for some fine highly melodic progressive rock albums where terrific vocals and intelligent lyrics are given just as much importance as complex playing and flashy arrangements - the most recent albums from Big Big Train, Izz, It Bites, Neal Morse and Beardfish instantly come to mind. So here we now have the follow up to Mystery's stunning `One Among The Living', and they've certainly delivered the goods again. `The World Is A Game' is an outstanding collection of polished Neo-prog and adult rock, often with somber and quite bleak observational lyrics, yet still very human, emotional and relatable. Several moments on this album really touch my heart, and well as providing all the exciting and complex progressive elements we demand.

Although a band of outstanding and highly technical musicians, it's so refreshing to find these skilled artists knowing when to play for dramatic and emotional effect rather than overblown show-boating. Michael St-Pere has such a majestic and heart-wrenching electric guitar sound on this album, everything he plays takes flight. Spaced Out's Antoine Fafard keeps everything grounded with his bass playing and is mixed rather low, but it's in line with the more subtle taste of the band. He does get a number of more prominent standout solo spots that really shine, and his acoustic guitar work is sublime. Spock's Beard main man Nick D'Virgilio's very disciplined, powerful and hugely varied drumming has to be heard to be believed - the guy is on such a roll at the moment. Finally vocalist Benoit David proves what a versatile and commanding singer he is, a million miles away from the Yes/Jon Anderson clone dismissals. It's also great to hear his voice so full of human feeling and compassion again after being so over-produced and rendered mostly lifeless on the Yes album `Fly From Here'!

On to the album...`A Morning Rise' is a lovely instrumental intro with warm acoustic guitar, gentle flute, sparse synth washes and wordless signed vocals. `Pride' charges in soon afterwards, with a heavy guitar crunch and forceful drums driving home what sounds like a softer and less metal version of Enchant. It darts back and forth between softer melodic reflections and forceful powerful grunt. Benoit David's voice is so confident and full of yearning. Nice subtle bass, mysterious synths runs and soaring electric guitar dance amongst the hurricane of D'Virgilio's playing. The emotional and dramatic guitar solos from St-Pere in the middle and end soar straight to the heavens. There's a lot of rising and falling drama in this track, endless build and tension, yet never busy or crowded with bloated soloing for the sake of it. A grand piece that gets better with every single listen. I love the bit about 4.10 minutes in where Benoit's voice cracks, very heartfelt and pained - listen for it!

Superstar' is a floating and drifting 70's Pink Floyd's styled piece, with similar plodding bass and tasteful thick synth waves that wash all over Benoit's dreamy vocals and group harmonies. Despite what the title suggests, I found the words very relatable and even quite sad, recognizing some of the feelings and observations from my own life. The highlight of an already wonderful piece is a number of effortless searing guitar solos that are just dripping with emotion and frustration.

`The Unwinding Of Time' is a brief 49 second musical box melody that starts out impossibly pretty until dark and sinister sounds fade in, before launching into the title track, with a massive 80's styled power/AOR style stomping guitar melody. The most upbeat piece on the album, it's not exactly my favourite, and it is a little repetitive and basic, but I think it's more pleasing uplifting mood helps break up the album from being a little too down and serious. Lots of nice gentle acoustic moments once the track settles down before the hard stadium-rock second half with crashing drums and soft metal riffs.

The sad but optimistic `Dear Someone' has slow melodic guitar verses and harder rocking mid- tempo subtle riffing for the guts of the song. Probably the most straightforward piece on the album, it's a nice mix of acoustic and electric moments, stirring vocals with catchy melodies and just a sophisticated Neo Prog/AOR sheen overall. Undemanding but classy.

`Time Goes By' flirts with slow gothic drama, darkly classical piano and a slightly uneasy wilting vocal from Benoit. It picks up in tempo with some powerful guitar, murmuring bass and spooky keyboards as it swaps back and forth with the opening passage. D'Virgilio's energetic and propulsive drumming crashes through and drives the whole band home in the very dramatic finale.

The album epic `Another Day' is a powerful symphonic stunner that runs through so many clever sections and seamless transitions in it's 19 minutes that it could easily put lesser prog bands to shame. There's endless emotional piano, moody acoustic guitar playing, and Benoit is absolutely superb on the main vocal theme that is sung in the opening and reprised throughout. A few minutes in the piece diverts into a softer Dream Theater flashy/technical diversion that is well played, but I'm not really a fan of progressive rock bands that fall back into fairly unimaginative soft- metal/hard rock riffs. Without even noticing, this soon blends into Mostly Autumn-style chugging riffs with Hammond, but quickly falls away into a wash of drifting multi-tracked Benoit harmonies that will bring up the dreaded Yes similarities again (but seriously, ANY section of this wipes the floor with all of `Fly From Here'!). Pay close attention to the D'Virgilio/Antoine Fafard complex drum/extremely upfront bass dancing play-off - total precision! The finale is a master class of fast upbeat synth solos, flute, mellotron and powerhouse drumming that wraps the album in a suitably grand manner. Interesting that they also finish things up without the cliché of a huge guitar solo, instead opting for a thoughtful come-down.

Do yourself a favour - take the time to just sit down and listen to `The World Is A Game' properly in your own quiet time. That means no travelling and listening on an Ipod, no playing it on the car stereo while you're driving in busy traffic - I'm watching you! Just chill out at home and give it a few plays all the way through, listen to the sophisticated arrangements, virtuoso playing by expert musicians who know when to hold back, and pay close attention to the words and the way they're sung. Let the album truly wash over you. You'll start to appreciate it in a whole new light, and realise it's another winning album to place alongside several other terrific melodic progressive rock albums this year.

Four stars.

Aussie-Byrd-Brother | 4/5 |


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