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Mystery - Beneath The Veil Of Winter's Face CD (album) cover

BENEATH THE VEIL OF WINTER'S FACE

Mystery

 

Neo-Prog

3.79 | 174 ratings

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tszirmay
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Sometimes perseverance pays off, as my friend the owner of a prog store in Montreal had to push TWICE to get me to purchase this one, overcoming my fears of listless formulaic neo-prog . He said that I would not regret it at all, hell, he knows my tastes by now after more than fifteen years of forking over sizeable amounts of cash! This release really knocked me for a loop mainly because I have harped for nearly 4 decades about the relative poor vocals that seem to plague our beloved genre, at times even believing that lousy voices made certain musicians concentrate on developing more intricate compositions! The vocals by Benoit David of Yes tribute band Close to the Edge (he is replacing Jon Anderson on the Yes tour, causing quite a controversy in the meantime) are plainly incredibly good, with a wide assortment of influences ranging from Steve Perry (less the histrionics), REO Speedwagon's Kevin Cronin (a gorgeous voice though I dislike the style of music), Dennis DeYoung of Styx and even Klaus Meine of Scorpions, are some that leap out of the speakers. The music is a much proggier version of Asia with denser instrumental arrangements and drop-dead massive melodies that are instantly enchanting. Leader Michel St-Père handles all the guitars and the keyboards with assurance and flair, meshing leaden riffs with stellar soloing, never overbearing but also never dull or redundant. Drums are ably handled by Steve Gagné who pulses brilliantly throughout. The festivities begin well with "As I Am" where the Cronin influence hits all the pleasure buttons but the rest gets better rather quickly, the title cut aiming at the Perry vocal virtuosity without the corny overblown nasal twang! The next 2 tracks featured guest bassist extraordinaire Antoine Fafard from Spaced Out. The tremendous "Snow White" is nearer to Floyd, with a more aggressive vocal, perhaps depicting the magically numbing winter blankets that often cover rural Québec (where this band hails from). "Travel to the Night" is a catchy epic with harmonics that remind one of vintage Blue öyster Cult but electing to add a lengthy instrumental mid-section with sizzling playing by all, with a colossal bombastic finale. "The Scarlet Eye" is a tad more accessible (clear Asia aroma here!), a well-crafted piece of ear-friendly prog that has a veneer of classy appeal, not always my cup of tea but its really quite acceptable . "The Third Dream" segues nicely while remaining crammed with atmospheric effects and whispered voices, the keys carving up quite a fanfare, while the guitars slice through the haze with authority. David expresses himself brilliantly (Meine is really there!) making this another "driving down the highway" kind of prog you want to slip into the player as the light turns green and the engine is revving in fierce mechanical anticipation. "Voyage to the Other Side" keeps the foot firmly on the mood accelerator in a softer vein, dreamy fluffy vocals a la Jon Anderson weave within the opaque arrangements, dispensing an elegant musical adventure as well as a brief Gilmourian guitar foray , a nicely proggy bloom . "The Sailor and the Mermaid" is the proverbial melancholic ballad, hinting a tad at DeYoung's operatic vocals, showing a delicate fragility that is utterly inspiring and ultimately satisfying, mainly on the strengths of the music (a touch of bluesy guitar ripples) and a melody that will take your heart hostage. I am an avowed sucker for this kind of über-ballad and I fear no shame in loving this completely. The 11 minute "The Awakening" is where one realizes that this ain't no AOR/neo fluff and you toss out such labels lustily out the window. The guitar work is subtle in its beauty, complex emotions expressed with elegant simplicity, meshing with passionate arrangements and expressive vocals that elicit "feeling" (Gee, when does that always happen, huh?) and exhilarating craftsmanship. Did I mention that this Benoit David fellow can really sing? The short rock n roll finale puts this puppy away convincingly, a rousing, ballsy finale proving that this is a monster recording that deserves your attention. We all need such an album in our lick heavy collection. Some disbelievers may find this too accessible but it is so well executed and thought out that it deserves a high rating , perhaps 4.5 winter veils.
tszirmay | 4/5 |

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