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Mindspeak - Eclipse Chaser CD (album) cover




Crossover Prog

3.87 | 21 ratings

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4 stars This album is one of those hidden gems released this year (2019) that hasn't got a lot of attention yet.

Mindspeak is a crossover prog band from Austria founded in 2009 when they were between the ages of 19 to 23. Ten years later, they have released their 2nd full length studio album called "Eclipse Chaser". The album contains two songs and one 6-part suite with the total run-time for the album at just over an hour. The current line-up for the band consists of Victoria Simon on lead vocals, Alex Clement on guitar and backing vocals, Christoph Kasparovsky on keys and backing vocals, Simon Nagy on bass, and Gabriel Lahmann on drums and percussion and backing vocals. This is the same line-up the band has had since it's formation There are a few guest artists utilized throughout the album; Olivia Baniqued on flute, Thomas Korner on alto sax, Philipp Lion on backing vocals and Eva Flieder conducting the Chor Weinhaus.

The beginning track is "When Giants Cry" which starts off this nearly 10 minute track with a throbbing synth and the rest of the band join in with a stately beginning. The vocals come in after a minute. Victoria's voice is smooth and airy at first and intensifies as the track continues. After one verse and chorus, the organ plays a nice solo backed by solid guitar chords and a heavy beat. The 2nd verse starts retaining the solid sound which even intensifies more and moves quickly to a bridge before chiming keys and thumping bass move into a slightly trickier rhythm which brings in an excellent and dynamic guitar solo. The synths bring in a somewhat symphonic feel as it continues to push forward. This culminates into a quick climax that follows with a short soft section with piano and vocals, but this quickly builds back up again for the ending.

"Tetrachrome" starts off it's 17 minute time with a loud and chaotic beginning before finally leveling out to a smoother but fast beat and a guitar-led intro. After a few iterations of a melody, and piano complicates things by developing a boiling riff which the guitar soon plays off of. Some solid guitar and organ enhanced riffs provide a start/stop section and then everything levels out again with the return of the guitar theme. This finally moves to a steady repeated keyboard chord progression and the vocals start just before the 4 minute mark. The full band come in to support the vocals. After two iterations of the first melody (verse, chorus), there is a bridge section and then a choral section slow things down as a guitar guides the song to a softer and slower section. Acoustic guitar back up a new vocal melody. There are a few iterations of this new theme, and soft keyboards join on the 2nd verse. The rest of the band join in with a slow but solid beat as the bridge and chorus bring the song to a new emotional level. The choir joins in with a wordless harmony when the main vocals stop and this brings in a nice guitar improvisation just before 11 minutes is reached. Again, the guitar is quite dynamic and the guitar is supported well. At 13 minutes, the vocals return with a return to the original melody and then a more progressive feel brings in the keys and soon the guitar and they work interchangeably on creating some heavy textures. The original guitar theme returns, much slower this time as it brings in a final chorus and a surprise sax solo in the last minute.

The 6-part suite comes next. It is entitled "The Human Element" and starts off with the piano led "All We Know". The vocals come in softly around the 1st minute. A soft percussive effect and sustained synths soon back up the piano and voice. When the vocals end, a flute comes in and brings in a countdown and the beginning of "Lift Off". The full band comes in now for this instrumental section and the guitar takes over with a theme and embellishments. Soon things get quite progressive, the mood gets a bit chaotic for a moment and then guitar, synth and the chorus provide a great amount of dark drama. The beat solidifies and a heavy section follows. Things slow to a moderate beat and a variation of the theme comes in with a stately sound and then quiets down to bring in the 3rd part of the suite, the 12 minutes "Echoes of a Greater Mind". Acoustic guitar and vocals make things more melodic. Harmonized layered vocals and whispering soon intensifies bringing in more vocals, then a nice guitar interlude. After another vocal section, the music starts to build some tension with a repeating guitar arpeggio and drumming. Things turn heavy as layers of synth join the guitars. A new theme appears in the vocals after this. Another instrumental break goes into a solid driving rhythm and heavy guitars and organ. A return to the original theme of the section brings everything back down to a softer sound which intensifies once again bringing it all to a climatic, and symonphic finish before eventually going into the next section.

Part IV of the suite is "Starprism" which is another instrumental section. It is led by a pensive piano and soft synth. Very nice. "Orbit/Catch" is the fifth section. Acoustic guitar takes the place of the piano and soft vocals come in quickly. Towards the middle of the section, the music builds emotionally and a flute joins in with the rest of the band. The guitar takes it's turn with this ballad-style section. Things mellow out again after a while and the solo piano and vocals return. The last section is "A Light from Home", yet another instrumental section (mostly instrumental anyway), this time with the full band taking things home, the choir joins in and then the return to the main theme in the vocals for one more chorus. Then things quiet down and piano and a field recording. Drums and bass with synth effects create a bit of a chaotic ending to it all.

The last track is a bonus track available on Bandcamp. It is a cover of Bowie's "Space Oddity". This flows in from a guitar that emerges from the chaos of the previous track, and Victoria's vocals come in singing a faithful rendition of the melody. The nice surprise is the harmony that comes in later with the atmospheric guitar and piano. Later, sustained synths bring in the rest of the band. The cover is well done and a fitting ending to this excellent album.

Since I hadn't really heard anything previously from this band, and seeing this is only the 2nd album after all this time, I didn't really know what to expect. I didn't expect something this excellent, though. The production is excellent and the musicianship is top-notch. I would imagine that the amount of time between albums is probably due to getting everything right, because it sounds like they worked hard to perfect this album, and it works quite well in the end. The music is mostly quite melodic with returns to the main themes often to help tie things together. There are a few places where the music gets surprisingly complex, however, these parts are kept short with a quick resolution. The compositional structure at times follows the basic standard structure, but there is enough progressiveness in here to keep us all happy. The only thing really keeping this from a five star affair is the reserved use of experimental and complexities, but for a lot of people that is a rather minor issue. This album is definitely excellent, not quite essential status, but great nonetheless and much better than expected.

TCat | 4/5 |


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