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MASTERMIND

Eclectic Prog • United States


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Mastermind picture
Mastermind biography
MASTERMIND is brothers Berends, Bill and Rich. Rich is a drummer who subscribes to the Carl Palmer school of drumming. Music, lyrics, guitar, bass and faux-keyboards (actually a guitar-controlled MIDI setup) were handled masterfully by brother Bill, while Rich pounded out complex drumming and sang. Even though the music is guitar based you can hear influences from ELP. They play a melodic ELP - styled energetic and bombastic progressive rock. The music, a heavy metal, jazz fusion, and progressive hybrid, propels you at a breakneck speed from the opening notes to the final chord.

On their third release, bass provided by Phil Antolino left its main influences for a more original Progressive music with long instrumental developments where it's hard to believe than only three musicians are enough to produce such a complex music! "Volume IV", is truly ASTONISHING. With "Excelsior" addition of keyboardist Jens Johansson, they abandoned Rich's vocals completely and did an all-instrumental album. At the same time, the music began to leave the 70's prog sound behind, and the move towards a more progressive metal sound began, though this album also has a lot of jazzy influences. With the release of "Angels of the Apocalypse" MASTERMIND's first release on a major label (Inside Out), the move towards progressive metal was complete. MASTERMIND is a band to watch. They aspire to the fame and glory of ELP.

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MASTERMIND discography


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MASTERMIND top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

2.72 | 21 ratings
Volume One
1990
3.29 | 20 ratings
Volume Two
1992
2.95 | 16 ratings
III - Tragic Symphony
1994
3.63 | 20 ratings
Mastermind IV - Until Eternity
1996
3.87 | 43 ratings
Excelsior!
1998
3.72 | 42 ratings
Angels of the Apocalypse
2000
2.71 | 22 ratings
Insomnia
2010

MASTERMIND Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.88 | 5 ratings
Live in Tokyo
1997
3.96 | 6 ratings
Prog, Fusion, Metal, Leather And Sweat
2001
4.00 | 1 ratings
Live 1995
2008
4.00 | 1 ratings
Another Cold & Rainy Night Live
2008

MASTERMIND Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

MASTERMIND Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

MASTERMIND Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

3.55 | 6 ratings
Broken (CD SIngle/EP)
2005

MASTERMIND Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Another Cold & Rainy Night Live by MASTERMIND album cover Live, 2008
4.00 | 1 ratings

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Another Cold & Rainy Night Live
Mastermind Eclectic Prog

Review by kev rowland
Special Collaborator Honorary Reviewer

— First review of this album —
4 stars 'Another Cold & Rainy Night' captures the new line-up (well it was new back then) in Trenton NJ, November 12th , 2002. As with the 'Live In Tokyo' release, it was designed for fans only and was taken from video cam footage. Consequently, the audio quality is of very good bootleg standard as opposed to what one normally expects from a live album these days, but it captures a moment long gone and is so unknown that it wasn't even listed on Prog Archives! The touring line-up by now was Bill Berends (guitar, midi-guitar, vocals), Rich Berends (drums and percussion), Tracy McShane (vocals) and Greg Hagen (bass), all of whom were involved in the final (to date, I ever live in hope) Mastermind album, 2010's 'Insomnia'.

The most recent studio album at the time of this recording was 'Angels of the Apocalypse', which was the first time the band had introduced a female singer, in Lisa Bouchelle , and it was Lisa who appeared on the 'Prog, Fusion, Metal, Leather and Sweat' live release. She didn't have as much impact there as Tracy does here, who also sings on older numbers such as "Brainstorm" in its full 26-minute-long beauty. Having another singer definitely takes the stress away from Bill, who has plenty to worry about musically as it is, and this release captures some of his finest shredding to date. He is having a blast, no doubt, while Greg Hagen is providing a much firmer and rock-based bassline while also taking time to add additional melody. Then at the back there is Mr. Rich Berends, surely one of the finest drummers ever, a combination of Phil Collins, John Bonham, Bill Bruford, Keith Moon and especially Carl Palmer: the man is a legend.

This release may well be for fans only, and I would urge anyone new to Mastermind to try some of their other material first, but there is no doubt this is a worthy release and one I have enjoyed immensely. Talking to Bill he tells me he is going to be making more live material available in the near future and that is something to look forward to.

 Prog, Fusion, Metal, Leather And Sweat by MASTERMIND album cover Live, 2001
3.96 | 6 ratings

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Prog, Fusion, Metal, Leather And Sweat
Mastermind Eclectic Prog

Review by kev rowland
Special Collaborator Honorary Reviewer

4 stars By the time the band recorded their 1998 studio album 'Excelsior!' there had been some changes in the Mastermind camp, as bassist Phil Antolino had departed (to be replaced by guest Bob Eckman) and keyboard player Jens Johansson (Stratovarius etc) had come on board. During the recording of what would turn out to be 'Angels of the Apocalypse', which also featured new singer Lisa Bouchelle, Mastermind were asked if they would like to play NEARFest (North East Art Rock Festival 1999). The one problem they had was that Jens wasn't available, but Bill had become friendly with Mickey Simmonds (Fish and many others) and he agreed to join the tour.

This is a very different recording indeed to the others, as they are concentrating both on the last album and the next one as opposed to material from the first four, as by now material was being written which would feature a live keyboard player as opposed to Bill triggering sounds. Also, by using Lisa as a singer at certain points (she only features on a few songs) it allowed them to move much more into Lana Lane territory, although even when she was using multiple guitarists they never ripped it up like Bill. Here the band are allowing themselves to produce a much fuller sound, with Mickey sounding as if he has always been there as opposed to only rehearsing with the band for three days before the tour. 10 songs with a playing time of 80 minutes, they are all of reasonable length but only "When The Walls Fell" is substantially over ten minutes long.

The Berends brothers are loving the change in band dynamic, and both keep pushing their respective instruments to the limit, so that one never knows where they are going to go and while there are times when they keep it subdued and even allow Lisa's acoustic guitar to come to the fore, it is when they are at their most bombastic and heaviest that they really shine. This is the live album of theirs to focus on, the one where the take the progressive rulebook and demolish it by sheer force of will and loud drums, shrieking guitar, dynamic bass, strong keyboards and great vocals combining with wonderful songs. Put on "The End of the World" and marvel in the harmony between Bill and Mickey as the song shifts and swoops like a swallow over a waterfall.

Mastermind were truly a band like no other, and now Bill has formed a new version in Brazil I can only hope that one day I will again catch them in the live environment as this is simply incredible (with strong production to boot). You may well have missed Mastermind first time around, but there is no excuse now with this so easily available.

 Live in Tokyo by MASTERMIND album cover Live, 1997
3.88 | 5 ratings

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Live in Tokyo
Mastermind Eclectic Prog

Review by kev rowland
Special Collaborator Honorary Reviewer

4 stars This was originally released in 1997 as a limited-edition CD by Cyclops, and since has been made available by Bill on Bandcamp. Recorded in Tokyo on January 23rd of that year, it was designed solely for people who were seeing the band in concert and might want to have a memento of what they sounded like in a live environment. Here we get nearly seventy minutes of the classic trio sound being produced by Bill Berends (guitar, midi-guitar, vocals), Rich Berends (drums and percussion) with Phil Antolino (bass and midi-pedals). I still count myself incredibly fortunate to have caught this line-up at one of the few UK shows they performed, only a few months after this album was recorded, as here was a prog trio who not only never sounded like a trio there were times when they really were pushing the boundaries of prog. Far heavier than any of the other prog rock acts around, but somehow never falling into metal, here was a bombastic Wagnerian band taking ELP to a logical much heavier conclusion.

I am guessing this was recorded to straight to DAT, as this sounds as if any postproduction was limited at best, and it is the sound which lets this down. Listening to this on its own is incredibly enjoyable, but there is no doubt that the sound is flat and pretty unmixed. One gets the impression that this was exactly what the audience heard that night, warts and all. There are times when it isn't quite right, when the guitar drops behind the midi, or the vocals waver, but none of this stops the guys from pulling out all the stops. Why they have never become a household name I will never know, and Mark Robotham of Grey Lady Down (later Thieves' Kitchen) proved he had real balls that night at The Orange when he sat down on the same drum stool recently departed by Rich Berends who makes Bonzo, Keith Moon and Carl Palmer seem quite sedate. Phil shows he is more than happy to prove his worth with some incredible bass playing while Bill cranks it up and rips the place apart with incredible guitar while also somehow keeping everything going on the keyboards as well.

This isn't the album to start listening to the band with, even though they were on fire that night with yet another incredible 24-minute-long 'Brainstorm', but for any fan this is essential.

 Live 1995 by MASTERMIND album cover Live, 2008
4.00 | 1 ratings

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Live 1995
Mastermind Eclectic Prog

Review by kev rowland
Special Collaborator Honorary Reviewer

— First review of this album —
4 stars Over the years there have been a few bands I have been lucky enough to hear and even see in concert and wonder why they aren't more widely known. That is very true indeed of Mastermind, and I am so pleased I saw the same line- up play just two years after this was recorded otherwise, I would have not been able to understand just what was taking place. Behind the kit is Rich Berends, surely one of the most dynamic and powerful drummers I have ever had the pleasure to see play, who combines the power of Bonzo with the dexterity of Palmer and makes the kit a living breathing entity. On bass and midi pedals is Phil Antolino, who is an incredible musician, yet suffers as being the third wheel in the Berend Brothers entourage. At the front is Bill, who somehow provides vocals, guitars and midi-guitar so it sounds as if there are at least four people onstage, if not five. When they played at The Orange in 1997 I was directly in front of Bill, and even having seen it with my own eyes I still can't work out how he was managing to provide all the sounds he was, using his feet as well as his hands, along with singing his heart out and also providing what was an out and out rock show.

Reading back on my review I said that the highlight the night I saw them was 'Brainstorm', and here it is again in its full 23-minute-long beauty. This isn't the Hawkwind song of the same name, but the suite which makes up a large part of their second album, while we also get most of the third album and the extensive 'Tragic Symphony' suite, which makes sense given it was their most recent release at that point. This is bombastic progressive rock, Emerson Lake & Palmer taken down a totally different path where Keith is somewhat restrained (although not always) with a strong hard rock approach. Phil tries to keep it together while Rich is all over the place, always driving the sound forward, and between them they provide enough of a structure for Bill to go nuts.

Released in 2008, but having only just come to my attention, this is an album I highly recommend to anyone who remembers just how powerful this band was in concert. Bill has now formed a new version of the band in Brazil where he has been living for some years, now if only they would come over here! This recording is now 25 years old, and is still breathtaking ' if you want to hear a prog band really rock, then look no further.

 Broken (CD SIngle/EP) by MASTERMIND album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 2005
3.55 | 6 ratings

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Broken (CD SIngle/EP)
Mastermind Eclectic Prog

Review by kev rowland
Special Collaborator Honorary Reviewer

4 stars I was having a conversation with Jerry van Kooten (co-founder of DPRP) one day, and somehow the subject moved onto American band Mastermind. Jerry told me he had two copies of the self-released 'Broken' EP from 2005, and would I be interested in having one? For those who weren't aware of the scene in the 90's, then Mastermind were to my mind one of the most interesting bands around, formed around drummer Rich Berends and his brother, multi- instrumentalist Bill. When they played live then they would use a bassist, but Bill would sing, play guitar and also control a midi at the same time. I was fortunate enough to see them play in London in 1997, and to say I thought they were the band of the night (sandwiched between Ars Nova and Grey Lady Down) is an understatement. But prior to this release their last studio album was in 2000, and the next wouldn't be until 2010. At the time they were a quartet with the brothers being joined by Laura Johnson (bass, vocals) and Tracy McShane (lead vocals). This 8 track set is more than 44 minutes long, features two songs from the next album (which also feature Jens Johansson on keyboards), with 'Broken' repeated at the end as an extended mix, and in the middle there are four songs recorded live in the studio in 2005. As Bill says in the booklet, 'This is exactly how it sounds 100% live as if we played in your living room'.

'Broken' starts with a synth pedal which makes one immediately think of 'Tom Sawyer', but it soon shifts into something middle eastern as Bill and Tracy duet and the guitars crunch in a way which makes one think far more of Sabbath than of a prog act. Tracy's vocals work well with Bill, and she has the power and control of Doro, rising over the top of the band with power and polish. The band had six studio albums behind them by the time of this recording, and although Tracy and Laura were both new at this point, they managed to find room to fit in well with the brothers.

If ever there was a band who deserved to break out of the underground scene then it was Mastermind. Rich comes from the Carl Palmer/Keith Moon school of drumming of hitting everything very hard, multiple times, and it is up to the rest of the band to try and push him into the background as he isn't going to go willingly. I had to smile when I got to track #5, as this is a take on 'William Tell Overture' and as a teenager I bought 'Southern Nights' by Glen Campbell just so I could flip it as his version was on the B-side: I prefer this though, with Bill showing just how adept he is on the guitar with plenty of flourishes and Laura determined not to be left behind. It is flashy, showy, but somehow it is contained, and one can imagine Rich having a blast as he powers around the kit.

There are a couple of covers on here, and one of them is Skip James' 'I'm So Glad' and they use the original recording (now in the public domain) as an introduction before they kick in, although it must be said their version owes more to Cream than the original. Bill shares the lead vocals with Tracy, and his guitar is cranked and powerful. Mastermind were a great band, and this EP is a great representation of that.

 Volume Two by MASTERMIND album cover Studio Album, 1992
3.29 | 20 ratings

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Volume Two
Mastermind Eclectic Prog

Review by apps79
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

3 stars ''Volume one'' was much of a synthetic work, but its undisputed energy and proggy principles were warmly received by Prog fans worldwide.Anyway, by the time the album was re-released the Berends brothers had already started working on a second album ''Volume Two, brainstorm''.The first few pieces date back in 1988 and the last ones were recorded in 1991, the time of the album's release on ZNR Records.Bill of course was handling the guitars, bass and keyboards with Rich providing the drum duties with three bassists helping out during the long recordings at the Trademark Music Studios in Brown Mills, New Jersey.

Mastermind headed for an even more ambitious sound in this second album, indicated by the addition of two long epics, ''Brainstorm'' and ''Triumph of the will'', together completing some 38 minutes of music.I do not know if it is a matter of inspiration or better recording techniques, but ''Volume two'' sounds like an album created by a mature band.With equal doses from RUSH'es lyrical yet powerful Prog Rock and E.L.P.'s Classical-drenched attempts, fronted by the combination of the midi-guitar and synthesizers, the American duo proposed a bombastic, fast-paced music with keyboard masturbations, grandiose atmospheres, Heavy Rock pounds and even some complex Fusion workouts, sounding similar to compatriots MAGELLAN.The addition of some instrumental and vocal melodies certainly helped the band's profile, while the multi-parted epics showcased the accomplished side of the group, displaying influences from Power Rock, Arena Rock, Classical Music and Fusion, eventually creating a very epic style of composing with cinematic soundscapes and frenetic instrumental offerings.The rather digital sound of the instruments still is a bit disturbing, but the tight compositions, the complex themes and the interesting tempo shifts are reasons to leave this factor behind for a while.The shorter tracks are pretty great as well, either coming from an E.L.P. matrix with a symphonic manifest of guitar, bass and keyboards, showered by Neo-Classical textures, or revisiting the powerful lines of RUSH and KANSAS.Two tracks are reworkings on the timeless documents of Richard Wagner (''William Tell overture'') and Gioachino Rossini (''The ride of the Valkyrie'') with Mastermind flirting with Neo-Classical Metal during these pieces.

A huge improvement over the mediocre debut.Bombastic mixture of Symphonic/Classical and Heavy Rock with jazzy inflections, I am very impressed considering the fact this album was recorded in late-80's/early-90's by a duo of musicians without the current recording techniques.Strongly recommended...3.5 stars.

 Angels of the Apocalypse  by MASTERMIND album cover Studio Album, 2000
3.72 | 42 ratings

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Angels of the Apocalypse
Mastermind Eclectic Prog

Review by Mellotron Storm
Prog Reviewer

3 stars MASTERMIND are an American band led by the Berends brothers.They play a heavy brand of music with female vocals.There's actually a Power-Metal flavour as the drums are often upfront and relentless.

"The End Of The World" opens in an intense manner (especially the drumming) that builds. It settles right down just before 2 minutes as the vocals arrive. It does pick back up as vocals continue. It's heavier before 6 minutes after the vocals stop. She's back 9 minutes in. "Perchance To Dream" opens with some nice guitar as the drums join in.Vocals 1 1/2 minutes in. I like this instrumentally a lot. "2000 Years" has a heavy guitar intro as the drums pound their way in and vocals follow.There's a Native vibe here and I like the lyrics. Cool song.

"The Lover's heart" has a great sounding intro then vocals arrive before 1 1/2 minutes.The instrumental break 5 minutes in is a highlight. "The Queen Of Sheba" has a good intro as well then the vocals join in. Relentless drumming as well. "With Dignity And Grace" is my favourite mainly because it's an instrumental but it's also very good. "A Million Miles Away" is a like a power ballad, in fact the band HEART comes to mind. "The Beast Of Babylon" is great because of that urgent and intense sound. Again the drums are relentless.

If this was all-instrumental i'd give 4 stars for sure. She's a good singer i'm just not into her vocals that's all.

 Excelsior! by MASTERMIND album cover Studio Album, 1998
3.87 | 43 ratings

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Excelsior!
Mastermind Eclectic Prog

Review by Evolver
Special Collaborator Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams

4 stars This is the first Mastermind album I've heard since Volume I and Volume II. And surprisingly, the ELP influences are almost gone. Sure, you can still here it a bit in the fabulous The Red Hour. And to me that is the best song on the album. But that shouldn't be a put down of the rest of the album.

As a reference, most of the music compares well to the Jan Hammer years of the Jeff Beck Group. Primarily guitar driven rock fusion tunes are the style of the band now, with Bill Berends' synth tinged axe out in front, th band plays a mean mixture of proggin' rock, with a bit of jazz.

Another high point is When The Walls Fell, which starts out as a guitar rocker, but turns into nice symphonic prog by the end.

It's not a perfect album, but it is a joy.

 Angels of the Apocalypse  by MASTERMIND album cover Studio Album, 2000
3.72 | 42 ratings

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Angels of the Apocalypse
Mastermind Eclectic Prog

Review by fernandoalgarra

1 stars This had been my worst experience trying to find something different about prog music. Angels of the Apocalypse is another of a thousand of albums that its main characteristic is to fight dragons through their lyrics and try to generate an overacted drama through music, music that is not progressive rock but just like basic heavy metal made by bands like Dark Moor, (including the female voice also overacted) Some of the keyboards parts are interesting, but that's all.

I bought this album thinking about finding something interesting, but since the first track I knew I was going into an album based on basic musical forms, without any artistic endeavor, with significant influences from bands like Lacuna Coil and Tristania but hey, this is not progressive.

The album can be entertaining if you do not have high expectations about progressive music, but in my case I decided to return to the record store and exchange it for something of Magellan that is not the best progressive band but at least I felt at home.

I have nothing more to say, simply because this album is not part of the musical genre that corresponds to this website.

 Angels of the Apocalypse  by MASTERMIND album cover Studio Album, 2000
3.72 | 42 ratings

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Angels of the Apocalypse
Mastermind Eclectic Prog

Review by Tarcisio Moura
Prog Reviewer

4 stars A very good surprise from the USA. I didnīt know this band until recently when I saw some reviews here on PAand decided to look for this CD with vocals from the much praised Lisa Bouchelle. Another interesting feature is swedish keyboards legend Jens Johansson (Stratovarius and Ingwie Malmsteen) joining the fold. I was quite struck by their mix of 70īs heavy prog, 90īs melodic power metal and some synphonic overtones. The result is quite charming and convincing.

The highlight is of course Bouchelleīs excellent vocals: strong, dramatic and very good. She has some pipes! She reminds me sometimes of another great american female singer, Lana Lane, but she has a kind of 70īs bluesy feeling too, like Babe Ruthīs Janita Haan. Guitar parts are also very well done and with a good dose of personality that set them apart from so many other power metal bands: Bill Berends is quite melodic and adds some fusion parts to the mix. Johanssonīs typical speed of light synth solos are present as expected, but his overall perfomance here is more varied and interesting here than on most Stratovarius CDs.

All tracks are of very good quality. There are no fillers and the instrumental With Dignity And Grace is a good showcase of their tightness and tremendous technique. If I had to chose only one song as a highlight Iīd pick up the powerful Million Miles Away, just gorgeous! Of course, for most progheads, the greatest moment on Angels Of The Apocallypse is their version for ELPīs Endless Enigma. Mastermind did a fantastic job here, as their style are so apart from each other: the result is, at the same time, respectful to the original version and also giving the song a different approach, with wonderful guitar parts absent from the ELPīs track. Production is also top notch.

Another fine piece of prog music I found here on PA. If you like the aforementioned styles go for it!

Rating: four strong stars.

Thanks to ProgLucky for the artist addition.

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