Avante garde : an intelligentsia that develops new or experimental concepts especially in the arts.
– Merriam Webster Dictionary – 2016
I have always looked at avant garde arts, sciences and music as deliberate conceptual ideas that are presented to the desired audience as concepts of purpose. Various elements and portions of avant garde are placed there within the arts, science and music they are intended for. The respective artists within the avant garde community have always applied there ideas to either obtain a desired effect or to innovate a change in the conventional wisdom of what is or is not acceptable.
All the above mentioned narrative applies to Italy’s MindAhead. It has certainly been quite a while since I heard a band so organic with its elements. According to the Official MindAhead Facebook page they explain themselves this way,
“The idea is to merge different aspects, sometimes opposite ones, of the human feeling, gathering them in a variegated personal music proposal, that plunge its roots in musical influences that go from seventies progressive rock to the death metal.”
This is the total truth and nothing but. I would like to think they are a cross between Opeth meets Epica meets Between The Buried And Me meets Delain. The ‘Beauty/Beast Metal’ element of clean sweet ethereal female vocals married to the more abrasive male death metal grunts is probably the most contemporary element to this album. The rest is a organic innovation. The true innovative element is the classical chamber like musical elements laced throughout the album from the first track Reflection to the last track Memories.
The more I have listened to it the better the journey. It is definitely for an acquired audio pallet. This is also not one of those over the top productions that seems compressed nor forced. As I mentioned above every chord progression and passage is there deliberately and has a purpose compared to certain passages and chord progressions other bands use just as a filler which there is many. In MindAhead’s Reflections we also have very vintage progressive elements that hearkened towards the 1970’s with some Pink Floyd to Yes style time signatures.
Now I will proceed to go into depth on MindAhead’s Reflections. This will be a track by track analysis
Reflection is a instrumental track to open the album. It is as if the music is playing in a chamber or open concert hall. It contains elements from both chamber music and early to middle 1970’s Pink Floyd in its atmospheric nature.
Remain Intact picks up with where Reflection left off. Marching to the backbone of double blast beats in the rhythm section and strong male grunts married with a sweet clean female vocal it is more progressive than symphonic. That is something rarely found with the Beauty & Beast elements of metal. Think later more progressive After Forever with more metalcore vocal elements in the grunts. There is a very intricate outro loaded with various time signature progressions.
Mind Control starts off with some dark ambient like atmosphere with a dark piano passage. Soon this track explodes with heavy rhythmic based double blast beats and the female male vocal dynamic. This is a track where the male vocal is not always rest in the grunt or growl narrative but also takes on a cleaner vocal as well. The track drops off at the end and sets up for a seamless transition to On The Dead Snow.
Video Courtesy of ( Revalve Records Official YouTube Channel )
On The Dead Snow fades in with a smooth seamless transition from where Mind Control leaves off. It soon explodes in a full sonic blast. It is a all out audio assault throughout this track. The rhythm section is like a full military assault of blast beats and tuned down bass. The guitar is not always a rhythmic instrument but also a lead stringed instrument. The middle of the track takes on layers and layers of melody and vocal harmony. This is a rare time where the male grunts are very understandable. The middle also serves as a breed ground of various progressive time signatures and off guitar solos. Towards the end the track has some elements of a ballad before the track picks up once again.
Video Courtesy of ( Revalve Records Official YouTube Channel )
Amigdala is the true epic on the album. It opens up with a very Pink Floyd atmospheric passage of great expanse and minimal elements. The bass and drum rhythmic sections kicks in to carry the atmosphere into towards the vocal narrative. This is a true 1970’s inspired progressive track that it continues to build layer upon layer of atmospheres. The vocal work of Kyo Calati has a soulful quality about it. The male grunts are more of a instrumental compliment for the cleaner more ethereal female vocal. The grunts span from death metal, to light grindcore and even have elements of black metal screams. There is such a heavy atmospheric aesthetic that the band allows for the track to breathe and not to lean some much on compression. The guitar solo’s are almost like that of David Gilmore meets Steve Howe of Yes. This track shows the mature depths that MindAhead have as a young band.
Emerald Green Eyes picks up where Amigdala left off with a heavy atmospheric opener before the track takes on a full assault once again with heavy blast beats and male death growls that serve the two fold purpose of a instrument and a harmonic vocal along with the female vocal. This track also takes on light industrial elements with the guitar and bass. At the 3:15 mark the track takes on a very prog rock vibe in the solo.
The Mask Through The Looking Glass (Part 1) starts out with almost a 16th century acoustical element. Soon it is layer with violins and keyboards to form a beautiful instrumental track. The Mask Through The Looking Glass (Part 1) serves as the perfect instrumental intro for The Mask Through The Looking Glass (Part 2).
The Mask Through The Looking Glass (Part 2) opens up with a surprising yet, blistering intro due to how The Mask Through The Looking Glass (Part 1) left off. This track also reminds me a lot of the NWOBHM or New Wave Of British Heavy Metal with the galloping guitar and bass rhythms. The female vocal really lights this one up very well. The entire rhythm section is some of the best I have heard in 10 years on this track. For a track that is only 6:31 this is full of time signatures and insane guitar solos.
Farewell opens up with a very clean and beautiful acoustic guitar intro. It continues to build layers upon layers in the stringed section with the percussive elements of drum and bass subtly coming into the track. The band allows much breathing room for the listener to become immersed in this track. If there had to be a ballad on the album, Farewell would fall into that category. Although it has a heavy ballad element about it, Farewell still maintains the progressive objective and integrity the band has displayed throughout the album.
Three Sides Of A Dangerous Mind opens up with a beautiful acoustic track before taking on a heavy charging assault with brutal double blast beats, the bass serving a two fold purpose of both a stringed and percussive element towards the rhythm section. This track is bound together with a beautiful atmosphere from start to finish. The atmospheric element helps the guitar solos, rhythm section and vocals stand out in a way that every member of the band can be fully heard and understood. This track also bring the album together as a great avant garde metal concept.
Memories is the third instrumental track on the album that closes the album just as cohesive as the opening track Reflection did. It helps the listeners audio senses digest the entire album they just heard as well.
MindAhead are a band of innovation in metal. They are on the vanguard of where avant garde and progressive metal is going into the future. I believe Reflections is opening up another door of true ideas and standards for this kind of experimental metal. They continue Italy’s rich under rated progressive rock and metal tradition. They have a very distinctive and unique sound that will stand out among the current metal landscape. MindAhead’s Reflections is one of the absolute strongest debut albums over the last 25 years. I am giving MindAhead’s Reflections a perfect 5/5.
My first gateway into Melodic Death Metal came in 1995 at the expense of a damn good band called Dark Tranquility. They had been at the head of a new pioneering metal movement out of Sweden called Swedish Extreme Thrash Metal or Swedish Melodic Death Metal depending on who in this industry you ask. Anyway I remember the reoccurring power metal almost doom metal aesthetic it had going through it on the instrumental portion of the music. That would be met with a wall of almost blackened death folk metal vocal that ran side by side with the expert musicianship in the instrumental narrative.
Bands from Sweden such as Dark Tranqulity, Amon Amarth, At The Gates, Children Of Bodom, In Flames, etc… were all part of that Gothenburg Sweden sound that was taking the world in the first half of the decade of the 1990’s . Meanwhile you had the old guard of Grindcore metal in the United Kingdom in the form of Carcass, and later Norwegian Black Metal pioneers Enslaved starting to get more and more progressive in later years on later releases. It just seemed that once the Florida Death Metal scene with bands such as DEATH, Obituary, Morbid Angel, etc … gave birth to the genre as a whole many other parts of the world were placing their flavour and unique individual sounds on it thus making more melodic journeys with the sub genre.
The same can be said for Germany. Many of us who have been listened to progressive rock and progressive heavy metal along with death metal know that once it gets to Germany that it takes on a whole other sound and dichotomy that makes it uniquely German. Bands like the Scorpions, Accept, Helloween, Gamma Ray, Blind Guardian, etc … all have had one of the strongholds on metal particularly in power metal. Now marry the progressive, power and melodic death metal all into a well even balance with a German sound and it gives you a band like Words Of Farewell.
Taking every element from the Swedish Melodic Death Metal, the American Death Metal, the Power Metal of Germany with a taste American Progressive Metal of Dream Theater, Symphony X , Fates Warning, etc.. sound that is Words Of Farewell. In just about 10 years time Words Of Farewell have been able to take many forms of metal and blend them to a sound so distinct and unique you can tell it is Words Of Farewell and not another band out there. The music itself may be an acquired audio pallet however with the proper objectivity a traditional metal listener could absorb the beautiful audio assault provided by Words of Farewell.
Their most recent release from AFM Records titled A Quiet World, is a true tour de force and adventure into more and more melodic layers of melodic death metal. This is also one of the more progressive albums I have heard out of this particular genre or lot of music. With A Quiet World, Words Of Farewell also go into the realms of symphonic metal as well. In doing my research to prepare for this review I wen out and got a lot of the band’s earlier albums to listen in contrast to the current album A Quiet World. Where some bands may change their sound and call it ‘evolving’ Words of Farewell have truly evolved in their unique sound without losing any of the quality of the sound from album to album. The band has maintained and even improved on their sound to produce the best possible product possible to their fan base and future fan bases to come.
Let us look at some highlights off the individual tracks of Words Of Farewell A Quiet World.
My Share Of Loneliness explodes right away with a progressive frenzy of various time signatures and chord progressions that seem more rooted in progressive metal. The chord progression also resemble a light industrial passage that has been very popular in Germany for the last 30+ years. The vocal tracking takes a spoken word element about to enhance the narrative of the lyrical content. The vocals are also tracked with such fullness and brilliance that it gives the illusion of many vocalists involved in reality there is only one.
Gaia Demise begins with a balanced keyboard and heavily drum induced rhythmic section. Soon the vocals begin to play off the drum backbone and follow the rhythmic progressions. The vocal also carries the the track in its initial minute and is as much a instrument as it is a vocal telling a story. There is a wicked hesitation in the rhythm guitar narrative.
Gallows Frame begins with a very eerie atmospheric passage before changing gears into a heavily rhythm based chord progression. The vocals once again play a wonderful part in serving both as a narrative vocal and instrumental. The keyboard is also tuned to play a piano style synth giving the stringed section as much atmosphere as the guitar plays to the drum/bass rhythmic section. This track has a very brooding rhythmic section that generates a further heaviness to the song.
Limit Cycle starts out as a semi film soundtrack style in the guitar passage. Soon the drums come in with subtle beats. There is a steady progression towards a heavier chord progressive passage. The keyboards once again serve a a technical instrument and a piano passage. The vocal is more spoken word until about the 2:00 mark. Then the track takes a wicked step steady progression using both the drum and keyboard narratives as a backbone to the rest of the track. The band really establishes the vocal narrative both as a melodic and a spoken word narrative on this track. The vocal almost leans towards a alight black metal echo as well.
Zero Temperance begins with atmospheric synths combined with grity distorted rhythm sections joined by the stringed portion of the guitar playing as a rhythmic instrument. The vocals remain brutal. The drums have many signatures and time progressions. The band thoroughly maintains the vocal order playing more off the explosive rhythm sections over the stringed sections.
Momentary Life begins with a very on off time signature almost dabbling into Djent. The time signatures are all over the place on this while still remaining on point to the bands primary sound aesthetic. The band clearly has a cohesive vision throughout A Quiet World and this particular track serves as a affirmation to that main objective. There is even some clean vocals serving as echoes off the main grunts.
Oversoul starts with a thick synth atmosphere. That is soon met with a explosive rhythm section that remains a anchor for the atmosphere. The vocals on this one really assault the listeners senses almost in a surround sound register. Although they are grunts and growls the vocals are really thick in harmony. About the 2:35 mark the drums go into a insane blast beat with the vocals playing into a brief spoken word narrative. Much like the rest of the album the guitar solos are very front and center on this as well.
The Farthest Reach begins with a almost Symphonic metal progression with heavy multi stringed guitars and basses. This track is also very heavily industrial in its nature, almost in the vein of a progressive Rammstein. This track also has a heavy oriental middle eastern element within it as well.
This Shadow My Likeness is the epic on the album clocking in at 10:45. It begins with a actual rare piano passage. It is borderline baroque meets progressive metal. The guitar solos rest heavily more on the progressive metal side to enhance the melodic experience. This is one of those typical epics that have a lengthy build up throughout the track. At the 2:55 mark the track is finally joined with vocals. The frame up of this track does not depend on a solid full 10:45 assault. There are some nice breaks for the listener to digest what the audio pallet is being delivered. There is a heavy spoken word element throughout this track as well. The guitar solos show hints of a classical influence as well. There is a nice conclusion to this epic as well. There is a spoken word element that concludes the story at the end.
I believe Words Of Farewell have taken all their influences and forged their own distinct metal sound. They have clearly placed Germany on the map for Progressive Melodic Death Metal. They have not really replaced all the Melodic Death Metal that was pioneered in Scandinavian countries they have enhanced it and taken it into another direction of posterity and evolution. I do not do this lightly but I am giving Words Of Farewell’s A Quiet World a strong 5/5.
Necessary cookies are absolutely essential for the website to function properly. This category only includes cookies that ensures basic functionalities and security features of the website. These cookies do not store any personal information.
Any cookies that may not be particularly necessary for the website to function and is used specifically to collect user personal data via analytics, ads, other embedded contents are termed as non-necessary cookies. It is mandatory to procure user consent prior to running these cookies on your website.