Reflections from Shpongleland is a Super Deluxe hard backed 20-page full-color pull-out postcard book featuring the futuristic hi-tech digital artwork from Shpongle’s Simon Posford.
Created during the final stages of production of Shpongle’s recently released magnum opus, Codex VI, these artworks display the same dexterity of tone, texture, and form as the incredible music itself. Shimmering, psychedelic geometries effervesce on the page in mandalic form as they open portals to the immortal and allow the viewer to become enveloped in the original visions of Simon Posford’s unique artistic creativity.
The much loved Shpongle mask becomes the subject of manifold kaleidoscopic coloring and psychedelic symmetry, recontextualizing the forms all Shpongle fans know and love so well and playfully exploring alternate dimensions of pictorial presentation. Beautifully bound in hardback cover, this cosmic collection of pull-out postcards is a must have for all Shpongle fans. Each Art Card is a perfect present when posted to Friends, family, Alien Entities or glistening Machine Elves!
As a wise sage once said, this is what happens “When Sound Becomes Colour”
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.
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