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(70.36, ‘Unlock Your Mind’)
TRACK LIST: 1. Destructive Device 6:44 2. Lethal 5:29 3. Breakthrough 5:09 4. Under an Alias 4:05 5. Inevitable Nightfall 5:40 6. Said & Done 5:19 7. Fragile State of Peace 6:05 8. Not Free Enough 7:09 9. Inapt World 6:25 10. First Things First 3:36 11. Shocking Death Bed Confession 11:50 12. The Screwdriver Effect 3:06 LINEUP: Danilo Herbert – vocals Rodrigo Hidalgo – guitar Ricardo Winandy – bass Rafael Pensado – drums Miguel Spada – keyboards
Prolusion. Hailing from Sao Paulo, Brazil, MINDFLOW have been active since 2003. Their debut album, “Just the Two of Us… Me and Them” was released in 2004; “Destructive Device” is their third effort, also available as an Alternate Reality Game (ARG), whose participants act the role of detectives in pursuit of a dangerous serial killer.
Analysis. The first thing that struck me when listening to “Destructive Device” was the almost complete absence of guitar solos. For a ‘traditional’ progressive metal band following in the wake of genre founders Dream Theater, this is something very odd, to say the least. Not surprising for a strongly narrative-oriented album such as this one, the vocals play the biggest role, though, instrumentally speaking, the keyboards and drums definitely overwhelm the guitar work, which seems to be largely confined to providing the subgenre’s trademark fast-and-furious riffage. Like most Dream Theater-derived outfits, Mindflow are heavy on technical prowess, though not totally devoid of melodic quotient. However, they are also seriously lacking in genuine emotion, which, in my opinion, is one of the essential components of good music of any genre. Needless to say, in spite of the band’s origins, they sound light years away from the elegant yet passionate nature of Brazilian music. It is not coincidental that at least two of their albums (this one and the previous, “Mind Over Body”) are also available as video games, because they come across as the perfect product of the videogame/MTV generation. An album of this nature would need to be sustained by an outstanding vocalist in order to carry off the narrative parts in the most effective way. Unfortunately, lead singer Danilo Herbert, while not possessed of an intrinsically bad voice, is rather one-dimensional, and his repeated attempts at impersonating James La Brie fall flat more often than not – not to mention his occasional forays into death metal-style growls. To make matters worse, most of the tracks are dominated by the unrelenting, machine-gun sound of double-bass drums, as well as sweeping keyboard effects. “Destructive Device” indeed displays a lot of flash, though the substance is rather debatable. As well as ten ‘ordinary’ songs, the album contains two so-called ‘binaural’ tracks, which are supposed to be listened to by following the instructions on the CD booklet. They are audible when playing the CD in the normal way, though rather faintly so – which is a blessing, since they deal with people being sadistically tortured. Now, call me prudish or whatever, but I am neither interested nor particularly approving of stuff like that – as if there were not already enough violent movies, videogames and such available for sale or on the Internet. As to the actual music, it is not easy for me to pick out any individual tracks. Shocking Death Bed Confession, as the album’s epic and longest item, would be the obvious choice, and is definitely the most conventionally progressive track here – with the obligatory tempo changes, faster, high-energy passages shifting to slower, more atmospheric ones, and even an occasional guitar solo, which, however, manages to sound more like keyboards than anything else. The overall effect is marred by Herbert’s breathy, sub-LaBrie vocals, which go on for a very long time. The majority of the songs featured on “Destructive Device”, though considerably shorter, fit this mould (the average length is slightly over 5 minutes) – the lone ballad offering Breakthrough being the sole exception, with its relatively gentler vocals and less abrasive riffs. Inapt World, on the other hand, starts as a typical, piano-backed power ballad, then develops into more of the same, crushingly heavy with a very strong Dream Theater feel. Mindflow are undoubtedly an ambitious lot, as clearly indicated by the lavish packaging of the album – something that nowadays is rare even in mainstream productions, let alone independent releases. Their label also doubles up as a merchandising company, which obviously hints at the level of popularity they have reached in their native country, and possibly in the whole of South America. However, all this smacks of the proverbial triumph of style over substance, of impeccable technique without any real soul behind it. This is the kind of band that will appeal to a mainly young audience, infatuated with speed, bombast and flash, as well as with the kind of rather disturbing stories such as the one outlined in the album. “Destructive Device” is one of those discs that will leave many listeners with a sense of frustrated weariness – ponderous, overlong, and ultimately empty.
Conclusion. Fans of Dream Theater and their ilk, as well as enthusiastic consumers of elaborate, crime-based TV series or computer games, will not fail to be delighted by “Destructive Device” – while those looking for subtlety, variety, and especially original ideas, are well advised to look elsewhere. The only progressive thing about this album is the ‘progressive metal’ tag stuck to the band.
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