Review Summary: A solid progressive metal outing
Progressive metal as a genre can become slightly self-contradictory. The whole aim of 'progressive' is to be inventive and explore new sounds, yet the genre itself displays a surprisingly small amount of variation, as the shred solos, soaring vocals and technical riffs and drumming that catagorize it can only be reinvented a certain amount of times before they lose their awe and power and become monotonous. It is for this reason that bands such as Mastodon
, who produce a more original sound, stand out so much amongst the Symphony X and Dream Theater clones in the genre.
Now, Mendel is not a revolutionary or original project and fits very snugly into the prog metal label. However, the quality of the music on this album high enough to make it memorable and more than just Dream Theater clone #123. The riffs are all crushing and solid, and the solos are plentiful and - mostly - successful, somehow avoiding the trap of self-indulgency despite making up most of the album.
Although it is very strong, this album is far from perfect. First and foremost, 72 minutes is almost always too long a running time for any album, and Subliminal Colours suffers particularly due to its lack of variation, which is the second problem. Track-by-track, the album is fine but when listened to as a whole, it is hard to remember which song is which. The clean breaks that are used very effectively on songs like Sumerian Sun
could have been used more to provide more diversity, since they mark some of the album's most memorable moments.
The album's greatest strength, and also greatest flaw, is the 25 minute closer Absolution
. It is a fantastic piece of music, and features some of the album's greatest moments, such as the dramatic piano introduction and the acoustic guitar break at around 17:00. At 25 minutes, however, it is at least 10 minutes too long, and starts to drag towards the end. The ideal solution to this would have been either to edit 10 minutes out of Absolution
, or to release it as an EP instead of as part of the album.
Overall, I would recommend this album to any fan of prog metal, or any guitarist, as the leads here are excellent (it often feels more like a guitarist's solo album than a progressive metal album (and yes, there is a difference).
Lack of variation
Absolution is too long
Album is too long
4. Sumerian Sun