Review Summary: Progressive metal in the vein of early Fates Warning and Queensryche, with just enough modern flair to avoid simply being a tribute.
Progressive metal is a very hit-or-miss genre for me. It seems that for every great release there are ten that are content to engage in 70-minutes of sloppy Dream Theater fellatio. Fortunately, Florida-based Mindcage don’t have any intention of getting their lips chapped on the shaft of prog-metal wankery. In fact, if comparisons had to be made they would be to the classic prog of early Fates Warning and Queensryche, but with a heavier vibe overall and enough originality to distinguish the band from their influences.
Mindcage’s debut, Our Own Devices
, is a concept album about a dystopian society where technology has smothered the arts and creativity. This, of course, leaves the world broken and oppressed – and, thus, a hero is born. This hero is a girl named Arabella Vash (voiced by Hydrogen’s Julie Westlake), and she becomes humanity’s only hope to return to a free-thinking, creative society. Operation: Mindcrime
this is not, but the album mostly lives up to its grandiose ideas and influences. This is in large part due to the expressive vocals of Jeff Hignite. Hignite’s voice is steeped in the classic 80s-era Geoff Tate style, right down to the soaring highs and deeper refrains. If there is a difference between the two styles, it’s in the actual vocal phrasing and Jeff Hignite’s throatier delivery. His expressive vocalization really does help to make the (occasionally over-dramatic) storyline work.
Musically, Our Own Devices
runs the gamut from upbeat and intense to solemn and mellow as the storyline demands, and it is pretty well done. Queensryche’s first two full-lengths seem to be a pretty big influence on these guys, but I can also hear some Perfect Symmetry
in the busier nature of the rhythms and some of the riffs. This is combined with a more modern, heavy undercurrent that keeps the album from simply sounding like homage to the past. This conglomeration of influences allows the band to stick to a very traditional sound when a song demands it while still being able to push the intensity without it sounding like an unattached tangent.
At this point, Mindcage is a relatively unknown band, but that will probably change once Our Own Devices
has been released. Our Own Devices
is an excellent extension of those classic progressive metal albums that existed before Images and Words
messed everything up, but without sounding like a straight-up tribute to the past. It is a song-driven concept album featuring the theatrical vocals of Jeff Hignite and backed by a collection of excellent riffs, melodies and leads. This album will almost certainly appeal to anyone into the classic sounds of Fates Warning, Queensryche and any similar artists that put the song ahead of the prog.