Review Summary: A smooth trip through the late ‘60s psych to ‘70s prog rock.
Mondo Drag started strong the previous decade, releasing three great albums in a row. It’s a shame they disappeared for seven years, as their efforts to improve and discover new sonic blends were audible from one LP to another. Luckily, the group reemerged with a brand new full length, Through the Hourglass
, continuing this ascending streak. These guys managed to take the early ‘70s type of prog rock, mixed it with a solid dose of psychedelia and deliver it without sounding corny. It is a feature that rather few acts today can accomplish, to be honest. Considerably more mature than its predecessors, this latest effort channels the more settled moments of King Crimson and Pink Floyd’s atmosphere with a focus on Richard Wright’s keyboard playing, alongside some Yes or Camel. Still, the results align closer to Mondo Drag’s peers Ancestors or even Elder, albeit lighter in distortion levels.
Opener “Burning Daylight” gently dives into this retro universe with a steady rhythm, accompanied by grandiose Hammond organs. The guitar riff drives the tune, whereas the beautiful croons add further smoothness to it. The calmness in the voice echoes Greg Lake’s work on In the Court of the Crimson King
. Meanwhile, the Santana-esque solo during the second half is enticing, especially when intertwining with the synthesizers. Soon, these give way to the centerpiece, “Passages”, an 11-minute instrumental odyssey led by multiple layers of keyboards. Slowly growing, the other members join for a rich, pastoral segment with slide guitars and thrilling bass lines. A harder part unfolds, yet the group opted for a slow fade out instead of sustained, full throttle heaviness. Moreover, “Death in Spring” and “Run” toy with subdued grooves that allow the lush vocals and electronic bits to create moodier vibes. Singing in a lower pitch this time, definitely helped. You could often compare them with King Crimson’s “Epitaph”, but less dramatic overall. Nevertheless, both are pleasant experiments that flow really well overall. It feels like time flew by while listening to Through the Hourglass
. The lovely melodies and riffs are augmented by the silky production, offering flawless transitions from one track to another. Moving from the heavy psych style to the current classic prog rock direction is no easy task, yet it brings great rewards if done right. I’m really happy Mondo Drag regrouped and came back with such a strong record.