This is a new band to my ears, and as this is only their second album, I suspect new to many of us. Mindspeak are a young band, occupying the heavier end of the Prog spectrum, and based in Vienna, which is not as far as I’m aware, known as a hot bed of progressive rock. Mindspeak are trying to change that.
Whilst they are a new band to me, I can’t say that their music sounds radical or new as such, in fact it has an air of familiarity about it quite often. That’s not a major criticism, heaven knows it’s hard to be original in a field where it’s all been done before. It must be a perennial conundrum for new progressive bands just how to use their obvious influences and yet truly progress beyond them. Mindspeak are starting that process, so there are reference points unsurprisingly. Opener When Giants Cry for example has moments of Haken-like heaviness, and the epic Tetrachrome nods in a Transatlantic direction at its climax. A couple of Alex Clement’s melodic guitar lines evoke IQ too, but these comparisons are really more to describe the overall sound. There’s a lot more to them than that, and I get the impression of a band beginning to find their feet and a recognisable style, and their future could be interesting if they can continue to develop, and play live more widely.
It’s the third track, or suite of songs, titled The Human Element where they really start to impress. It seems to be a multi-part tale of a doomed space voyage, and each segment has its own atmosphere, yet combines with the rest to form a coherent piece of sonic drama. There is a cinematic sweep to it which is quite captivating, and the third part in particular, Echoes Of A Greater Mind is a superb piece of modern Prog theatre. They describe their music as being “an intense dramaturgy”, which I thought was rather pretentious when I read it, but on this track, I’d have to agree! Bearing in mind the group’s relative inexperience, what they have achieved on this track is remarkable.
Singer Viktoria Simon-Lukic sounds confident, strident one moment and quite fragile the next. Her voice tends to highlight the more melodic elements of the songs. Bassist Simon Nagy and drummer Gabriel Lahrmann work well together, providing a very solid but flexible base. They provide one of the more unexpected moments right at the end of the album where a percussion-led finale gives way to white noise. Is this the sound of being lost in space, a last radio transmission? Who knows? But it wasn’t the obvious traditional epic ending I’m glad to say. The keyboard sounds do tend to be as one might expect, piano, organ, plus an array of mellotron choir effects for the dramatic sections. Christoph Kasparovsky does however manage to steer clear of the cheese most of the time, in fact he is responsible for some of the most pleasurable moments on this album with his layered towers of keys. Finally, guitarist Alex Clement is a fine player, especially his more melodic runs. He occasionally goes for speed, and it doesn’t always quite work for me, but overall his riffs and motifs are spot on.
Tetrachrome is the longest single song here, and at 17 minutes, it is a bit of an epic, but there aren’t really many wasted moments. The pacing on this song is just right, and it sweeps you along, and before you know it, you realise that you’re enjoying it! There’s some tasty sax towards the end from Thomas Korner which adds welcome texture and colour.
It’s not new or ground breaking, but nobody can realistically expect every new release to be something truly original. Sometimes it’s just good to find a new band producing music which is simply very enjoyable and satisfying. I hope that Mindspeak can get this album heard, because many music fans would, I’m sure, enjoy this. What would make a significant difference would be to tour more widely, because this music sounds live already, and that’s what will convince people of their value to the scene. Whether that is a practical proposition is of course another matter. I for one will be watching their next steps with interest.
01. When Giants Cry (9:47)
02. Tetrachrome (17:48)
03. The Human Element
– I. All We Know (3:04)
– II. Lift-Off (4:14)
– III. Echoes Of A Greater Mind (12:08)
– IV. Starprism (3:43)
– V. Orbit / Catch (5:10)
– VI. A Light From Home (4:34)
Total Time – 66:18
Alex Clement – Guitar, Backing Vocals
Christoph Kasparovsky – Keyboards
Gabriel Lahrmann – Drums, Percussion
Simon Nagy – Bass
Victoria Simon-Lukic – Vocals
Olivia Baniqued – Flute (3)
Thomas Korner – Alto Sax (2 & 3)
Philip Lion – Backing Vocals
Chor Weinhaus – Conducted by Eva Flieder
Record Label: Independent
Country of Origin: Austria
Date of Release: 21st June 2019