Fractal Mirror have released their fifth album, blending styles and influences into an original whole, with keyboards that have a Tony Banks wall of sound that wraps up the composition and keeps them warm. They do this without dominating, drums and bass frame the musical pictures throughout, and there is some excellent work from all the guitar part contributors. Vocals have both warm and grit depending on the lines delivered, the delivery sitting within its own mould, but giving cursory nods to bands past and present.
The instrumental Beyond is up first; it is strong, and full of promise, but not really an indicator of what comes next, and I like it more for that. Progressive Rock for sure, but not prog by numbers. What you do get from the start is the surety of the foundations in the sounds of the drums and bass. From this assured start, Beyond moves into Ashes.
At just over 17-minutes, Ashes can only be described as an epic. Unlike the first track, it’s a composite piece, a series of musical passages that say their piece and change direction. It works, and it doesn’t; a couple of the passages overstay while the composition’s changes of direction are welcome. Several listens in and I still find the track at times like a series of interludes. The best bits are those with either vocal presence or acoustic guitar, but that is just me. I don’t dislike it, but I did find my mind wandered a little, so I stepped away and left Ashes for a while. There are some solid passages, uplifting even, but I drift away after about 10-minutes.
I feel guilty because I don’t love Ashes, but I’m certain that others will love its epic nature and dismiss my judgement – so be it. The wizards of Fractal Mirror have been doing this for a while, and my comment just a single raindrop. A little bit shorter and I believe I would have enjoyed it more.
Slip Away contrasts with Ashes, but still feels epic, bearing all the twists you might expect of the genre. I love the acoustic intro, which is quite Anthony Phillips. Reference points are there, but the reality is that Fractal Mirror are original, although half a century of genre means they are not going to be without influence. There is a touch of Floydian darkness, but it does do that deep, for which I am relieved.
Shadow Man remains in those dark places of the soul, though musically it is much brighter, hopeful even. Expect the unexpected; it’s the same musicians, but without treading the same old ground throughout an album, shades of light and dark, and a pleasure to listen to. Remove the review ears and just enjoy; the path through the album is much brighter when you stop analysing.
Kingdom of the Lost visits the realms of Steven Wilson, and maybe Dave Kerzner, with Floydian influences throughout, but it’s excellently done and it is easy to lose yourself in those moments.
Borders, the closer, runs to 12-minutes and 46-seconds, every second filled with style. The companion piece to Beyond, it produces everything that you would want. Swirling keys, stunning guitar solos, everything and more. I like this closing track very much, everything is in place, and my listening pleasure is complete.
This fifth release from Fractal Mirror is a delight, even with my doubts around Ashes. New boy Gareth Cole provides some excellent riffs and passages and should be proud of his first contribution. It is a nice release that requires repeated listens. If you like Steven Wilson or Dave Kerzner, you will love this. It is not mundane, and listening does require you attention, but it remains an album I can recommend being included against some very strong opposition.
01. Beyond (4:13)
02. Ashes (17:08)
03. Slip Away (4:15)
04. Shadow Man (5:40)
05. Kingdom of the Lost (4:15)
06. Borders (12:46)
Total Time – 48:17
Leo Koperdraat – Voice, Mellotron 4000d, Keyboards
Gareth Cole – Guitars, Background Vocals
Ed van Haagen – Bass, Additional Vocals
Frank Urbaniak – Drums, Lyrics, Voice (on Ashes intro)
Brett Kull – Background Vocal, Good Advice
Record Label: Bad Elephant Music
Country of Origin: The Netherlands
Date of Release: 15th October 2021