Everyone knows the old adage of not judging a book by its cover, but you can certainly infer a lot about an album by its cover art. Before I’d even listened to a note of Mental Fracture’s debut album, Disaccord, I was already intrigued by its cover art. The first thing that caught my eye was simply the colour. While it’s not so uncommon to find album cover art that is largely monochrome, it’s far more unusual for yellow to be such a dominant colour. While most colours have associations, which if not singular are compatible with each other, yellow is a colour of conflicting associations. Depending on context, yellow can imply optimism, cheerfulness, joy, enthusiasm and enlightenment, and is associated with the Sun (which features prominently in the background of Disaccord’s album cover). In terms of psychology, it is often believed that yellow stimulates mental function and can lead to a positive way of thinking, with some studies suggesting that it can help with fast decision making, especially in stressful situations, when a mind is clouded with thoughts. There have also been studies that have shown that many people have a better chance of remembering something if they’ve written it on yellow paper, rather than white. Yellow is similarly associated with intellect, logic and analytical thinking.
However, yellow can also have many negative traits and is often associated with ideas such as duplicity, cowardice, betrayal and untrustworthiness. In between these two extremes, yellow is the colour associated with caution, as seen on hazard signs and traffic lights. What links all these seemingly disparate associations is that they are all related to impulsiveness, and this is because to the human eye yellow is the most notable and attention grabbing colour. And let’s face it, that’s exactly what all that yellow on Disaccord’s cover art did – grab my attention, and so much so that I’m on the second paragraph of a review of the music and I’m still writing only about the colour of the cover art. So let’s at least move on from the colour, to the game of chess being played, because it is also interesting. Only white pieces are shown, and they appear to be advancing towards the king, who has already fallen. Apart from the fact that there should not be one more piece moving at a time, it is surely deliberate that all the pieces are white. The player appears to have checkmated himself. Before listening to the album, the title and cover art alone imply that this is an album about the disaccord and dissonance in which we live our lives, and the way we think and communicate. This is backed up by the Bandcamp blurb, which states that Disaccord “revolve[s] around the concepts of cognitive dissonance and the games we play with ourselves to cope with it. The songs in the album vary constantly and change their genre, gliding through jazz, oriental music and synth, yet always staying centered around fierce, energetic rock and metal.”
And with that, let’s move on to the music, which is what anyone reading this review probably expected. Again from the Bandcamp page, “the band members wear their influences on their sleeves,” which I find interesting given the bands mentioned (presumably as influences) are Dream Theater, Opeth, Porcupine Tree “and many more”. I can only presume that I am hearing the “many more” because I’m really not reminded of any of the three listed bands. The band I’m reminded of most is Sky Architect, followed by others such as (fellow Israeli band) Soul Enema, and Major Parkinson – all who play an energetic, jazzy, heavy and eclectic style of music, all of which might appear chaotic upon first listen, but are actually perfectly coherent. In terms of prog metal, rather than Dream Theater, Opeth and Porcupine Tree, I’d probably have said Haken, Pain of Salvation and Leprous. And if I do hear Porcupine Tree at all, much to the horror of many, I’m sure, it is The Incident that I’m reminded of (which is my favourite of the Gavin Harrison era, by the way). Connecting the dots between Steven Wilson, Pain of Salvation and Israel, I’m also reminded of Omer Ephrat’s album No One’s Words.
Influences are tricky things to infer, because a band does not always show them, and a listener will not always hear them. What we hear and are reminded of is largely due to what we have been exposed to and our likes and dislikes. Furthermore, the influences the band either has or we infer were influenced by others themselves. So were Mental Fracture influenced by King Crimson, Jethro Tull, Camel and ELP, or are they just picking up on these influences second hand? There are times when the music of Mental Fracture is reminiscent of that of classical composers, but maybe that, too, is second (or even third) hand. Honestly, I don’t care about the influences. As aforementioned, I’m reminded most of Sky Architect when I listen to Mental Fracture, and I doubt they are an influence at all. So bugger the influences, and let’s just say this is a thoroughly enjoyable and eclectic romp through the gardens of the mind, filled with whimsy, playfulness, melancholy and mystery.
Disaccord begins innocently enough with the short introductory music of Echo of a Heartbeat, before launching into the first song, Summer Dies. This seems to me to be about the use of nostalgia to overcome cognitive dissonance, and also ties in nicely with the following Goodbye Forever, which tackles cognitive dissonance while grieving. The following two songs also pair nicely, with both Hello and Concrete Wall depicting the struggle of communication from different viewpoints: how does one communicate when the other person doesn’t appear to be willing or able to communicate; versus the person who may seem unwilling or unable to communicate, but desperately wants to do so, with the struggle to do so making it worse rather than better. And so on it goes, each song presenting a perfect tableau of an aspect of the disaccord and dissonance we face in life, until we reach the final track which appears to be the aural soundtrack to the cover art, and ends with the metaphorical chess piece of the king “laying on the floor, murdered by his own hands”.
Overall, this is an astounding debut album, and I can’t believe I’ve not seen or heard much about it. It is easily a contender for one of my favourite albums of 2022. Everything about it is pure quality. It has been wonderfully mixed and mastered by the band themselves (mixed by vocalist and keyboard player Ori Mazuz, and mastered by guitarist Yogev Schpilman). For me, Ori is probably the star as his vocals are phenomenal, and his keyboard playing is definitely right up there, too. Again, I do wonder if Ori has a classical background or training, but whether or not he does, the interplay between his often classical sounding style and the more metal stylings of Yogev are an absolute joy to listen to. The rhythm section of Philip Tsukerman (bass) and Hai Muller (drums and percussion) are awesome, and each have their moments where they are able to show off their individual brilliance. I can’t wait to hear what’s next from the band!
01. Echo of A Heartbeat (1:16)
02. Summer Dies (7:16)
03. Goodbye Forever (6:26)
04. Hello (5:03)
05. Concrete Wall (4:52)
06. Inception of Fear (7:17)
07. Disaccord (4:16)
08. Clockwork (7:07)
09. Earths of Stone (8:32)
Total Time – 52:05
Ori Mazuz – Vocals, Keyboards
Yogev Schpilman – Guitars
Philip Tsukerman – Bass
Hai Muller – Drums, Percussion
Record Label: Independent
Country of Origin: Israel
Date of Release: 3rd March 2022
Mental Fracture – Website | Facebook | Bandcamp | YouTube