Mother Turtle formed in 2011 in Thessaloniki, Greece and this is their fifth album. Previously, the band have experimented freely with various alt-rock and progressive styles. This time they have maintained their appetite for experimentation but kept it somewhat constrained within a set of more standard rock song structures. Running all through the eight new tracks on their latest release, M.T. V (a clever title, by the way) metal and grunge influences are well to the fore, but there is also an intriguing mix of other progressive elements that serve to moderate the heavier and darker aspects, creating a highly engaging 46-minutes of listening pleasure.
In an unusual set up, the band uses guest musicians from across the local music and arts scene who take turns to contribute lyrics and provide vocal support. Perhaps by design, or just as a reflection of the times, the lyrical themes running through all the songs seem to be consistently influenced by the experience of lockdown. There are recurring references to the mental challenges of being constrained and unable to see the light at the end of the tunnel. This thread running through the songs means that the constant change in vocal styles actually works fine, providing additional drama and intrigue.
Suicidal Hornets (featuring Mars Blackbird), opens with a straightforward, heavy, rock riff. Layers of guitars are at the heart of it all but added into the mix on this opener is a melodic woodwind passage. The track doesn’t outstay its welcome, making for a short, sharp and breezy introduction. Moving on, The Great Unknown features Tryfon Baitsis and starts in the same vein; a riff-tastic opening, but this time with added drum fills. Towards the end the main theme is speeded up and played out to a satisfying climax. To be honest, more of the same would probably have failed to hold my attention for very long, but ‘more of the same’ is precisely the opposite of what you get from Mother Turtle.
Next up is Always A Waterfall, featuring Moss Doe, and the mood is reset. Saxophone is prominent in a relaxed but precise opening, this great change in the dynamics being complemented by a distorted violin part and keyboard effects. It’s a really effective switch in style that begs the question just what will come up next? And the answer is the entirely unexpected Reasons, featuring Jon Voyager, which has a lively prog intro where an organ solo develops into a playful showtime-style song with many twists and turns. The themes are re-visited via an extended guitar solo before the ringmaster, as narrator, bellows out a final plea for release and redemption. Highly entertaining and vaguely reminiscent of Marillion’s Separated Out.
Melania Karta takes on the vocal duties for Aura. The band provide a more subdued and melodic backdrop to the lighter touch vocal style, whilst continuing to layer up the instrumentation. The song may not have the instant excitement provided by those that have preceded it, but it fits well into the narrative, and it segues into Bystander Effect featuring another female guest vocalist, Chrysa Tsaltampasi. Starting off with a pleasant melody accompanied by keyboards and saxophone, it soon takes a darker turn where the vocals and guitar tones are turned up to 11. This cycle is repeated before a dynamic and frantic guitar solo closes off the track.
Open Veins features Cons Marg and wastes no time getting into its stride with some more in-yer-face heavy rock and shouty vocals. A great workout for the band that closes with a devastating and emotional pay off; “We’re dead inside but we’re left here alive, those who hold the keys to our prison are those who commit the crimes”. Closing out the album is the grand epic Last Reverie, with Panos Doucas. The first half of the track wouldn’t seem out of place on a Pearl Jam greatest hits set, and that’s a good thing, right? It then morphs into an extended guitar solo that plays out dramatically over a heavy bass and drum rhythm a la Pink Floyd. Great stuff.
The whole album is, for all sorts of reasons, attention grabbing. It is fair to say that some ideas work better than others, but the pacing and the sequencing of the songs keeps the listener fully engaged. This album is highly recommended, and the band is well worth a follow to see what comes next.
01. Suicidal Hornets (feat. Mars Blackbird) (3:50)
02. The Great Unknown (feat. Tryfon Baitsis) (4:30)
03. Always A Waterfall (feat. Moss Doe) (4:19)
04. Reasons (feat. Jon Voyager) (7:08)
05. Aura (feat. Meliana Karta) (5:56)
06. Bystander Effect (feat. Chrysa Tsaltampasi) (5:31)
07. Open Veins (feat. Cons Marg) (5:49)
08. Last Reverie (feat. Panos Doucas) (9:00)
Total Time – 46:03
Kostas Konstantinidis – Guitars, Guitar Synth
George Baltas – Drums
George Filopelou – Bass
George Theodoropoulos – Keyboards
Alex Kiourntziadis – Violin
Babis Prodromidis – Saxophone
Record Label: Blueberry Productions Co.
Country of Origin: Greece
Date of Release: 17th November 2022