Wednesday 20 January 2021

Mindwork - Cortex (2021)

Country: Czechia
Style: Progressive Metal
Rating: 8/10
Release Date: 22 Jan 2021
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Here's another submission, this time from Prague in Czechia and a band who are back at it after seven years away. Mindwork formed in 2007 and issued two studio albums before calling it a day in 2013. I'm not familiar with either, but I do like the thoughtful sound of this short EP, which marks a return for half of the former band, Martin Schuster on vocals and guitar and Filip Kittnar on drums.

Metal Archives describes Mindwork as progressive thrash/death metal and maybe they used to be but I'd call this straight up progressive metal. Their cited influences—Death, Cynic and Opeth—are all bands who grew from one genre to another, so maybe they've followed suit. The most obvious of them here is Cynic. I went back to their Traced in Air album from 2008 and it played well alongside this, as if the two bands were sharing a mindspace. Mindwork do let their inner death metal band come out and play on occasion, but I didn't find any thrash here at all.

Most of what manifests as death metal here can be found in Schuster's harsh vocals, though he sings cleanly more often and his harsh voice isn't particularly demonic. It's probably the weakest aspect to this album. The mix, also courtesy of Schuster, is clinical and clear, even during the heaviest parts of Depersonalized and Grinding the Edges. There's no attempt to hurl a wall of sound at us or bludgeon us with brutality. This is intricate and technical and, while it often finds grooves for us to respond to, the point is obviously for us to be able to hear everything that's going on in these songs.

The worst aspect to the EP is that it's short. There are only three songs proper on offer here, none of them long, so it's a mere taster of what Mindwork are up to nowadays and I hope it points the way to a third studio album sooner rather than later. Intros and outros are plentiful and comfortable builds too. Nothing is rushed and each song has the patience to be what it wants to be, though every one of them is over within five and a half minutes. There are no epics here, though it seems clear to me that Mindwork could easily write a single coherent piece of music that stays interesting for as long as this EP runs.

Even in its quietest and softest moments, which are not restricted to those intros, this seems acutely metal, but there's an alternate feel to the clean vocals midway through Last Lie Told. While Cynic has the undying heart of whover wrote these songs, it seems to me that he's also clearly been listening to Tool. I have no idea where the drum sound in the last thirty seconds of this song came from, but it's a startling creation. I wanted this EP to sound thicker and heavier but, the more I listen to it, the more I like this mix.

At this point, I can't even tell you which my favourite song is. Initially, it was Grinding the Edges with no competition. Then it was Depersonalized, with a guest solo from Bobby Koelbe, who played guitar on Death's Symbolic album. Last Lie Told was the also ran, but it refuses to leave me alone and, at this point, it may well have become my favourite. At least it's duking it out with Grinding the Edges and it may end up as a split decision. Let's just say that it's the patient listener who will be rewarded most.

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