Here's my other Italian submission for this week, which also came out in late February. Mindfar is a progressive metal project and this is their second album, after 2017's The Dark Tower, which appears to be a concept album based on the Stephen King series of the same name. Prog metal fits what they do, but it's a little misleading, because they don't sound at all like Queensrÿche or Dream Theater. Where they grabbed me was on The Eye of Ra, because it starts off ethnic and instrumental but ends up with a vocal to and fro between two singers that's reminiscent ofthe Doobie Brothers.
The most obvious influence to me was folk music though. It creeps on in with Heroes and Wonders but really announces itself with One Prophet, which often sounds mediaeval in aspect, before it turns into a ritual. The folkiest song here is Walls, which grows into a power metal song with bombast out of the Blind Guardian songbook, but that folk aspect never really goes away. It's there in Beyond the Edge of the World, where it's tinged with some Wishbone Ash. It's even there in Rapsodia, which is a classical piece presumably played by a string quartet but evolves when the band plugs in halfway through.
And this makes for an interesting meld of sounds. Putting that classical piece aside, half the time this is old school folk rock like Wishbone Ash or even Jethro Tull, but the other half ramps up to European power metal in the vein of early Gamma Ray, without becoming quite that energetic. It grounds itself in the common ground and never really wants to escape it to soar free, even if it often comes close. If there's an underlying flaw here, it's that. I kept waiting for it to just burst loose and it never did, even if it gets regal and comradely and intricate.
This is certainly not what I was expecting from an Italian progressive metal band, especially from an album billed as a metal opera. Mindfar are a project of Armando de Angelis, who also plays guitar for a symphonic power metal band called Ghost City. I don't know how many instruments he plays on this album but I believe it's a lot, given that he's the only official member of the band. He didn't write the lyrics and he didn't step up to the mike, leaving the vocal duties in the hands of a set of international guests. He didn't perform all the music either, but I get the impression that the various guests didn't do anywhere near as much as he did on that front.
I don't know which voice is which, beyond Claudia Beltrame, formerly of Holy Shire, providing the sole female vocal. Certainly, Bruce Dickinson is not one among these five names, even though someone is able to do an eerily accurate impression. I presume they're all playing characters in this metal opera, but I didn't follow the lyrics closely enough to grasp the logistics of that. I had to look up that the idea behind the album has something to do with the evolution of the human race, perhaps helped by some aliens, given the album's title. The final song suggests that we did rather well out of our visitors, given its title of Ascended to Divinity.
I liked this album, which is easy to like, but I didn't love it. I get the feeling that, while I enjoyed it as it played, it's going to fade relatively quickly into the background of all the albums I review every year. I hope I'm wrong about that, but only time will tell. One Prophet certainly doesn't overstay its thirteen minute running time, remaining interesting throughout, and the album never feels too long either at a generous hour and six minutes. It's never boring but how memorable will it be?
I think that, if I wake up tomorrow morning with something from this album playing in my head, it has to be One Prophet. I liked Eye of Ra and Rapsodia a lot too, but I can't see it being anything but that long song, because there's just so much going on within it, from brass elements through piano to that chanted ritual and maybe sleep will sort it all out and then spit it out at me in little pieces. Let's see.