Blind Ego - Mirror

Year of Release: 2007
Label: Red Farm Music / Farmlands Music
Catalog Number: 47110815-12
Format: CD
Total Time: 61:07:00

Blind Ego is the side project launched last year by RPWL guitarist Kalle Wallner. You can hear echoes of his main band in some of the tracks of Mirror -- a dreaminess in the dreary, mournful "Moon And Sun," for example, a track that slowly unfolds with a depressed longing. Or the mid-tempo and jangly "Don't Ask Me Why," which recalls the most like recent RPWL, even down to guest vocalist John Mitchell sounding a bit like a huskier voiced Yogi Lang (who contributes keys and sound design but no (credited) vocals). This track may very well have been something left off World Through My Eyes.

But the group - John Jowitt on bass, Paul Wrightson on vocals, and Tommy Everhardt on drums, along with other guests - also plays in an expected, epic/neo-prog style, a la Arena. And yes, that might have something to do with Wrightson, and Clive Nolan, who contributes backing vocals to two tracks. And then there's the edgier, rawer, and heavier Blind Ego, with a sound that puts them right in a modern rock category, especially the opener "Obsession," which made me think of the Foo Fighters? And then there's the acoustic "Black Despair"? But this mix of prog rock and rock styles meshes together well, drawing upon the commonalities in each approach rather than highlighting their differences. And, even more importantly, the combination of seasoned players means that the execution of this album is quite tight. Although one must grant that the range of styles aren't all that divergent.

It's an album that looks inward - as the title suggests - looking into the dark places that we often avoid (and some should avoid). Therefore, this is not a happy album, even if "Break You" has an upbeat rock rhythm -- a scan of the song titles tells you that; "Obsession," "Black Despair," "Hollowed." "Obsession" is full of distorted guitars and, as clich? as the term is, driving drums and percussion ? and examines the dark psyche of a psychopath ? all with a catchy refrain of "I go too far." Some that seems sunny insinuates itself in your conscious, not unlike the Police did with "Every Breath You Take" -- there a song about obsession that so many took as a devoted love song. This has such an underlying sense of malevolence that one wouldn't make that mistake here.

The arrangement of "Break You," and the vocals especially, hypnotize with their repeated cadence (Mitchell), creating a spell only broken by the chorus. The instrumental bridge is tension filled with steady pulse of percussion; keyboard effects; distorted, churning buzz of guitars, and the sense that something is about to happen - that something turns out to be a sweetly violent guitar solo from Wallner. It's a track that sneaks up on you as a highlight, as it seems so understated for the most part, all part of its mesmerizing charm which during that aforementioned instrumental section leaves you feeling just a bit a uncomfortable. I should add, it's another track with a sense of malice, although it's a little more underplayed.

"Black Despair" begins with an instrumental, acoustic guitar solo before Paul Wrightson's intimate vocals enter. It's vary sparseness underscores its strong sense of loneliness and sadness - listen closely and the gloomy feeling becomes almost palpable. A crying guitar solo of the Gilmour type reinforces this even more? and yes, during this piece's instrumental section, there is a very strong Floyd feeling.

The stomping, fusiony instrumental "Open Sore" just tears it up, giving prominent focus to Jowitt and Eberhardt even as Wallner's guitar razors across the whole affair. Also a heavy instrumental, we find "Moorland" leavened by a singing guitar phrase that seems downright chirpy in comparison, and it sounds so familiar, like one has heard it before yet can't quite place it (and no not RPWL, not Floyd). This also contains some moody experimentalism at the outset, some watery keyboard effects (psychedelic, man) at one point, but is otherwise a throaty rocker that features keys and guitars more than anything.

"Hollowed" is atmospheric - audio effects create a harsh and dangerous environment - while the march of percussion and jangling guitar create a militaristic feel? this comes as an intro to (though not officially) the super heavy title track "Mirror." It's has a story-song feel that reminds me of The Visitor, though that just might have just as much to do with its arrangement as the presence of Wrightson on vocals and Clive Nolan on backing vocals (except Wrightson sounds more like Red Jasper's Davey Dodds here). It's a dramatic, epic piece that Arena are known for, though compressed into a mere 4:26.

This Arena-esque atmosphere returns in the gentle "Forbidden To Remain" (again, partly due to Wrightson), but it also draws upon a certain floaty, easy-going character found in, yes, RPWL. Here, too, we get some of the uncertainty found in "Break You," although the approach is different; a throaty, tight gurgling and muttering (perhaps keys, perhaps bass?perhaps both) percolates away underneath while guitar shimmers and shimmies on top. A sadly sweet soaring guitar solo sends this piece into the stratosphere? And you all know my fondness for soaring solos (and if you didn't, you do now). At just about 10-minutes, this truly can be called epic; the shifting moods and tempos certainly underscore that fact.

The bonus track, "Artist Manqu?," features guest vocalist and co-writer Mischa Schleypen on a piece that recalls latter day Marillion? well, mid-90s Marillion, and mostly a particular way that Schleypen rounds some notes is very Hogarth-like. Of course, this may be the most "neo-proggy" of the neo-prog-esque tracks. It is certainly the most pop-leaning of the album's tracks, with a sunny disposition that reminds me also of a lot of late 80s/mid-90s UK prog. A dash of IQ, and more than a dash of Pendragon (aside from members of each being present here).

This is more a departure from the RPWL sound than it is similar. Given that Wallner wrote (or co-wrote) each piece; that he and Lang recorded everything but the vocals; and it was mixed and mastered by Lang? it sounding Arena-like is a bit surprising. Nolan did record his and Wrightson vocals at Thin Ice, however. Nevertheless, this feels like a complete band album, not a guitarist album with session men trying to fill tiny holes; guitar is, naturally, at center stage among instruments, but it doesn't dominate or exclude the others. Much if it will appeal to the very same fans of RPWL, of the UK "neo-prog" scene (a term that has lost whatever usefulness it had, if any, I know), as well as those fans of so-called modern prog. "Obsession" and "Don't Ask Me Why" have a radio-friendly (in a good way) quality that would have them appeal to an even broader audience than that, even though it is the second longest at 8:12 (you know the pop crowd's/radio bureaucracy's fondness for short 'n' sweet songs). I'd have to say, my favorites have been "Break You," "Mirror," "Don't Ask Me Why" and "Forbidden To Remain." It's not an album that grabs you on the first few listens, but upon reflection (pun intended), its appeal is revealed -- it's a grower, it's a keeper.

Obsession (4:25) / Moon And Sun (5:09) / Break You (6:19) / Black Despair (6:48) / Open Sore (3:16) / Hollowed (1:27) / Mirror (4:26) / Don't Ask Me Why (8:12) / Moorland (4:14) / Forbidden To Remain (10:02) / Artist Manque (6:43)

Kalle Wallner - guitars
Tommy Eberhardt - drums
John Jowitt - bass
John Mitchell - vocals (1, 3, 8)
Paul Wrightson - vocals (2, 4, 7, 10)
Clive Nolan - backing vocals (2, 7)
Yogi Lang - additional keyboards & sound design
Stefan Obermaier - additional sound design
Mischa Schleypen - vocals (11)

Mirror (2007)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin VA

Added: February 11th 2008
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website:
Hits: 1117
Language: english


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