Mastermind - Volume 1

Year of Release: 1996
Label: Cyclops
Catalog Number: CYCL 037
Format: CD
Total Time: 56:00:00

Mastermind's core is the Berends brothers from New Jersey. Bill, who handles guitar, bass and song writing, implements a midi sound to his guitar that is very unique and powerful. Brother Rich keeps a powerful, bombardistic drum beat that keeps the sound moving. The band has used a entourage of guest musicians but recently have settled on Swede virtuoso key wiz Jens Johansson as a semi-permanent session player who tours with them when his first commitment to Fin prog metal band Stratovarius doesn't hold him back.

Mastermind's sound has always been a hybrid of fusion, jazz, symphonic progressive rock and heavy metal. Mastermind's first, Volume 1, is 56 minutes of blazing energy and sets the tone for a distinguished collection of works. The Mastermind sound has always been big - full of pomp and bravado. Their playing is so superb, like ELP, a band who they've recently covered, that they could put out a CD of scales and it would probably be interesting.

The fanfare fireworks of "Child of Technology" sets the Mastermind tone perfectly. An instrumental, it explores a variety of musical landscapes and nicely leads to the blazing trails of "On The Wings Of Mercury." Our first vocal piece arrives in "The Enemy Within," track three. I personally love Bill Berends light soprano voice. His pipes certainly don't kick ass, but he can carry a melody wonderfully. The moody synth-laced opening to "Tiding Of Battle" immediately cuts to some jarring metal riffs. The synths (played via trademark synthesised guitar) embellish and give the song the power that Mastermind is noted for. "A Call to Arms" is another vocal piece, not as strong as the first, but more of that Emerson meets Copeland Fanfare stuff. I love it.

A short pop/synth ditty leads to "Eye Of The Storm," one of the album's weaker tracks. The fusion piece, "Fanfare," finds the group in high gear. Brother Rick Berends wallops his kit on this one. And it's here where Bill's synth lead guitar is boldly featured. "Reach For The Sky" is a vocal rocker. There's been better but the song has some nice chops.

"One By One" has some nice strong keys and strong rhythm. The vocals suffer slightly here as the melody is so powerful Berends' voice can't compete. A fiery lead plays off some wonderful synth passages. Bill Berends is a master of interlacing these kind of sounds. The epic "War Machine" ends things off in mighty fashion. A droning synth opening would have benefited from the presence of stronger guitar. My chief criticism of this CD is that the traditional electric guitar riffs are not up front enough, almost giving too much room for the effective, but somewhat thin sounding synths. "War Machine"'s vocals are more of a chant than singing and perhaps the band should have dispensed with them altogether. Perhaps Bill felt that too often enough and chose to focus mostly on instrumentals in the works to come. That is, until they came across Goddess/singer Lisa Bouchelle.

Originally released in 1990 by ZNR (1001), and reissued also in 1996 by Prozone/Dutch East (PRO 396-2); distributed in Japan by Belle Antique.

Child Of Technology (5:50) / On The Wings Of Mercury (3:40) / The Enemy Within (4:14)* / Tidings of Battle (5:20) / A Call To Arms (5:10) / Long Distance Love Affair (2:55) / Eye Of The Storm (4:13) / Fanfare (4:50) / Reach For The Sky* (3:58) / One By One (3:52) / War Machine (10:29)
* reissue bonus track

Bill Berends - guitars, midi-guitar, vocal, bass
Rich Berends - drums & percussion
Phil Antolino - bass (live)

Volume One (1990)
Volume Two: Brainstorm (1992)
Tragic Symphony (1994)
Until Eternity (1996)
Live In Tokyo (1997)
Excelsior! (1999)
Angel Of The Apocalypse (2000)
Prog, Fusion, Metal, Leather & Sweat (2000)
Broken (ep) (2005)
Insomnia (2010)

Genre: Progressive-Power Metal

Origin US

Added: June 1st 2000
Reviewer: Richard Zywotkiewicz

Artist website:
Hits: 3076
Language: english


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