Mastermind - Prog, Fusion, Metal, Leather & Sweat

Year of Release: 2000
Label: StellarVox
Catalog Number: SV 2001-2
Format: CD
Total Time: 79:54:00

After being represented live in a few bootleg recordings, Mastermind did it their way, recording a Nearfest '99 concert with Lisa Bouchelle that featured a mixed bag of new songs, old songs and reworked songs, as well as material created especially for the concert. The result is a CD that stands out as one of the most interesting live recordings in the last decade at the best of times, and a superb musical journey in the worst.

Taken as a whole, only the two tracks from the recently released Angels Of The Apocalypse resembles the original tunes. The live sound is very clean and beautifully mixed. The performances are note perfect. As a style, it leans to the more symphonic style of Mastermind.

"On The Road By Noon" starts things out. It explores all of Mastermind's sounds and ends in a fusionesque climax. "The Approaching Storm" continues the instrumental approach, leaving Lisa Bouchelle time to prepare for her vocals. Remarkably, her unstated entrance is exquisitely unveiled in Renaissance style. "Tokyo Rain"'s voice stylings are nothing more than harmonies and chanting, yet, like Renaissance's Scheherazade, evokes Middle Eastern images.

The Highlight of the CD is "The End Of The World" from their latest studio release. It starts with a verse slower than the original, then blasts into an incredible display of song writing and performance. I love Bill Berends vocal support on the chorus. Also, Bouchelle's acoustic guitar even adds punch. The musicianship of Rich Berends, Bob Eckman (rhythm) and keyman Mickey Simmonds makes Mastermind unbeatable as a live group.

A fusion piece, "Sudden Impact" sounds jazzy enough to pass as a Chick Corea piece from the seventies. It cooks without letting up. The slow but steady "Decide For Yourself" follows. It has wonderful symphonics. Floating layers of string synth is ripped apart by Berends firm lead work. The song is one of Mastermind's best instrumentals. "A Million Miles Away" from Angels Of The Apocalypse follows. This is one of the band's most commercial songs, but it never betrays the group's progressive roots. I'm reminded of the best pieces from Babe Ruth or a less husky Stone the Crows.

"Sky Dancer" is a fusion of avant-garde, jazz, and ambient without the techno. The lead guitar is reminiscent of Al DiMeola during his electric days. At under six minutes, it's one of the short pieces of a very lengthy CD. This is followed by the 14 minute "When The Walls Fall." We hear some tasty acoustic lead, augmented by a spacey synth and staccato drumming. The music gradually builds to some great jamming with repetitive notes. Halfway through it's back to spacier sounds, then it erupts for a second half climax. "Jubilee", the encore, is also long. It sounds more like vintage Mastermind with Berend's midi guitar sound. There's a short drum solo where Rich Berends decimates his kit. The last five minutes include a masterful medley of classical/pop moments, Mastermind sounds and the end to a great CD.

At eighty full minutes, Prog, Fusion, Metal, Leather & Sweat is incredible value. There's not a weak song or performance anywhere. The sound is great and listening to Lisa Bouchelle's voice live, and the band's performance shows a band that has excelled at excelling. Here is a great Y2K progressive band, captured at the height of their glory.

On The Road By Noon (6:29) / The Approaching Storm (7:30) / Tokyo Rain (w/ vocal) (7:06) / The End Of The World (10:45) / Sudden Impulse (5:22) / Decide For Yourself (6:23) / A Million Miles Away (6:46) / Sky Dancer (5:40) / When The Walls Fell (13:55) / Jubilee (encore w/ Classical Medley) (9:51)

Bill Berends - guitars, midi-guitar, bass, vocal
Rich Berends - drums, timpani & percussion
Lisa Bouchelle - mezzo-soprano vocal
Mickey Simmonds - keyboards
Bob Eckman - 5-string bass

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: July 1st 2000
Reviewer: Richard Zywotkiewicz

Artist website:
Hits: 3793
Language: english


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