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(41:00, MALS Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Roller Coaster 5:16 2. Natural Disaster 5:17 3. Summer Morning 3:25 4. In Pursuit of a Black Pearl 5:31 5. Traffic Jam 5:14 6. Reminiscences 5:30 7. Fast Food 3:32 8. Dedication 7:15 LINEUP: Grigory Kurnosov Ц guitars Vitaly Zotov Ц bass Vyacheslav Bessonov Ц keyboards Roman Gorodnyansky Ц drums
Prolusion. The Russian act MIND PORTAL was formed in 2009, and quickly got down to the task of writing and recording its own material, first and foremost with guitarist Kurnosov as the creative prime mover. A total of 8 pieces were singled out and recorded, and in 2010 these were assembled on their debut album "1/1", which was issued by the Russian label MALS Records.
Analysis. From time to time you encounter bands that are really hard to place within a contextual and stylistic context, bands that don't really carve out any new or daring niches within any musical universe, and who don't really focus on any particular style either. Instrumental quartet Mind Portal is an example of such a collection of artists and the easiest way to describe their work may be to mention their stated influences: Dream Theater, Liquid Tension Experiment, Dire Straits and AC/DC, and to point out that traces of all of these rather different acts are easily and readily heard on this production. While bass and drums mainly provide a solid platform for the excursions at hand, guitars and keyboards are the instruments that share the dominant role throughout, in a great variety of ways, too. Compact, staccato riffs supported by swirling keyboards or guitar soloing representing one of their outer extremes and gently resonating guitar licks with a dampened keyboard texture placed way back in the arrangements the other. Within these outer boundaries the band has a field day in crafting themes and motifs that span rock as well as metal territories, often opting to dampen any contrasting elements while emphasizing the harmonic and melodic details of their endeavors. Apart from a variety that covers most ground between Dream Theater and Dire Straits, where tight interplay between guitars and keyboards is a striking and important facet, the flow and momentum of these compositions may arguably be the main strength of this band. It can alter pace, energy and arrangements at the flick of a switch, but always in a neat, natural and organic manner. Riffs are added and subtracted with ease, guitars and keyboards take turns soloing without any abrupt or dramatic effects added in to smooth the operation, venturing from a gentle resonating piano and guitar theme to a more massive and majestic one that may recall Dream Theater handled with expert calm and a fluency many would envy them, rather smooth and slick, but created that way without ever coming across as easygoing or lightweight. There's an obvious high level of musicianship involved here, and while the production so far may be just a bit too slick and thus perhaps lacking an even higher level of quality, there's no doubt that this initial effort is a strong one, of the kind where I'd expect even better things in the future.
Conclusion. If you have a soft spot for bands taking on a great variety of expressions, resulting in a smooth and superficially simplistic-sounding but highly fluent sonic landscape featuring nifty details and a clever blend of rock, art rock and progressive metal, Mind Portal is a band you might want to investigate further. Its efforts can't really be said to break any innovative musical ground, but the high quality of the compositional and instrumental skills makes this a worthwhile experience for those whose musical tastes are inclined to enjoy material of this kind.
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