The two Spaniards behind “Mystery Timeline” have set out its concept as “the pleasure of searching”. Listening to it, there is a strong sense of personal reflection. Predominantly gothic and shadowy in atmosphere but often melodic in style, the duo use a number of tools which are at their disposal and use them in different ways. Sultry and deep male vocals contrast with the floating and ethereal contribution from his male counterpart. Two of the tracks are upbeat. The others evoke dark moods, mists, melancholy and in line with the album’s title, mystery.
One of the upbeat songs is the opener “Turn Me On”. This was a good choice to set us on our way. The electric guitar rolls on pleasantly and unthreateningly. The deep male vocals and the sullenness recall the sound and style of Tiamat. There’s a smooth change and momentarily the female vocals come in to haunt us before the song reverts to its original pop-type tempo. The other upbeat track on the album is “Let Your Desires”, an unremarkable rock song only enhanced by the floaty female vocals.
In fact it’s the slower and moody tracks where I found the most intrigue. There’s plenty of it. It was a bold step to place a slower, acoustic track second on the album but this is what Universal Theory do. I’m not normally one for slower tracks but “Timeline” works. Again Tiamat comes to mind thanks to the dark and melancholic mood. It’s very nicely sung and constructed. The guitar takes over in its quiet way and points us towards dreamland. “So now we’re here …”… I’m not sure about that. “Timeline” is timeless. “What Dreams Hide” didn’t really work, not because of the quality song but because of the fact that the female vocalist seems to be straining. I liked its mechanically dark rhythm though, and its orchestral section at the end which heightens the gloomy mood.
“A Conversation with Myself” is a very evocative and gothic concept. It is a very good song, my favourite on the album. The drum patters suggestively. The mood is sullen. The keyboard runs atmospherically in the background. The lady sings a reflective and tear-driven song. It’s quiet and beautiful, time for deep breaths. The guitar enters at the right moment and adds another delicate flavour to this heart-fluttering piece. The ambiance is magnificent. So it’s not surprising that “Enchantment” which follows is pedestrian by comparison to the richness we have just enjoyed. But it still has qualities. The steady and pleasing vocals, this time from the male half of the duo, are suitably languid. The nice instrumental sections fit in well with the calm mood. It builds up to a crescendo, but a calm one of course and one which is consistent with the patient and smooth structure. Darkness then descends as the sleepy “Grand Mystery” takes over. In spite of its languidity, there are copious riches here. The drums splash like gentle waves. The keyboards play a sadder than sad tune and the vocalist complements this mood. In common with this album as a whole, there is great balance. So it is with the final track “Maybe”. This song is typically reflective. There’s a shade of “A Deeper Kind of Slumber” about it. The male vocalist sings gloomily, making the air more sullen. The lady comes in for the chorus and raises this sultry piece to the heavens. The keys sound distorted. It’s like imagining a static scene and wondering what’s going on while peering into fog and feeling discomfort. Yet somehow it is comforting, and almost overwhelming in its quiet intensity.
As with all good gothic rock, it’s not just the songs but the complete atmosphere which defines the work. This is “Mystery Timeline”. Its transforming air of doubt and uncertainty is conveyed effectively by these two talented musicians. “Mystery Timeline” may be quiet but it is very powerful.
(8/10 Andrew Doherty)