Progressive metal – in this case with a definite rock edge – is a road into the hinterlands of heavy metal that can demand a certain amount of perseverance. There are plenty of bands that pull it off fantastically: Aryeon, Myrath, Symphony X and a host of other bands give the genre a powerful and respectable edge. But some of it is, frankly, tedious. Bands that are too comfortable with cliché or that require me to forgive their indulgences. Too ready to let the would-be virtuoso take the wheel and abandon the rest of in a sea of back beats and jazzy twiddling that leaves me feeling as flat as the music sounds. Luckily, Mythery (a combination of myth and mystery, I guess, rather than an ode to Toyah Wilcox’s speech-impediment defying hit single) have used their first full length to prove they can, for the most part, rise above any such temptation.
There are undoubtedly some rough edges here but the opportunity to state their musical case isn’t wasted. This is classic Dream Theatre-worshipping prog territory that threads and weaves with the ease of a band that already have an album or two under their belts. Broadly speaking, if every debut album was as well written as this the barrier to entry into the battle field of prog metal would surely be a little higher. The most notable step away from the pack is the use of a lead violinist Michala Høj whose haunting presence is as pervasive as the other more standard instruments and a welcome addition. There are, just in case you were wondering, lots of jazz influences, piano interludes and a grand five part finale that no album with prog ambitions should ever be without. But there is a ridged backbone and commitment to song structure that all serves to raise Mythery beyond some of its short comings.
In fact, this is more or less a concept album with the first chords of the fifth track, Part 1: Overture, setting the scene for the final 30 minutes with acoustic guitar accompanying the violin followed by guitars – purely part of the orchestra for Mythery than the main feature – and keyboards that would make any Dream Theatre fan feel warm inside. Each of the other four parts are, with the exception of oddly misplaced but thankfully infrequent Linkin Park-style rapping, pure, drifting prog with the lead singer and the sound of the violin criss-crossing the melody.
If you’re sensing a ‘but’ then, yes, there are a few niggles. Progressive rock can be a land of endless horizons with few heady peaks and dark crevasses. By that I mean the bits between the good bits can sometimes stretch out too far ahead of you. Jazzy interludes for me just make those moments stretch even more. I also struggled a bit with the vocals too and the some of the hooks just never quite hooked me in the way I think they intended. Have I been spoilt with the all too finely honed song writing, clean production and the vocal perfection that so many bands offer these days? Perhaps. But I think when a band sets out to put vocals and melody so firmly at the centre of its mission it’s important to bear in mind that the bar for vocalists is now pretty high. Some of this stuff would be challenging for any set of pipes, of that there is no doubt, but it just makes me think this band and this vocalist have not found their perfect match yet.
But perhaps there is also something appealing about an album from a band with raw talent and just setting off on their journey in times when each band wants to instantly polish itself into the next big thing. And there is something appealing too about a band that has most of the ingredients but has not quite mixed them in the right quantities yet. Mythery are a respectable outfit who, with a chance to settle into their own skin, will no doubt hammer down some of those issues.
(6/10 Reverend Darkstanley)