⭐ ⭐ / ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Prog rock, at its finest, can be glorious, dramatic, challenging, and fascinating.
At its worst, it can be bloated, dull, pretentious, and masturbatory.
mind egg has been called all of the above at one time or another in their improbable ten year career, but with even moderate commercial success, they’ve managed to silence their many critics and release their eighth(!) effort, the unfortunately titled In Service To Quai’k’l: The Harpyon’s Breakfast. While it’s unlikely to convert any of the naysayers, at this point mind egg doesn’t need it to.
It was 2004’s surprise “hit” “Tethered To Infinity” that gave the band worldwide exposure thanks to a lushly provocative music video featuring an up and coming animal trainer. The band abruptly did an about face, moving away from anything that could further link them to the success of that song while acknowledging its popularity by including it in their live performances.
Singer Hampshire conjures unseemly club fare one minute and a mellifluous ingenue the next as he inhabits the many vocal “personae” he creates, but some are given short shrift: this reviewer would’ve welcomed more from the odd “Varley” character and less from, well, the rest, but I’ve never been a big fan of the singer’s dramatics. Guitarist Centauri and bassist Rheinfelt seem just as nimble and proficient as always, their playing still more welcome and enjoyable than Hampshire. New drummer F.R. plays DJ and electronic magi quite well, the seemingly disparate approaches blending colorfully for the most part.
Some songs are catchy and exciting and make you want to listen to them again and again. There’s one of those songs on this record, believe it or not, but it isn’t (to my ears) the “single” “Frozen Social Waves” but the closing track, “Ice Sun Breaks,” a just under ten minute masterpiece of instrumentation, melody and vocal arrangement.
Ditching everything that’s come before it, the song lets a gorgeous pipe organ lead us into a four part harmony over a simple, driving groove that nudges and bounces more than insists or bullies. No more story lines, no more characterizations, dramatic readings or bestial seances, just pure aural confection. As a finale to the album it’s fitting, the cleansing release foreshadowed more than once, but as a song on its own it’s a gem, a tune that in anyone else’s hands would be a surefire hit if not in this country then somewhere. Maybe if the lyrics were less intelligent it would have been a smash. The band might not be sure how they feel about it yet, burying it until the literal last moment. Or perhaps it signals a new pop oriented direction from mind egg. If so, they’d better learn to come up with more accessible song and album titles.
Offering something new as well as more of the same, The Harpyon’s Breakfast keeps the status more or less quo. Fans will keep an eye out for the band’s summer tour with Metamorphic.