Break the Horizon
Released: 2016, BitterPill Music
Reviewer: Michael De Los Muertos
MirrorMaze is a progressive metal band from Italy that I hadn’t heard of before I received this release. Break the Horizon is their second album, following their 2012 debut Walkabout, which I haven’t heard. I will admit the first time I played Break the Horizon on speakers in my kitchen I was like, “Well, that’s all right, but not great.” Second play, through some really awesome headphones, made me change my mind.
Prog metal is in some ways delicate, dangerous Kryptonite. It has to be handled with extreme care, because one wrong move with it can turn it into an aural morass where all its nuances, strengths and artistry are lost in a jumble of noise that’s hard to distinguish from the best work of a mediocre band. This is why prog metal bands tend to fare poorly at outdoor festivals like Wacken—the strength of their sound is often lost in a live setting. Break the Horizon serves up a consistent smorgasbord of extremely complex songs with very intricate guitar work, layered melodies, crystal-clear production and the excellent vocals of frontman Gabriele Bernasconi. If you don’t sit down and pay close attention to it, though, so much of the sound gets lost. Break the Horizon is not the kind of album you play at a party when a couple of friends come over for beers.
I love the intro, “Breathe the Summer Breeze,” which is naturally slower and less heavy than the rest of the album, but it showcases the band’s talent. The complex melodies of “Worn and Torn,” especially complemented by the very good synth work, really grew on me with repeated listenings. “Into the Woods” has a fascinating moody opening that breaks into a classic-style prog metal journey that fans of bands like Symphony X will recognize and enjoy. There’s the requisite ballad (“Breathe Again”) that slows down the action a bit, but things kick up a notch with the next track, “The Poet,” possibly by favorite from this disc. This comes before the three-part finale, “Crystal” (“Part 1: Knowledge,” “Part 2: Summer Forever,” “Part 3: Ice 7”) which between the three of them totals 29 minutes and exhibits exactly the sort of spacey-sounding, technical epic guitar wankery and powerful vocals that you would expect from a band like this. Really the only thing I didn’t like about this album was the band’s tendency to throw in tempo changes just as you’re getting into the rhythm of a song. That’s not unique to this band by any means; for some reason prog metal often has a phobia of consistent tempos. It bothered me a lot on the first listen, but the closer attention I paid on subsequent spins I could get past it.
This is definitely not a band for everyone. But if you’ve got a lot of old Dream Theater CDs in your box and you’ve ever debated the musical structure of an Opeth song with one of your friends, MirrorMaze is well worth your time. I enjoyed Break the Horizon and recommend it.