Mindcage – Our Own Devices
Mindcage – Our Own Devices (2013)
Reviewed by Daniel Millard
Mindcage is probably a brand new name for almost everyone, though a bit of research turns up that the band has been around in some capacity for the last fifteen years or so. My introduction to the group came at ProgPower USA this year, where I was impressed enough with the single to pre-order Our Own Devices.
Upon receiving the album in the mail, my suspicion that this was to be no ordinary, rough-edged debut was confirmed. Expertly produced and boasting slick artwork and presentation, this album is not the work of rookies, but instead appears to be the realization of years of musical work and cooperation. Playing compact and uncannily effective melodic progressive metal, Mindcage fills Our Own Devices with a 2112-esque dystopian concept album in a clockwork/steampunk environment.
Spearheaded by Jeff Hignite’s high, clear voice and the riffing of Dietrick Hardwick, Mindcage shifts speeds routinely amidst its songs. Interestingly, the combination of vocal recording style and tone of the cymbals at certain points do indeed give certain songs (“The One Constant” comes to mind) a sharp, mechanical-sounding edge to their presentation. While I feel that opener “For All Mankind” is more of a middle-of-the road track, it does serve as a decent thematic introduction, and springboards effectively into the corking duo of “Our Own Devices” and “The Human Race” before mellowing out.
While Hardwick’s guitar antics sound like they belong in a heavy/power metal act, the syncopation and rhythmic support ground the band into a lightly progressive, melodic metal base. Progressive influences on this album are largely present in occasional (but never overwhelming) syncopation, occasional bouts of hemiola and short, tacked-on sections that flourish or embellish upon songs as a whole. Although I don’t find this album to be supremely hooky beyond a couple of tracks, the songwriting is unquestionably sharp and smart, and even if this isn’t constantly sing-along material or persistently head-bangable, I find it entertaining and engaging all the way through – especially with the lyrics booklet in hand.
A superb touch for this album is the inclusion of talented female guest vocalist Julie Westlake (Hydrogyn) in the role of Arabella Vash, the heroine of our harsh, machine-dominated concept, on several tracks. I don’t see Julie’s role listed on the band’s website or in the album booklet, and it’s a real shame, because she’s dynamite – complementing Hignite’s crooning with an graceful and not at all timid feminine counterpart.
Along with excellent single “The Human Race”, my favorite tracks include the title track and “Arabella’s Arc”. Fans of good concepts, especially steampunk themes, will have a grand time with Our Own Devices. Although it might be a little simple for the hardcore prog fans, I could even see the guitar work attracting some heavy/traditional fans with solid riffs and accomplished solos. By any measure, this album is a superb debut, and a successful mix of ambitious, modern heavy metal, progressive influences, and even a hint of power metal.
3.75 // 5