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Mastermind: Broken (EP)

New Jersey based progressive metal/fusion veterans Mastermind awake from their dormant slumber with the EP Broken. Actually, it's a pretty long EP, at nearly 45 minutes long, but it's a perfect way to hold their long waiting fans over till they return with their next full length opus Insomnia, which hopefully should see a release date sometime mid-2006. Actually, the band has been busy working on this one for quite some time, carefully revitalizing the new line-up of the band and searching for a record deal. On board along with the brothers Berends Bill and Rich are lead vocalist Tracy McShane (who has actually been with the band a few years now but this is her first recorded appearance) and bassist Laura Johnson.

The band has morphed their sound a bit over the years, as originally they were a pretty bombastic prog-rock ensemble that slowly started to take on some hefty fusion and metal styles. Today, they incorporate all these styles into a pretty unique and enjoyable sound, with the soaring and strong vocals of McShane leading the way alongside the blistering guitar work of Bill Berends, and the tight rhythm of Rich Berends and Laura Johnson. This EP consists of 8 tracks, the first two being the CD single "Broken" and the B side "Break Me Down", both to be featured on the forthcoming album Insomnia. "Broken" starts off with some nifty "Tom Sawyer" sounding synths before the heavy guitar riffs come pounding in with McShane's angelic vocals. Her voice is gold, and Mastermind's best bet is to exploit her talents, which are very evident on this heavy yet catchy and progressive sounding song. The B side track "Break Me Down" is more of a gothic metal piece, less catchy, but containing some crunchy guitar riffs, synths, and effective male and female backing vocals. Berends' guitar solo on this one is technical yet full of emotion and fire.

The remainder of the songs make up the EP section. "Weak and Powerless" is a cover of A Perfect Circle song, given a new twist thanks to the vocal from McShane. The next few tunes are live rehearsal versions of Mastermind classics, like the blistering metal/fusion of "The Queen of Sheba", the instrumental prog classic "William Tell Overture" (which sees the Berends brothers and Johnson just ripping with exhuberant frenzy) and the metal ballad "A Million Miles Away", one of Mastermind's best ever vocal tunes, featuring a great lead vocal from Tracy. As if a tribute to the recent Cream reunion shows (and those who are familiar with Mastermind know they are long time Cream fans) the band rips into a bluesy rendition of "I'm So Glad", complete with some stunning guitar pyrotechnics from Berends. The final cut is an extended version of the song "Broken".

Broken is an enjoyable teaser to the band's upcoming full-length, and a sure reminder to all fans of the band just how much they have been missed on the scene the last few years. Let's get that new one out soon guys-the world is waiting!

Track Listing
1. Broken (4:22)
2. Break Me Down (3:30)
3. Weak & Powerless (5:00)
4. The Queen of Sheba (9:02)
5. William Tell Overture (3:11)
6. A Million Miles Away (7:51)
7. I'm So Glad (4:58)
8. Broken (extended mix) (5:35)

Added: January 17th 2006
Reviewer: Pete Pardo
Related Link: Mastermind Website
Hits: 5030
Language: english

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Mastermind: Broken (EP)
Posted by Ken Pierce, SoT Staff Writer on 2006-01-17 14:53:50
My Score:

It's been too long for fans of Mastermind, the Progressive Rock/Fusion outfit from New Jersey and now the wait is over with some new material and a couple of surprises that make up the EP release Broken. Holding at 8 songs this is an EP that does not disappoint existing fans and was a lot of fun to listen to for new fans such as myself. The lineup remains at 4 core members, and while she has been part of the band for over a year now this will be the first recorded work for bassist Laura Johnson. Guitarist Bill Berends is on top of his game with this one and those who had wondered about the long wait will be pleasantly surprised. The rhythm of drummer Rich Berends (Bill's Brother) and Johnson is solid and lead singer Tracy McShane shines all over the recording. "Broken" begins a lot like "Tom Saywer" by Rush almost as if the band was offering props to the Progressive Rock giants. The track is hypnotic and is destined for heavy rotation is the right people are paying attention to the release. "Break Me Down" is more on the Gothic side and can stand along the likes of Lacuna Coil. The remainder of the album is essentially the band treating you to some fun. There are covers of a classical piece in "William Tell Overture" and you can literally feel the fun that the band is having with this energetic rendition right through your speakers. There is also a cover of A Perfect Circle's "Weak & Powerless" and it was interesting to hear a strong female vocal to it. I think Maynard himself would be pleased with it. "I'm So Glad" is a heavy rock/blues version of the Cream classic. Given the bands recent reunited tours this holds strong to the times and to Masterminds own love of the Clapton, Bruce, Baker juggernaut. Fans and newbies will be interested in knowing that several tracks were recorded live in the studio and they are indeed very strong in their presentation on the EP.

The CD is enjoyable and best played loud and a recommendation for fans of classic Hard Rock and Progressive music. It serves as a fine teaser for the bands forthcoming and at present independent release.

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