February 19th, 2015 marked the 5th anniversary of Mastermind’s 7th full length studio album release – Insomnia – featuring vocalist Tracy McShane’s album debut and Jens Johansson returning for his third outing with the Berends brothers progressive rock outfit. The darker, heavier sound is something of a departure from previous titles, but continues an evolution that began with the explosive instrumental fire of Excelsior, morphing into the female fronted symphonic prog-metal of Angels of the Apocalypse, and evolving yet further into something unusual and quite unique. This was a 21st Century Mastermind for sure, yet many elements of the Berends signature sound are still present and identifiable.
However, Insomnia almost never saw the light of day. After a long and arduous search for a suitable new label, the album was eventually released worldwide by Lion Music in Finland, run by Swedish guitarist Lars Eric Mattsson. Changes in personnel, changes in the record business, broadband internet, the global economy, all contributed to the delay. Most of the recording was done years earlier between 2002 and 2004 with two songs released as a preview on the Broken EP of 2005 along with several live tracks. Almost a full album in itself. The band gigged often during the early 21st Century building a receptive new audience on the live circuit, so a lot of the material road tested and gaining traction with new fans.
Some of the older prog fans didn’t really follow, but overall the album was well received and critically accepted (reviews) with many folks applauding a fresh new approach and some even calling it the best Mastermind album to date. Things being as they were, however, with departing members and frustrations with the business side of things, the band had ceased performing live by early 2007 and the album was released without proper live support even though the songs were being performed live during the preceding years.
It was never intended for this to be the last of Mastermind’s album output, but without finding suitable new players and no real support from the outside, Mastermind slipped into a coma of sorts and has been on indefinite hiatus since 2007. Bill and Rich continued to perform as The Berends Brothers Band and Bill Berends stepped out on his own with an instrumental solo album in 2012 and continues to create new music, some of which was – and yet may still be – destined to become Mastermind VIII. This my still happen at some point.
So it is somewhat with mixed emotion that we view things 5 years on. We made a good album that not enough people heard and it’s a shame we couldn’t manage to go out and support it live. For those who have listened and purchased a copy, we thank you for your support. Everyone else, get listening! As for the future… anything is possible.
Season’s Greetings and happy holidays!
Mastermind’s Fearless Leader Bill Berends has posted a new holiday video on his web site. Of particular interest to Mastermind fans is the second half of the video is based on a demo for a possible potential 8th Mastermind album. youtube.com/watch?v=it0eiZAeN7M
If you missed Bill’s FNP interview back in November (see below), the show is now archived so you may listen on demand: Friday Night Progressive: Bill Berends interview and award show. Mastermind fans may find some of the commentary enlightening.
Best wishes to all for a happy holiday season!
On Friday Nov. 28th Friday Night Progressive honors Mastermind guitarist Bill Berends with the “Indeprog Award” for outstanding prog artistry in recognition of his musical career and commemorating the 20th Anniversary of MASTERMIND III: Tragic Symphony. Featuring a candid interview with Bill, commentary, music & chat. Tune in live at 9pm EST (NYC time). All of us here would like to thank FNP for their ongoing interest and support. Thank you!
November 2014 marks the 20th Anniversary of Mastermind III: Tragic Symphony, the band’s third studio album. First released in Japan on Nov. 9th, 1994 on the Zero/EMI label, and a few months later in Europe, the USA, and Korea by various labels, Tragic Symphony was the first Mastermind album licensed and released worldwide, bringing the band to a much wider global audience. For many, this was their first introduction to Mastermind.
Twenty years ago today, on Nov. 20th, 1994, the original trio line up presented the premier live performance of the album in its entirety at ProgScape ’94 at Stephens Hall in Towson, MD to a receptive and enthusiastic audience. Many thanks to everyone who helped make this album a milestone in the history of Mastermind.
Home movie teaser of the Stephens Hall performance, 20 years ago today.
PS: The possibility of future lives shows is not out of the question, however, regarding the previous blog entry, the promoter was promising more than they could deliver and nothing came of it. Unfortunate, but never say never.
Greetings and thanks for looking in!
Mastermind has recently been approached about the possibility of playing some live shows this coming Summer of 2014. We are currently considering how that might work in terms of personnel, repertoire, logistics, and so on. We are enthusiastic about the idea, and if it seems feasible, we hope circumstances come together to make it possible. If you’d care comment below, your feedback and some show of support would be appreciated. If you would be interested in seeing this happen, please let it be known.
Meanwhile, winter of 2014 has been kicking our asses. Here is a video from Bill Berends solo album In My Dreams I Can Fly entitled The Longest Winter which seems appropriate right about now as yet another snow and ice storm bears down upon us. It has been brutal.
Once again, please join the mailing list to keep informed about what’s going on. Thanks.
Since the demise of Mindawn as our digital distributor, several Mastermind catalog titles have been officially unavailable anywhere online. This unacceptable situation has now been rectified by adding several new titles to our new & improved Mastermind Nimbit Webstore.
As physical CD’s released by Inside Out (Europe/USA) and Avalon (Japan/Asia) the discs have been out of print & sold out for some time with all rights reverting back to us. Thanks to the internet working for us for a change, the albums are again available as digital downloads.
We’ve made some pretty cool albums that still not enough people have heard! And since we’re not exactly competing in the trendy popular music charts, release dates are almost irrelevant for the most part. The music is timeless and could have been released yesterday.
Our Nimbit Webstore sample clips will give you a good overview of an album, but we’ll also be making albums available streaming in-full on youtube so you can enjoy them and fall in love with them. If you already know these albums; we love you! Now anyone can listen to them anywhere, whenever they please. Mastermind worldwide… for free! You can’t beat that.
The first featured album is Angels of the Apocalypse ….
Angels of the Apocalypse was a dramatic shift for us, adding a female vocalist and moving in a decisively more metal direction. It’s risky and experimental, powerful yet nimble, and quite unique sounding. Give it a listen and decide for yourself! Such wonderful performances from vocalist Lisa Bouchelle and Jens Johansson on keys are truly outstanding. I haven’t listened to this for quite some time now and have to say, it’s making my Mastermind juices flow. Mastermind juices… hahah. eww. Anyway, I am proud of this work, the music, and all the people we worked with in making it happen including my bro’ Rich Berends who’s feet were on fire making this one! Also remembering bassist and departed friend Bob Eckman. R.I.P.
The early Mastermind trio albums are all up on mastermind.bandcamp.com streaming in-full along with some exclusive digital-only releases. Our newest album Insomnia (2010) is under contract with Lion Music. Also check out Bill Berends new solo album In My Dreams I Can Fly.
Listen free! -> Love!! -> *purchase* <- thank you!!!
ps: please sign up to the mailing list for exclusive updates & more.
progressive metal, progressive rock, jazz-metal, acid rock
September 11th, 2001… I will never forget that day. Ever. I was awakened by the sound of Tracy McShane screaming out of my answering machine “Billy, Billy!! Turn on the TV!!!” I turned it on just in time to watch the second plane slam into the south tower. No words can describe how I felt as I watched the towers collapse, live on TV. Absolute horror.
Much of the Insomnia album was written and recorded in the time between that fateful day and the “shock and awe” attack on Bahgdad which I also watched in horror, live on TV. The days that followed were very surreal and unsettling. I tried to put it out of my mind.
Listening to this music takes me right back to that time and in many ways I feel like I have ignored it because of that – still wanting to put it all of it out of my mind. For those who never made the connection – and surprisingly, not one single review ever did – that is why the twin beacons were included on the inner sleeve artwork. It was the zeitgeist, the dark shadow that malingered over everything. We went as a band to ground zero not long after the attack, saw the beacons, witnessed the destruction up close. It felt… personal.
Although this piece of music Last Cigarette wasn’t written specifically with 911 in mind, it was always in the back of my mind. Looking back, I think it probably best captures how I was feeling at the time and even though it’s been 12 years now, it’s still hard for me to listen to sometimes. Along with some other personal issues, it was a very difficult time. I didn’t want to deal with it and because of that, combined with dramatic changes in the music business, it took years to see the album released. Insomnia almost never saw the light of day.
Musically speaking, this is my personal favorite on the album. The guitar solo-turn-duet with Jens Johansson’s brilliant counterpoint is probably my favorite musical moment. Looking back now with some objectivity, I still think we made a good, solid album. Life goes on.
-Bill Berends 9/11/13
Better late than never? Uploaded a few tunes from the Insomnia album on youtube so you can listen at your leisure anywhere in the world! It took a while to convince the label that maybe people should be able to hear some of the music from the hitherto “invisible” Mastermind album. Of course you’ll enjoy it so much you’ll go purchase a copy right away! Right? Right!
That’s the idea anyway. Here you go… Insomnia playlist (youtube)
Thanks for listening! More to come.
It’s been a while since things have been updated here. We all hope everyone had a nice holiday season and your 2013 is off to a good start!
We’re kicking off 2013 here with some new music from Mastermind guitarist Bill Berends. The Kickstarter campaign to fund the release (see previous blog entry) was a resounding success and Bill’s new solo album In My Dreams I Can Fly is available now. You can check out music samples and purchase CD’s or downloads on CD Baby and a variety of other sources.
Lots of melodic tunes and guitar work on this album, and although it’s more straight forward rock compared to Mastermind releases, so far feedback from Mastermind fans has ranged from positive to highly enthusiastic. Read the first review here for a more objective view and stop by CD Baby to hear some samples.
Prog-rock fans may know Jason Gianni, the drummer on this album, from his work with the Neal Morse Band. Jason is a real powerhouse and gives the album a different feel, making it more of a ‘solo album’ rather than a reworked Mastermind release. It’s generally an upbeat and positive sounding album… “Joyful” was the word Keiko Kumagai of Ars Nova used to describe it when she heard it. It’s also a good album to play in the car! It just may get you where you’re going a bit faster, so check it out.
In Mastermind news… there is no news really. There is a new album in the works, but it seems to be painfully slow going for a variety of reasons. But it will come, sooner or later. There is lots of new music written. The Berends Brothers Band has been playing a few old Mastermind tunes in their live set, but that doesn’t always go over so well in mixed company. Rich Berends has been playing with the Philly metal outfit “Frost Giant”, his son-in-law’s band, and Bill is gigging with Treasures of the Spirit Mahavishnu tribute, but there are currently no concrete plans for any future Mastermind shows. That could change.
If there was a good reason to get Mastermind up and running again it could be done. We could have a concert set ready to go in a fairly short period of time… make us an offer! But playing out locally as a progressive band, in all honesty, there isn’t much of a demand for it. So we will continue to make recordings and see where the road leads us. Never say never. Thanks for reading, check out the links above, and best wishes for 2013! -Bb
ps: Mastermind’s 2010 release Insomnia is also available on CD Baby now.