Archive for the 'Mastermind' Category

Mastermind III: Tragic Symphony 20th Anniversary

November 20th, 2014 | Category: history,Mastermind,music,News

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.

click for larger image

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.

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March 2014 update

March 03rd, 2014 | Category: Mastermind,News

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.

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New & Improved Mastermind Webstore

October 10th, 2013 | Category: downloads,Mastermind,music,News,website

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 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

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September 11th, 2013 | Category: history,Mastermind,music,News,video

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

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Insomnia online

September 06th, 2013 | Category: Mastermind,News,video

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)

Available from iTunes | CDBaby | Lion Music | read the reviews

Thanks for listening! More to come.

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Video archives – Electric Factory with Joe Satriani

June 20th, 2013 | Category: history,Mastermind,music,News,video

Some video from back before the digital revolution, a few clips from the Electric Factory concert in 1997 opening for Joe Satriani. The playlist should run thru all four videos for you.

More to come. Enjoy!

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2013 – Bill Berends solo album “In My Dreams I Can Fly”

January 28th, 2013 | Category: downloads,Mastermind,music,News

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.

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June 2012 Update

June 20th, 2012 | Category: blogging,history,Mastermind,music,News

I can’t believe it’s been a full year since I’ve made any kind of commentary on the state of Mastermind. Since we haven’t been actively performing live I guess there isn’t much to talk about, but I do update things more frequently over on my personal web site. Please take a moment to visit and check the News link for the most recent updates on

Our most recent Mastermind release Insomnia (2010) received a lot of nice reviews and we all thought it was a pretty good album! But with the state of the record business today combined with no live support, I don’t feel like it reached its potential. A shame really, because there is some nice stuff on it. If you still haven’t purchased a copy, I hope you will consider it. Visit the Mastermind store for details. Prices have recently been lowered as well.

2012 marks the 25th Anniversary (!) of the first Mastermind release Volume One and I would like to do something to commemorate the occasion. Twenty five years is a long time and although I am certainly not in the same headspace as when we first set out, I am still proud of these works. I still hear from fans all around the world and am extremely grateful and appreciative of their continued interest in what Mastermind produced. It is gratifying to know we reached so many people over the years. Thank you all.

Over the past 25 years there have been many changes: in personnel, in approach, in purpose. The saturation of the prog-rock market place. The never ending battle with other people calling themselves ‘mastermind’. You would think the internet and Google search didn’t exist in some parts of the world! But these morons severely diminished our ‘brand’ value in the market place. Unfortunately. Trying to accommodate other people in an effort to hold a band together. It is exhausting. But more significantly, changes with the music buying public in the 21st Century have made it extremely difficult to get ahead with recorded music which makes the challenge of presenting new original music all that much more difficult. All of these things have been contributing factors to our apparent disappearance.

Mastermind as a living, performing entity basically came to an end in 2007 after twenty years due to the loss of personnel. That was really the final blow in many ways, although we did go on to release another album in 2010. I just didn’t have the mental wherewithal to begin again from scratch. Combined with the geo-economic limitations of finding new players and difficulties getting the Insomnia album released properly, I needed to shift gears and step back from the situation. However, that doesn’t negate our past as if it never existed.

If someone were to approach us with an economically viable proposition I’m sure we could pick up and be rolling again in no time. Just putting that out there. But it isn’t something I have been actively pursuing for a variety of reasons. Not the least of which is Rich simply doesn’t have the time these days, and going out and playing all the old tunes again doesn’t really appeal to me as much as creating something entirely new.

Having said all this, I haven’t stopped making music for one second. Rich and I went on a tangent for a few years playing classic rock locally as The Berends Brothers Band and it was good fun. For a while. It took me back to why I began playing music in the first place and concentrating solely on guitar has made me a better player I think. We can still do that at the drop of a hat… but after five years, once again I feel like it is time to move forward.

I have to admit I am pretty disappointed with some people who I thought were friends and supporters, deserting us simply because… what? Because we tried some new things? Adding something new to the equation doesn’t delete the whole formula. But that’s just the way it goes I suppose. We’ve also met many new, enthusiastic fans and friends over the past few years, so I guess it equals out. I’m sure we’ve confused a lot of people along the way.

This really isn’t a lament so much as reflecting, although there are some things I regret. Ultimately, I would much rather struggle with creation than be stuck regurgitating the past. Do that thing that you do. Giving recitals, essentially. Even if that creation doesn’t fit neatly into a prefab marketing niche. I guess that is my cross to bear for following the muse.

Wrapping up I will mention a few things in the works. My first “Bill Berends” solo album is nearly complete and I plan to get that out there this year sometime. I also have a vast wealth of new material in waiting as well as writing new music on a fairly consistent basis. I just need to work out a reliable method of presenting it without simply giving it away for free. I don’t accept the ‘new paradigm’ and refuse to do that. I’ve worked too long and too hard.

There IS some new music also, that is obviously meant to be new Mastermind material. Either a final chapter or a new beginning. Hard to say which at this point. We started demoing it a a while ago, but things kind of ground to a halt for various reasons. One way or another, I intend to see it completed. I also intend to at least present some of the archives before the end of the year to commemorate the 25th Anniversary of the Mastermind band. How things will pan out in the future remains to be seen, but I hope some of you will come along for the ride. Again, many thanks for your interest in my music and Mastermind.

Bill Berends

ps: drop us a line, leave a comment. We’d love to hear from you.

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Japanese tsunami benefit album

June 18th, 2011 | Category: Mastermind,music,News

As mentioned in a few posts below, Mastermind has contributed an exclusive, brand new instrumental track to our current label, Lion Music’s Japanese earthquake and tsunami benefit album which was released on CD Friday June 17, 2011. This is a two CD package with a plethora of artists from the Lion Music label and more, consisting entirely of tracks created and donated specifically for this effort.

We are honored to be a part of this project as the fans in Japan have been very good to Mastermind over the years. I personally was horrified when I first heard the news as I have maintained many friendships in Japan and am still in close contact with a few. Watching the images come in from these devastating events literally keep me awake at night. I was quite relieved to learn over time, none of my friends were hurt, but not everyone was so lucky.

Our track “Time Stands Still” was written and recorded in April 2011 specifically at Lion’s request for this album. At first I felt something dark and tragic might be appropriate as that was how these events made me feel… but then I thought, why add to the misery? So what we came up with is more upbeat and positive, but you can feel the tension grow as it builds to the moment when… time stands still.   I can only imagine the horror.

You will have to buy the CD (or download it [legally, hopefully]) to understand what I am describing. In a technical sense, like the earliest Mastermind recordings, it was just Rich and Bill (yours truly) in the studio together. This was the fastest way to get it together and, as I’ve hinted around at in earlier postings, another step towards a new musical future. I will say that if you are a fan of the Excelsior! album, then this track should appeal to you.

In any case, it is a worthy cause and all proceeds from the album sales will be donated to the Japanese Red Cross. We hope you will choose to help out by checking out our latest musical offering. Our hearts go out to the suffering in Japan. Japanese are a strong people and shall recover, but there is a long way to go yet. This effort may not turn the tide of history, but every little bit helps. Won’t you help out by purchasing a copy?   Thank you. -Bill

Check out this 5 star review on YTSEJAM.

Order yours now from CDBaby.

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Rare track

June 16th, 2011 | Category: downloads,history,Mastermind,music,News,video

While recording a new Mastermind track exclusively for the upcoming Lion Music Japanese tsunami benefit album I was reminded of another track we recorded many moons ago. An instrumental entitled “Miles To Go Before I Sleep” exclusive to the 3rd Cyclops Records (UK) label sampler and never released anywhere else. It seems as relevant to us now as it did 15 years ago. Since it’s a youtube world, here’s a quick video to keep your eyes happy as well…

We have now made this track available again for the first time since 1996 on our bandcamp download page…

We hope you enjoy it and also hope you will check out the tsunami benefit album, primarily because it is a very worthy endeavor! But also because, much like this track, it is another exclusive instrumental piece we are quite pleased with and want you to hear. It might almost seem like these one-off recordings mark turning points in our musical direction… could be!

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