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  INSOMNIA album reviews (release date Feb. 19, 2010). CD available here!
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  • "you could describe this as what Dream Theater would sound like if they decided to recruit the lead singer of Evanescence... While this change in direction may alienate some of the band's purely prog fans... it never feels like the band is attempting to "sell out" thanks to its still-adventurous writing and interesting genre flirtations" -- Christopher Latta, (USA)

  • "I am saying this is Mastermind's best album to date." -- Peter Thelen, Exposé Magazine (USA)

  • "overall absolutely superb" -- Dead Earnest (Scotland)

  • "Insomnia is the band's seventh album and probably also their best..." -- Merlin Prog (Norway)

  • "a consistently entertaining album - check it out!" -- Metal Revolution (Denmark)

  • "better than ever... an impressive release from a band that have been away for far too long" -- Femme Metal (UK)

  • "a great collection of songs that are a nice active listen on an easy-going progressive rock evening" -- Lords of Metal (Holland)

  • "Mastermind has accomplished what few bands can - one listen and you are hooked." -- Unstoppable Force (USA)

  • Insomnia track "Broken" added to steady rotation playlist in the UK -- European Klassik Rock

  • "a sterling work. Welcome back Mastermind. Very recommended!" -- Danger Dog (USA)

  • "shivers down my spine... an original slice of rock music that will reward further with each listen" -- Virtuosity One (UK)

  • "a sonic roller coaster ride... heavy and modern... Mastermind re-invented themselves!" -- Ice Vajal (Germany)

  • "superb melodic rock/metal songs that will appeal to anyone from Nightwish lovers to Rush fanatics... a wonderful album"
        -- Raven Heart (UK)

  • "It's a grower... a consistently entertaining album" -- Metal Revolution (Denmark)

  • "Extraordinarily versatile, always intent on variety and on top of composition" -- Underground Empire (Austria)

  • "the most original and innovative music the world needs to hear. Bring Mastermind to a wider market" -- Imhotep (Norway)

    Broken EP (2005) reviews...

  • "Quality with a capital "Q" ... the rest have got a lot to do to do better than this..." - Dead Earnest (Scotland)

  • "It could easily become a major hit!" - DPRP (Netherlands)

  • "McShane's angelic vocal is gold... a sure reminder to fans how much they have been missed" - Sea of Tranquility (USA)

  • "Without a doubt, what we have here is a very stunning release" - Strutter Magazine (Netherlands)

  • "Guitarist Bill Berends is on top of his game with this one... Tracy McShane shines all over the recording" - Piercing Metal (USA)

  • "I find it very hard to believe that Mastermind isn't signed to a major label" - Metal Reign (USA)

  • Mastermind "Broken" - review by Shava for Metal Reign (USA)
    I have to begin this review with total honesty... I almost never like bands with female singers but damn is Mastermind the exception. Tracy McShane's voice is absolutely amazing. That being said, on with the review. Broken has the words "Single/ep" on the front cover but coming in at almost forty five minutes with eight (seven plus the remix) songs I would personally think of this as a full length album. The production quality of this disc is superb. The mix is excellent... each and every instrument can be heard clearly which is a big deal with me. A lot of the bands I've been listening to either sound like they have no bass player or worse. "Break Me Down" has to be my favorite song of the seven... dark and heavy just as I like it. It almost has a gothic edge to it in way of Switchblade Symphony except with a lot more balls to it. The same could be said about the title track. It's hard for me to think of bands to compare Masternmind to in order to give you an idea of what they sound like. They're very original and I'd safely say inovative. Bill Berends' guitar work is really exceptional... really, really good. I can't say enough good things about the guitar. Laura Johnson's basslines are really nice, especially in "The Queen Of Sheba" and "A Million Miles Away"... just across the board great. Rich Berends' drumming is extremely tight and on the mark throughout the entire CD. As already mentioned, Tracy McShane's vocals are just wonderful. I'm sure she's heard comparisons to Evenescence. Her voice is just powerful and fervent. If they consider Broken an ep I would love to hear a full length from this band. This is fantastic. I hope to see them live in the near future. I find it very hard to believe that Mastermind isn't signed to a major label yet.

  • Mastermind "Broken" - review at Jukebox Metal (UK)
    Remarkably this is an EP that’s longer than most artists’ albums. Clocking in at a shade under 45 minutes, classic New Jersey-based prog/power metallers Mastermind are already off to a good start with their “comeback” EP.

    Close to a million miles away from the progressive, symphonic pomp of their first four albums from the early ’90s, and certainly from their instrumental fusion album Excelsior!, the new look Mastermind are closer to their label-released power metal album Angels of The Apocalypse, their second on InsideOut Records, and their first with a female vocalist. Still led by the Berends brothers Bill (guitars and just about everything else at one time or another) and Rich (drums), and now with Tracy McShane replacing Lisa Bouchelle on vocals and Laura Johnson replacing the deceased Bob Eckman on bass, the band have never been heavier.

    They’re incredibly heavy on title track Broken, in actual fact. It’s laden with bass and crushing guitar, layered with wonderful lead parts. Tracy McShane’s powerful vocals are not too dissimilar to Lacuna Coil’s Cristina Scabbia and the overriding feel of this awesome single is one of heaviness and groove. The pace isn’t that quick, so the guitar solos are the sublime, searing kind you’d find on an Ayreon song , for example.

    B-side Break Me Down is also set to feature on the band’s new album, and shares the heaviness of Broken. It picks up the pace slightly for the chorus, but otherwise maintains the driving slowness of the a-side cut, while McShane’s vocals are even more dynamic. Second b-side Weak And Powerless is a cover of the A Perfect Circle song, and it sounds like it. APC aren’t a particularly inspiring band, especially given that they’re led by Tool main-man Maynard James Keenan. They just fall so far short of where they should be. The track just isn’t a very good song, and despite Mastermind’s best efforts, it’s still not.

    The next three tracks are recorded live and unedited in the studio. Starting with The Queen of Sheba, from 2000’s Angels of The Apocalypse album, and in terms of the chorus it’s not too impressive. It’s a little too nice and sweet. Almost happy-folk. However, wait a couple of minutes and the awesome musicianship of this band knocks you flat. The song becomes an eight-minute marathon of superb playing and singing that really needs to be heard.

    Bill Berends continues to demonstrate his skill with a near note perfect run through of the very famous, and very fast William Tell Overture (if you don’t recognise the title, you’re guaranteed know it when you hear it). Rich Berends and Johnson easily keep up to provide tight and equally competent backing to Bill’s lightning fast fret-work.

    The sublime returns with A Million Miles, also from Angels of The Apocalypse, which is a slow burner that builds towards the end, allowing McShane to again show what she can do (Berends doesn’t let the side down with more excellent lead guitar). Again spinning out to over seven minutes with a Dio-esque breakdown in terms of both vocals and music they slip in a quick bit of Cream’s Sunshine of Your Love riff before fading out with plenty of feedback. The Cream theme continues with a strong cover of I’m So Glad, adding much more power than the original had, with McShane and Berends sharing the vocals (Berends is a more than capable vocalist, having handled all lead vocals himself during the late ’90s).

    The EP closes with an extended mix of the title single, adding a little additional instrumentation (this is probably the version fans of the genre will consider the definitive one, but the shorter version is actually set to appear on the finished album).

    At the moment, there probably isn’t a melodic power metal band around that are as heavy and utilise as much groove as Mastermind while maintaining this level of technicality. Often the emphasis is on speed to demonstrate prowess, and while that is often impressive, it only remains so for a short time. Bands that are able to play both sides of the pace coin are much more awe-inspiring for a lot longer, and Mastermind have that potential. On the strength this EP, the album should be one of the strongest of the year. It can only be hoped that a friendly label like Nuclear Blast (desperately in need of a replacement for Primal Fear, who’s appalling decision making has taken them to Frontiers) picks up the finished record and markets it for what it will undoubtedly be worth."

  • Mastermind "Broken" - review by Jerry Lucky (author "The Progressive Rock Files")
    Whenever I hear the name just takes me back, back to a time where I was rediscovering Progressive Rock music in the mid eighties. I still have their first recording as it was originally released, on cassette. Those were the days, eh? Even then Mastermind were in a league of their own. Their brand of prog was of a decidedly heavier nature. And yet in a time of arena rock it was distinctive. There were hardly any others taking that direction in the prog world. And as each CD was released they took that style another step forward. Jumping ahead over twenty years and we have the latest offering from Mastermind, which is quaintly called a CD single/EP however it contains forty-four minutes of music, the length of a full vinyl release.

    The eight-track CD has been put out in preparation of the band's next full length album and features a new lineup since their last studio effort. As always there's the brothers Berend, Bill (guitar, synth, vocal) and Rich (drums) and then newcomers Laura Johnson (bass, vocal), and Tracy McShane (lead vocals). The first two tracks are actually from the band's next album, tentatively entitled INSOMNIA and feature keyboardist Jens Johansson. One of the things that stands out about this release is that it has a very intentional live feel and to that point four of the tracks were actually recorded live in the studio providing us with a more basic and direct Mastermind. As the liner notes tell us this is what the band would sound like if they were playing in your living room.

    As is always the case with a Mastermind recording, there is an intense amount of musicianship. Bill's guitar, in tandem with the synths literally blazes a trail of notes over the rumbling bass and pounding drums. Because of the live manner of recording a lot of the material here has an almost stripped down feel to it and yet when the band launches into the "William Tell Overture" it works very well. Two of the songs allow the band to stretch out a little. "Queen of Sheba" clocks in at nine-minutes and "A Million Miles Away" is just under eight-minutes but even in those pieces the band refrain from overt complexity, relying instead on driving the core melody home. And certainly the lead off title track "Broken" delivers the goods in the melody department. It even comes in two versions, both of which sound great.

    The overall tone of Mastermind these days, especially when the keyboards take a backseat is very much a darker, moody, almost gothic sound. Of course the million dollar question of where do they fit into the current progressive rock world will always be asked. There's no question existing fans of the band will thoroughly enjoy this interim release and eagerly await the full album. I would suggest fans of any prog-metal will find Broken something that sits easily on their CD players. Fans of the Mastermind's more symphonic side may want to wait for the full album, but on the other hand this CD Single certainly provides an interesting, almost behind the scenes look at Mastermind "in the works."

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  • Live review from a recent pub gig.

    Angels of the Apocalypse Various Angels of the Apocalypse reviews :
    @ Progressive World (USA)
    @ Enigma (Japan)
    @ Dutch Progressive Rock Page (DPRP)

    "Great job once again!!!" -- Mike Portnoy (Dream Theater)

    Some Excelsior! reviews :
    @ Stormbringer (UK)
    @ Dutch Progressive Rock Pages (DPRP) 9.5 out of 10!

    "I really love the stuff... the playing & writing is awesome." -- Mike Portnoy (Dream Theater)

    "Probably the best instrumental album of the decade!!!! " -- Torben Askholm (Hard Rock & Metal Area, Sweden)

    Progressive World reviews of Mastermind titles:

    Following are some reviews for the link impaired.....

    GuitarNoise review of Angels of the Apocalypse by A-J Charron 2001-09-01

    Now this isn’t your typical Heavy Metal band. The first thing that hits you is the superb guitar work. Bill Berends is as comfortable working on an acoustic guitar as he is on an electric. Throughout the album, he comes up with so many different styles that make the whole work all the more interesting.

    The next thing to hit you, if you don’t know the band, is the surprise of a female vocalist. Lisa Bouchelle has a voice you’ll remember. Rather low for a woman, but very rich and evocative. A certain resemblance to Pat Benatar’s on the high notes, but the resemblance stops there. Beyond that point, I don’t think her voice bears any resemblance to anyone else’s. I could go on listening to it for hours. The band made an excellent choice by picking her out as vocalist. Not enough women in this kind of music. I hope we can listen to her again and again for years to come.

    My favourite moment on the album is the 9th song, “The Endless Enigma”. This is a remake of the 1972 opening song off Emerson, Lake & Palmer’s Trilogy album. I applaud Mastermind’s effort at having chosen such a complicated piece. Then again, considering the caliber of musicians in this band, they certainly were able to do it.

    The second movement of the song differs quite a lot from ELP’s though, as Mastermind, driven by keyboardist Jens Johansson, go through a medley of ELP material, including “Fanfare for the Common Man” and parts of “Rondo”. There’s also, as the second movement ends, the use of the original tape from “Are You Ready, Eddy?” with the spoken comments “Ham or cheese!”. The whole piece also ends up with the finishing stereo piece from ELP’s “Karn Evil 9, third impression”.

    I can’t say enough good about this album and, particularly, the musicians involved. A skilled keyboard player, drums pounding for a reason. Guitars that resound. Great choice of songs. Superbly done. An excellent acquisition for anyone’s collection.

    Angels of the Apocalypse - Roughedge review by Christopher J. Kelter

    Mastermind is the creative force of Bill Berends and "Angels Of The Apocalypse" is the band's sixth album. For the uninitiated, it might seem that the title would make this a death metal album, but nothing could be further from the truth. This is stellar progressive metal with a variety of influences and sounds thrown in for good measure. Mastermind has combined the best of '70s progressive rock (with obvious inspiration from Emerson Lake and Palmer) to today's progressive masters (Dream Theater) with the overall result of "Angels Of The Apocalypse" being a very pleasing production from beginning to end. There's well over 70 minutes of material here so there is a lot to digest, but it is exciting throughout. Classical threads, Middle Eastern melodies, guitar histrionics a la Steve Vai, and strong musicianship make "Angels Of The Apocalypse" a great disc.

    Bill Berends has considerable guitar talents evoking the sound of such greats as Ritchie Blackmore and Al Di Meola as well as the fluid modern style of Vinnie Moore into one formidable whole. Berends utilizes the midi-guitar to gain a full range of sounds. At times intricate and at other times pure rock, Berends' guitar work is chock full of substance and fire. The complexity of the music is not a threat to Rich Berends (yet another team of brothers who can really rock). Rich Berends' drumming, thanks to the very good production, can be heard at all times and adds new colors at each and every turn.

    Vocalist Lisa Bouchelle, recently added to Mastermind, is impressive with her flowing vocals that are as unique and as they are powerful. Bouchelle's great vocal on "A Million Miles Away" is one of the better performances I've heard by a vocalist in a long time. Unbeknownst to me when I received this CD, however, was a secret weapon lying in wait. Mastermind's secret weapon is Jens Johansson. Johansson, who cut his teeth playing with Yngwie Malmsteen in the late '80s and early '90s, plays keyboards with confidence and his presence elevates the CD to levels of greatness.

    "Angels Of The Apocalypse" is heavy enough to satisfy most metal fans and not so heavy as to alienate those who only like progressive rock. I highly recommend Mastermind for those who can't get enough of Dream Theater, Rush, and other heavier bands in the progressive and art-rock scenes.

    Concert review from Perptual Motion

    I was able to see Mastermind play at Powermad 2000 and back then I was really impressed with the band and the songs were real cool, and the talent was incredible...Lisa was good. The new frontwoman, Tracy McShane - was really good at the last show they performed in NJ opening for Symphony X. Good voice and stage performance and added a different texture to the band, which I would say is an improvement and made them that much better...and they are all very cool people, I got to hang out with them backstage and their level of professionalism just floored me. Can't wait til I can catch another set!

    Concert review from Perptual Motion

    ...some of the classiest (and proggiest) music at Powermad. I thought they were GREAT. Kind of like ELP meets neo-prog meets metal. And I agree...the guitarwork was absolutely inspired. Not shred...but then flash isn't all there is to guitar soloing. Gilmour rules and he's certainly not a shredder. Mastermind kicked ass that night.

    Angels of the Apocalypse (2000) InsideOut Music Review by Matthew Braymiller

    Wow, what a disc! Once more Mastermind have put together their unique blend of fusion laced progressive metal that defies any predefined niche. Rather, their sound spills over into multiple genres making it uniquely their own. Adding a vocalist and over tracking her voice into several harmonic layers and then incorporating her into the mix of organized chaos makes for a stunning disc. Every aspect of the music shines. The guitar and keys weave and dance together on one track, wage war on the next. The complex interweaving of the acoustic guitar on "2000 Years" works so nicely against the heavier rhythm guitar in the background. The vocals move from powerfully standing center stage to lushly moving through the background at once challenging, at once seductive. I simply cannot say enough good things about Bouchelle's voice, she was a real find for Mastermind. Each song on this disc is a work of art in its own right. Outstanding on the disc is the cover of Emerson, Lake, and Palmer's "The Endless Enigma". There are covers and then there are "you sit right down in that chair and listen to me!" covers. Suffice to say that ELP never sounded so good. This disc should be on every progressive metal fan's playlist.

    Excelsior! (1999) InsideOut Music Review by Matthew Braymiller

    Mastermind have been around since 1986 and really made a big impact with last year's Angels of the Apocalypse. This album was released before singer Lisa Bouchelle joined the group and added another dimension to Mastermind's sound. Excelsior! is an instrumental release from the creative minds of Bill and Rich Berends. The album features some great progressive metal injected rock cum fusion influenced jazzy blues. Did you get all that? Yeah, neither did I. The sound is a wonderful melting pot mixture of several styles mixed as only Bill Berends can mix the formula to keep your interest from track to track. Each track is greatly different from the one preceding it and the one following it and yet the music moves from one track to the next in a very logical and graceful manner. The music is technical but inviting. It is hauntingly expressive and in your face. There are passages that feel like impromptu jam sessions, but they are focused and intensely tight. This disc has everything to hold a progressive metal fan...except a singer. But when the music is as emotionally expressive and infinitely complex as it is here, who needs words to tell us the story? For those times when an instrumental disc is called for, but you want something that cannot in any way be classified as Muzak, this disc is going to be your disc of choice. The last track is stupendous. The walls really fall! Before the release of Angels of the Apocalypse, I'd have told you this was the best Mastermind disc out there. Now you'll have to buy both. Anything less will leave you empty and incomplete.

    Two different Edge of Time Angels of the Apocalypse reviews

    Mastermind have always been about the experiments, with each record they've made some changes to enhance their sound. New album is not an exception, and the good news is the fact that now in their ranks they have female vocalist Lisa Bouchelle who perfectly supplements the progressive sounds of Mastermind. I always thought that this band needed a good voice, and finally they have it. Stylistically, there are no big changes, it's the same complex, a bit symphonic prog metal, except that now it makes more solid and mature impression. Lisa's voice varies from powerful melodic singing to more esoteric, almost gothic attempts a la Dead Can Dance ("This Lover's Heart"). It seems that "Angels of the Apocalypse" is Mastermind's best output so far. Songs like "The Queen of Sheba," "A Million Miles Away," or the ELP cover "The Endless Enigma" will appeal to every fan of the genre. Well done. (SV) Edge of Time

    Sometimes the equilibrium of contents is something not easy to find on instrumental projects. Berends brothers long day's run - their musical venture started in 1986 - has gone one step further in that direction, although this could supposedly sound strange at first to purists, due to the novel addition of a permanent female vocalist (Lisa Bouchelle). Anyway, sacrificing not fitting in that "fully instrumental" archetype or paradigm becomes a mere "silly" anecdote, in my opinion, unless ones keeps ears wide shut to what comes next. Let's start saying that "Angels of the Apocalypse" is a great album just as it comes. Full stop. We then can go on saying how much their music has gained in accesibility, spontaneousness, and freshness. Or tell about how Jens Johansson seems to be able to give free rein to his creativity on the keyboards under this flag; or about how Lisa's powerful and expressive voice has given this, ELP-reminiscent progressive rock band easiness to fill their rich and complex musical canvas. Balanced, proportioned, and recommended album. (GM) Edge of Time

    Swedish review of Angels of the Apocalypse

    MASTERMIND is back with their 6th album Angels of Apocalypse... there´s been a change of lineup. For the second album in a row find the superb Swede "Jens Johansson on keyboards! But they´ve got a new, female vocalist and she have added a new dimension to their sound. This New Jersey band is playing a complex mixture of Progressive/ Techno/ Symphonic rock and we can find a cover of the ELP classic "The Endless enigma" Fans of Keyboard solo´s a-la mid-70´s and Dream Theater will for sure enjoy this CD, cuz Jens Johansson plays like a demon on all the tracks! It´s a mayhem of keyboard solo´s, complex guitar riffing and some really strong vocals from Lisa Bouchelle. Opener "The End of the world" really sets the pace for the whole album! It´s a uptempo Prog song with a catchy chorus, a keyboard and guitar solos not far from the Malmsteen sound. Haunting vocals from Bouchelle - it´s really great to hear a good female vocalist - and of course Jens Johansson... I just can´t stop talking about the dude I´ve been a fan for years but this is the best stuff that he has ever done.

    Excelsior! review by Greger Rennqvist

    An all instrumental symphonic progressive metal album from Mastermind... guitar player Bill Berends is a true virtuoso as well as the drummer Rich Berends. Mastermind's music is a mix between Progressive and symphonic rock, Progressive Metal, Power Metal and Jazz-Fusion. There are a lot of tempo and mood changes, and it has got a lot of emotion, atmosphere and beauty. The highlight besides "Decide for yourself" is "Sky Dancer" and "When the Walls fell". If you don't mind all instrumental music, I suggest that you get yourself a copy of this CD, press "repeat" on your CD player and enjoy!

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