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Thursday, December 1, 2022

Review: Parallel Minds – Echoes From Afar

Label: M & O Music

Date: March 18th, 2022

Hailing from France, Parallel Minds released their third album “Echoes From Afar” in March. Before I received the CD, I knew nothing about the band. And to tell you the truth, I did not want to know anything before I listened to the album. The first impression: amazing orchestrations, vocal deliverance in the vein of Hansi Kürsch, themes inspired by science fiction books and movies, successful blend of different tempo and genres, virtuosity and above all diversity is the best combination you could ask for.

The album is divided on two parts:

Part one: Echoes,
Part two: Endymion Suite.

Each part contains five songs.

The album opener, “Feel the Force” is an epic song in every sense of the word. The song starts pretty much “lazy” or better to say “sleepy” but do not be fooled. Double bass and guitars speeds up and yes, you can feel the force. A bit raw vocal supported by Blind Guardian like choirs and you will realize in which direction the band goes. I could hardly keep on listening to the album, because the first song impressed me so I had to repeat it numerous times. Maybe not typical for an album opener, but this nine minutes song is the perfect choice. Orchestral part delivers a special charm and drama. You will feel it in your body and soul… 

The next one, “No Fate”, is followed by the video premiered in December 2021. Here the band plays/experiments a bit with the sound. I do not like new metal elements involved but I forgive them because the first song is still somewhere in the back of my brain. Here you can hear that the production is really good, and despite the fact I am not a fan of NM I have to admit that the mix is really good with dominating drums.

“Angel’s Battle” is another song followed by the video premiered on April 1st, 2022. The song is a bit thrashier, over a minute long intro and Stéphane Fradet releases fantastic vocal capability. Grégory Giraudo’s solo might be the highlight of the song.

The intro in “Stay” reveals the whole theme of the song. The whole atmosphere is a bit apocalyptic, acoustic guitar and vocals emphasize sadness and disappointment even hopelessness. Involving drums and guitar the song gets its final structure.

“Monkey on My Back” again begins with a narrative part. We all faced the Corona pandemic, and it obviously influenced the band too. The band speaks about devastating consequences on mankind. The tempo here accelerates, heavy guitars carry the song, vocal on the other hand slows down a bit, but vocalist will soon reveal his growling capabilities too. Here the versatility dominates. A lot of subgenres mixed, change of vocal delivery from clean to growl, as well as playing with the tempo simply fits well. A bit of harmonica if I hear well gives a special touch to possibly the most diverse song on the album.

Welcome to Endymion Suite where you can find “The Hiding Place”. As the song title might suggest, it is a ballad. Again acoustic guitar and vocals are dominating. Choirs once again goes in Blind Guardian direction, and since the whole album has that surprise factor, this ballad will be a bit heavier than expected when around the third minute the band will cut it with a bit aggressive sound. I cannot resist writing that this song reminds a lot on Blind Guardian’s “The Bard’s Song.”

“The Last Resort” is a fast tempo song which has a great melody, bit aggressive vocals, great choir support and in short lines it is all we expect from traditional metal.

Orchestral part in “Mythic River” emphasizes theatrical approach, but as I might mention, what I like the most on this album are those twists. Just when you think you have a ballad the band will strike out of nowhere. This song has that moment. The band smoothly drives from slow to fast tempo. Infectious melody, great lyrics, guitar solo and overall impression deserve the best marks.

Bell chime, choir as a part of intro with organ in background, Latin lyrics combined with English and again that Blind Guardian moment that leads this song into the realm of the finest anthems metal can deliver you will find in my personal favorite, “Provider of Sins”.

“The Greater Gift” closes the album masterfully with great orchestration. As the first song, this one is epic, not just by its length, but the whole structure. Slower but powerful, this twelve minutes piece of art will not remain irrelevant. I mentioned diversity and this song might go to the metal tutorial in the section on how to make great songs. As “Monkey on My Back”, this song obeys complexity. It combines various styles, involving more instruments such as piano, changes tempo, energy, and vocal delivery including female vocals this time.

Whoever was reading Dan Simmons book, I am sure will enjoy in Endymion Suite. Rest of you should focus on Part 1: Echoes, which is inspired by sci-fi books and movies like Star Wars, Terminator or 12 Monkeys for example.

Before I started listening to this album, I knew nothing about Parallel Minds. After I heard it, I was curious to hear previous albums. And what I concluded? “Echoes From Afar” is more progressive compared to previous releases which can be connected with an album theme. Song structure, lyrics and theme have more layers and atmosphere. The bend experiments more with the sound adding heavy, power, death core and thrash to progressive base. Big step forward. Well done, curious what the future will bring to French masters. I can easily imagine the music of the album as a movie soundtrack.