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Album Reviews : Paradigm – Mind Is Key

By on January 5, 2012

When Paradigm stormed the scene in 2010 they announced in the most uncompromising of terms that they would be the next big thing in progressive metal. Symmetry (In)Sanity was one of the most diverse, groovy, and beautifully melodic albums of that year and it certainly set the bar high for future releases. With their 2012 follow up Mind is Key, Paradigm have not only maintained all the elements that made Symmetry (In)Sanity but have taken each and smashed them out of the arena. The album is incomparably more technical, encompasses more styles and features a vocal performance more far-reaching than ever.

Where Symmetry (In)Sanity  boasted a series of massive grooves that would force your head to bang along, Mind is Key features an insane arsenal of tech-death riffs that will instead cause your head to simply explode. The bulk of the album is a frenzy of Psycroptic-style riffage that will drop the jaws of any guitarist or drummer. The strings and skins work in tight unison to create a razor-sharp sound; blazing runs up and down the fretboard are backed by unstoppable footwork and a multitude of crazy little frills and tweaks from the guitars are carefully matched by the genius drum work of David Horgan (also of Ouroboros). While the complexity of the music is completely off the wall, each riff still continues to push each song on to create its own unique sound and very rarely does everything slip into just wanky ‘showing off’. The lead guitar work from Jimmi Ivanyi throughout the album is applied intelligently and appropriately, all the while remaining nothing short of incredible. The solos follow the melodic motifs of the songs for the most part but are carefully built up to huge shredding crescendos which again and again demonstrate Ivanyi’s ability to stand among the best of the best.

The album is far more than just tech-death madness however. The interludes woven throughout the songs feature soft, atmospheric guitar layers building carefully upon each other, clean melodies accompanied by jazzy lead work and sweet guitar harmonies. More impressive than the diversity of the album however is how intricately these elements are woven into the fabric of the songs. Unlike many progressive metal acts that are very stop-start with their dynamics, Paradigm weave everything together so carefully that you will often not notice the shift from heavy to soft. As you move through the album the diversity becomes only more apparent- nearly half an hour in (that is, after two tracks) “Atmosphere” is a lumbering monster of a song stuffed with huge, groovy and doomy riffs (and gets this reviewer’s pick of the album) and following straight after it “Visions” is a seven-minute all-acoustic affair. After this point the listener is again treated to more Psycroptic-riffage before the album closes with quite the melodic number in “Wish Us Light”.

The standout vocal performance from Thomas Arcadi really deserves special mention. Whereas most of the last album saw Arcadi alternating between massive roars and soft cleans, Mind is Key predominantly features a style that seems to be an amalgamation of these two sounds. This new melodic growling style gives Paradigm a truly unique sound, setting them well apart from being compared too closely to Psycroptic on the technical side of things or the likes of Opeth or (god forbid) Dream Theatre on the prog side of the spectrum. Where many technically gifted bands tend to often lose their vocalist in the mix to either an inability to keep up the quality or intensity, Paradigm certainly do neither. Arcadi’s vocal assault screams alongside the technical madness of “Written in Blood”, tears through the creepy atmospheres of, ahem, “Atmosphere” and his cleans easily soar high above the melodic work of “Portals” and close out “Wish Us Light” in truly epic fashion.

With all that said there is one thing that unfortunately holds the album back. “Visions”, an all acoustic affair is the only dud song Paradigm have put out to date and the drop in quality at that point in the album is really noticeable. Of course there is nothing wrong with having an all-acoustic track but this one is certainly no “Harvest” (Opeth) or “Desert of Song” (Between the Buried and Me). The soft, peaceful finger picking pattern set down by Ivanyi starts things nicely but the vocals over the top really don’t match. The soft singing works just fine but every time Arcadi attempts to raise the intensity in the first half of the song it comes out sounding pretty awkward. The power of the song increases as it progresses and the guitar and vocals eventually match up much better and the song ends up working out fine but it is hard not to cringe during the first half. Aside from that, there is really little to complain about with the album as a whole- there are a few moments when the vocals soar a little bit too high for their own good, but given the quality and astounding diversity that the vocals otherwise display this is easily forgivable.

Mind is Key is an absolute monster of an album. It is brutally heavy and astoundingly technical, yet sophisticated, mature and ambitious. Half a dud song will certainly not be enough to stop most metalheads jamming this one again and again and again. 9/10

Band: Paradigm
Album: Mind is Key
Year: 2012
Genre: Progressive Metal
Origin: Sydney, Australia
Label: None/Independent

1. Android
2. Portals
3. Atmosphere
4. Visions
5. Written in Blood      <—- Reviewer’s Choice
6. Wish Us Light


Sam Maher is Metal Obsession's resident prog reviewer. He only likes songs that are at least 15 minutes long, contain 4 guitar solos and can only be described with a genre that is at least six words long. He also plays guitar for Sydney-based groovy melodic progressive technical death metal band Apparitions of Null.