Mind Key - MKIII - Aliens in Wonderland

Mind Key MKIII - Aliens in Wonderland cover
Mind Key
MKIII - Aliens in Wonderland
Frontiers Music srl
2019
7.5
I was busting my head, trying to remember why these NapolItalians sounded very familiar. I could not immediately put my finger on it, but then I sort of remembered, they been around since before the current millennium but they’ve not been prolific release wise at all, taking an entire decade to come up with a third album. So, while I was practically aware of them, I had presumed them MIA (missing in action), so it took me a few minutes to realize they were the same nice prog power that Frontiers has nurtured since the beginning.
 
The band that was always based around Dario de Cicco (keyboards) and Emanuele Colella (guitars), got a quite versatile vocalist in the form of Aurelio Fierro, who they found from their local Voice TV show, back then and he was quite a good fit for them. Having been inactive for a good decade, the reactivated band had to seek two new members to complete the lineup – which they found in the form of bassist Lucio Grilli (ex-Soul Secret) and drummer Mirko De Maio (The Flower Kings, Hangarvain), who also seem to work with the rest in quite a harmonious way.
 
The band remains true to its technically competent melodic metal, that’s not a million miles away from what Talisman used to be about, at least from their middle period onwards. Maybe a little less sparkling overall, and Fierro sounds a tad more gruff than Soto (maybe a little like Jorn?) in general, but damn me if I didn’t get that “sound” in my mind. What has been refined though in the ten years that passed is the overall sound, which now sounds more homogeneous and effortless.
In fact the songs seem to build up naturally and release their suspense usually with spectacular choruses.
 
The mid-tempo opener “Alien in Wonderland” has some neat keys and a nice solo, with Fierro going for a more Jorn approach that fits the song, just right.
 
While “Hank (The Blazing Eyes)” opens with some really energetic key/guitar battle, it soon settles for a smooth mid-tempo that’s simmers, slowly building up, and it really meanders a bit before it hirs home with a chorus that feels like a never-ending bridge section.
 
“Hate at First Sight” feels like a head on collision between Jorn & Readman era PC69. Which I cannot but applaud, since its chorus might be reminiscent of some JSS mannerisms and melodies, but ultimately works.
 
“Angry Men” has a more aggressive rhythmical base, with keyboards interwoven tensing it, expertly until its chorus offers some melodic release (and it seems to base its lyrics of an old court drama movie).
 
“Hands off Cain” is a lot more guitar dominated, at least initially thus standing out and I will admit that I found it quite interesting.
 
“Be-Polar” seems to try to coin a wordplay and it’s quite interesting on a few levels, in fact here I was getting a bit of a Sons Of Apollo vibe…
 
“Oblivion” is a smooth bluesy jam that is quite acoustic, but not thin, since bass permeates it with a simple but effective line. The solos and climax happen a little – I wouldn’t say abruptly but once they kick in a little too urgently.
 
“Psycho World” felt to me like a song that could have been in JSS latest (and actually not bad solo effort), while “Vertigo (Where the Cold Wind Blows)” feels on the brink of delivering a big chorus that ultimately never comes, despite the whole teasing that keeps going on.
 
“Pure He/Art” (boy, they seem to enjoy puns) starts with a pretty AOR keyboard, but quickly gets some biting guitar riff, only to go for an in-between sound in the ensuing verses, which feel like big balls, hard as nails AOR (mainly due to the super gruff vox – that are not swimming in a ton of harmonies), if such a thing existed.
“Non-Existence” is a more sombre melodic jam that again feels a little confusing, at least in terms of what direction/sounds it’s going for, with an odd dichotomy between its various parts. Once it gets going a little like the more modern moments of SOTO (the band), but it also had theateresque solos that are just not that fluid, but also vocals that feel a little too inspired by the more melodic side of Disturbed. Go figure.
 
While, it’s a very worthwhile proposition, with obviously tracks the band has worked on for quite some time, I am afraid that the crowds apathy towards “smaller” names will probably consign this album, as well to the same place where their previous ones dwell. In a footnote of metal magazines that seem more interested in their own survival by pushing whatever they get advertisements for no matter how pedantic of mediocre it might be, rather than feature a band like this. A sad state of affairs really, as an album of this quality simply stands way above half of the abysmally mediocre albums that most magazines feature in their mid-year best of lists.