Italy’s Mirrormaze have just released their debut album, “Walkabout”, and it’s a cracker. Formed in 2008 and with some personnel changes along the way, the band has crafted an album full of high quality, mature and accomplished music. After a five song demo released in 2009, they have spent the intervening period wisely, and the quality of the results on “Walkabout” speak for themselves.
Each song is assured in its composition, boasting strong chorus hooks, expert construction and accomplished instrumentation. The production is crisp and totally in keeping with the genre, allowing each musician to be heard quite clearly as part of a polished overall mix. With striking cover art from the man also responsible for Arch Enemy, Manowar and Firewind artwork, the initial impression is of an expertly produced and very polished product.
But is it any good? Well, yes actually: very good. Mirrormaze are clearly influenced by the likes of Dream Theater, Alter Bridge, Fates Warning, et al. But rather than setting themselves up as mere copyists, the band builds upon these foundations with their own, unique structure. It’s one based on strength – of melody, of composition and of musicianship. There is the odd surprise here and there too, such as a guest appearance by Ray Alder of Fates Warning and Redemption on the song “Deeper Signs”, a welcome addition that speaks volumes for the band’s direction and musical intent.
Each of the nine songs here delivers a fine helping of prog/melodic metal as each band member pushes themselves while ensuring that what they do is always appropriate within the song structure. The rhythm section is tight, guitar and keyboards are allowed solos and occasional passages of virtuoso playing, while the vocals are never less than strong, and at times, outstanding.
Listeners will recognise some of the influences that have gone into the development of these songs: the riff to “Prisoner” tips a nod to Alter Bridge, while the chorus has something of Journey about it, with its good use of effective vocal harmonies. In other songs like “Earn Your Answers” and “Lost In A Belief”, keyboard player Sam Lanfranchini and guitarist Davide Penna showcase their own particular talents; “Lost In A Belief” starts with a lovely acoustic guitar passage and features some good interplay between guitar and keyboard. Singer Fabio D’Amore handled bass duties for the recording of the album, delivering a wonderfully Myung-esque intro to “Vicious Circle”. For the most part, of course, D’Amore’s main job in Mirrormaze is as vocalist, and he is good; I mean, really good. With vocal strength and sensitivity in part reminiscent of Russell Allen, he delivers an inspired and consistent performance throughout “Walkabout”.
As a first album, Mirrromaze have crafted a great record (in fact, it would be great if it was their fifth or sixth; that it’s their first makes it all the more amazing). It is the sound of a band who are confident in their work: heavy, melodic, progressive and polished, with enough melody to keep you coming back for more, and enough challenging time signatures and polyrhythms to force you to really flex your listening muscles. “Walkabout” is an album that’s definitely worth seeking out, and one with which Mirrormaze themselves should be very pleased.