[13th November 2013]
01. A Death Marked Dream
02. Ancient Arrows
03. Haunted Vows
04. To The Wolves
05. The Sleeper
06. Ethereal Dawn
There are probably some who will write off Mandroid Echostar as a Coheed and Cambria knock-off. With even the two frontmen seemingly cut from the same cloth – physically as well as sonically – this is hardly surprising, if not woefully lazy.
The truth is, whilst there are certain similarities, Mandroid are so, so much more than just that. Where there are slatherings of noodly prog, there are also slices of that quintessential metal bite. Where vocal lines soar with jealously-inducing range, there are also hints of dischordance which accent the often delicate melodies the group employ with the confidence of a band much further in their career than these young Canadians are.
“A Death Marked Dream” is about as good a prog opener as you’re going to have heard in 2013. Whilst not groundbreaking, the standalone acoustic guitar/vocals combination is both effective and expertly handled. Michael Ciccia’s voice is absolutely sublime, and whilst you’ll not hear a single growl throughout the whole record, you’ll not care.
I have so many favourite bits it’s unreal. It’s a true tell of quality that there are so many memorable parts – the post-solo riff in “Haunted Vows“; the brooding mid-song instrumental break in “To The Wolves“; the uplifting chorus section in “Ethereal Dawn” – and as such there are always one or two specific moments to look forward to in each track.
Even songs that appear to employ some of the more trite genre tropes find ways to subvert expectations. This is never more apparent than in the intro to “The Sleeper“. Low, almost common-denominator two-note djenty chugging is woven over with a delightfully-toned tapping riff after a few bars. Background and foreground guitar lines switch up phrasing in this way throughout, so that sections are rarely repeated, but it all feels within the context of the song; it’s not a random string of “oh, this sounds cool”. Even the solos – and this is true across the album – never overstep their mark, and are segued back into the natural flow of the song.
So if the band are in any way a knock-off, it’s in knocking your socks off. Citadels ups Mandroid Echostar’s game in such a way that, if there is any justice, they’ll have a long and successful career creating this kind of exuberant prog. It is accessible and without pretense, yet still feels as traditionally ‘epic’ as truly skillful examples of the genre should.