Mind Control – Elements


Italian prog metal quartet, Mind Control, released their debut record in 2014 and then went into hibernation. The reasons for this inertia are unknown, but nine years is a long time to issue a sophomore recording. This might explain why they stretch it to more than one hour of running time. You’ll have no reason to complain if you like frantic tempos, virtuoso musicianship, and songs that shred through the notes like a lawnmower hovering over a field of buttercups. 

Like most albums with a dash of metalcore, groove metal and Meshuggah in its DNA, Mind Control feel the need to start proceedings with two minutes of high reverb snares and brooding electronic sounds. These tread across the horizon like sailors in search of new bounties before the guitarist launches into ‘Rage’ with a fearsome blast of palm-muting while a second axe chugs away like a steam train. The keyboard strings lend it a blockbuster momentum before the band reset with a flamboyant violence of drop-tuned rhythms. Vocalist, Stefania Salladini, sounds like Rob Zombie in the headlock of a hardcore fanzine editor in her harsher register. Her ghost-like soprano melodies soothe like a cold bath in the bridge to the roaring crescendo. This is what Code Orange would produce if you asked them to cover Periphery. It’s no surprise that guitarist, Massimo Boffa, can fret a jazz-fusion solo like Paul Masvidal of Cynic.

Salladini’s sustained roars often resemble a man being scalped with a blunt knife. ‘Flames’ will remind you of the extreme thrash of Strapping Young Lad circa Alien in the way its rhythms threaten to implode under the weight of the instruments. It’s a wise decision to place the luscious daydreaming vocals at the centre of the first verse before the vein-popping aggression enters the room. Bassist, Stefano Tatasciore, takes every opportunity to insert the depth of his strings into the gaps as the riffs rotate like overheated fan belts waiting to snap. Mind Control’s influences are many but easy to identify throughout Elements. ‘Effluent’ thrives on anguished soprano vocals and offbeat grooves and weaves through the speakers like Dream Theater injected with Gojira’s monstrous riffs in the bridge. Here, the drummer switches tempos as easily as a shepherd directs a flock of sheep. You’d think Salladini had a razor in her throat, but her false fry scream technique needs more volume.

It’s clear that Meshuggah and Animals as Leaders provide the main rhythmic inspiration for this record, but the way Mind Control prolong the listening experience is more like a Vildhjarta experiment where self-indulgence does not even occur to them as something to criticise. You’ll need to dedicate a great deal of patience to something you’ve heard many times over the last decade by other artists. A creepy black metal strum in ‘Wind’ sets the scene for a dramatic push that finds its purpose in a dexterous Northlane hook. Say hello to the latest Monuments album in the opening riff and finger-tapping patterns of ‘Air’. Repeat listens to the former reveal a tasteful guitar solo as illustrative as a rainbow shower. You can feel the air invigorate your lungs in this song due to the abundance of open-air space in the arrangements.

The ambition of this LP is admirable, but its execution does not match the imagination of its creators. A catchy vocal line tries to rear its head in ‘Storm’, but the delivery hisses with too much angst to produce the melody it deserves. By contrast, you can only applaud the superb phrasing of the main guitar riff via the synthesiser in the intro to ‘Hurricane’. Salladini uses the captivating sorrows of her soprano voice sparingly when it needs to be at the forefront of each chorus. She guides you to the waterfalls like a firefly in ‘The River’. This is where the album should end at track number ten with a rush of mellifluous guitar scales and wonderful falsetto climbs.

The real problem with Elements is its stubborn refusal to allow any time to recover your thoughts. Shredding guitars and busy drums fight with a bass guitarist who wishes to be a member of Between the Buried and Me. You’ll reach the prospect of three more songs at ‘Ether’ and wonder if you have the stamina to survive them. Is the former a prog metal attempt at ‘Enter Sandman’ in the intro? No, it jumps into a dash of At the Gates and adds Salldini’s melodic voice to counter the aggression when you’re ready to yawn. This would be more effective earlier in the album, where you can appreciate the power of its chorus in better shape.

Mind Control need to catch you in the right mood if you have doubts about sitting through an hour of technical progressive metal. Closing track, ‘Blame’, ought to feel like ten more press ups before bed, yet the sorrowful beauty of Salladini’s chorus will convince you to do another twenty. Herein, lies the paradox of this band – they have the chops and the charismatic moments, but they lack the dynamic range to retain your interest for the final quarter of the listening experience. Would it not be beneficial to release a double CD so we can at least treat it as two separate parts?

JVB


Verdict


Release Date: 01/12/2023

Record Label: Self-released

Standout tracks: Rage, Effluent, Hurricane

Suggested Further Listening: Periphery – Periphery II: This Time It’s Personal (2012), Jinjer – King of Everything (2016), She Must Burn – Umbra Mortis (2022)