Album Reviews

Issue 2023-023

Duo Review

Mystery — Redemption

Mystery - Redemption
Behind The Mirror (6:46), Redemption (6:36), The Beauty And The Least (9:15), Every Note (6:01), Pearls And Fire (12:43), My Inspiration (8:24), Homecoming (5:10), Is This How The Story Ends? (19:11)
Jan Buddenberg

"Just Let The Music Flow Through Your Mind And All Will Be Fine" Mystery

Over the past few years I have full-heartedly seconded these words of advice by Mystery. And with reason, for since the discovery of their exceptionally fine and highly acclaimed Lies And Butterflies, they have kept my desert island list fairly busy. First off with the exquisite Live In Poznan and shortly after with the equally exquisite Caught In The Whirlwind Of Time.

Following this release, they made a welcome return to the stage on the 25th of June 2022 playing the Midsummer Prog Festival (Valkenburg), re-released their first EP 1992 - The Lost Tapes, and then on the 26th of October made Facebook explode by sharing Behind The Mirror as an appetiser for the upcoming album.

Based on this first outing, my expectations for their new album were rather high.

I'll try to keep my biases to a bare minimum, for just like Lies And Butterflies this new album grows with every turn and brings 74 minutes of the purest moving and enchanting music one could ask for. It's a delightfully direct continuation of their well known style which at the same time looks back to the epic character traits presented on albums like Delusion Rain and One Among The Living, complemented by newly crafted pathways.

One of these is shown in the gorgeous Every Note in which Antoine Michaud (keys, guitars) brings an acoustical serenade, while Jean Pageau lays his heart bare with a moving performance ensured to capture the approval of Dennis DeYoung fans. Surrounded by emotional bliss and touches of blues, this moving composition marks an ultimate return to paradise. One that through its diversity, sweetness of flute, intensely emotional choruses and goosebumps-initiating guitar melodies, grows into a triumphant composition in which every note mesmerises.

The same appeal is shown in the outstanding Homecoming, written by Michaud. Graciously flowing through melodies and pristine harmonies that bring strong images of Styx, this song thrives on melancholic guitar à la Journey, and stuns through its virtuous dynamical drive shaped by François Fournier (bass, Taurus pedals, Keys) and Jean-Sébastien Goyette (drums). A final run of luxurious keyboard virtuosity and excellent interplay brings this sublime track home.

In the daunting atmosphere of Redemption, which oozes grandeur, Michaud surprises by adding a delicate audible touch of mysteriously growling vocals in the song's coda. Captivating from start to finish, with excellent harmonies and a compelling performance by Pageau, this exciting track has the word "sublime" written all over it.

The majestic revelation of The Beauty And The Least fully holds this bliss and brings radiating memories of Something To Believe In from Lies and Butterflies. Gliding from imelodies that twinkle with emotion, backed by loving harmonies and graceful melancholic guitar work, it's once again Pageau who impresses with his expressive vocal range. He is soon harmoniously rivalled by all, when the song builds into a wonderful bridge which takes on ever grander forms until it eventually wades into an oasis of beautifully-crafted interplay with standout drumming and dazzling keyboard work. The journey into delightfully returning melodies that follows is close to the same sensation as coming home to a nice warm bath.

My Inspiration adds another warm blanket to this with piano by a guesting Johnny Maz, and melodies that resonate Styx and the tenderness of AOR.

No Mystery album would be the same if there wasn't a lengthy epic present, and founder/guitarist Michel St-Pere has indeed written two, out of the six songs he contributed. First-off is the spectacular Is This How The Story Ends?, which after its magnificent opening statement enters emotive melodies embraced by harmonies and intricate play, before it picks up pace with guidance from wonderful bass work. Swirling past contagious synth and guitar parts and a stationary run of top-notch musicianship, it then takes off into dynamic melodies when a solid riff from Sylvain Moineau sets it on fire. The kaleidoscope of multi-layered instrumentation and vocals, together with its sumptuous Journey-inspired ending, firmly places this epic amongst the best I've heard by Mystery.

When I let my heart rule my mind, the breathtakingly beautiful Pearls And Fire, surpasses this. Glamorous from the start, this phenomenal song brings astonishing interplay, bombast and ravishing melodies for which words simply fall short. Especially when a to-die-for propulsion around the 2-minute mark warps the composition in compelling high irresistible gear.

When I recently wrote my review for the new Ice Age album, one of my concluding sentences read: "It's a mystery to me which album can surpass this effort in 2023." The triumphant Redemption has all the hallmarks of exceptional songwriting and high-level performances to do just that. Luckily I still have plenty of time to make up my mind and let my heart decide.

All in all I expect this fantastic album to end up high on many best of 2023 lists, as it will on mine. For Mystery fans this highly recommendable album is an obvious must-have. For everyone else, there's only one piece of advice left to give:

"Let Mystery's Music Flow Through Your Heart And You Will Be Amazed" Jan Buddenberg

Greg Cummins

It has been a good five years since Canada's Mystery released yet another excellent neo-prog album for the world to enjoy. 2023 will turn out to be much the same, with their newest album entitled Redemption. I should mention that I have been a huge fan of this band for many years, as I find their music to be so much better than many of their contemporaries.

There are simply far too many bands doing the rounds these days producing questionable material on a frequent basis. However, Mystery can proudly sit right amongst those at the top of the tree. They have yet to release a bad album since they opened their innings in 1996. During that time they have created eight excellent slabs of premium neo-prog music to an audience with a voracious appetite for more of what they do best. Apart from a slightly mediocre debut, which I put down to a mere case of throat clearing, all of their albums score highly.

For those unfamiliar with the band, they comprise Jean Pageau (vocals), Antoine Michaud (keyboards), Francois Fournier (bass, keyboards), Jean-Sebastien Goyette (drums), Sylvain Moineau (guitars), Michel St-Pere (guitars, keyboards). From my memory, this is the same crew who have been with the band for their previous two albums.

Kicking things off, we have the barnstorming song called Behind The Mirror with its power chords and underlying keyboard backdrop. It makes for a brilliant and bold statement. With very powerful and emotive vocals from Jean Pageau, combined with a catchy riff and a delightfully majestic and melodic lead break midway, this ticks all the boxes. I can think of no better song from the album to open proceedings, as it demonstrates so elegantly why Mystery nail it time and time again. This is a great song and possesses all the hallmarks of what is essential for a neo-prog band to succeed.

The title track, Redemption, is a slower balladic type of song. Again with a catchy chorus, this will have you singing along in no time. The next three songs, while certainly not substandard, didn't quite connect with me as well as some of the other tracks. Almost without exception however, the music on this long player is full of lush compositions, gorgeous melodies, great arrangements and a high re-playability factor. When you add some tasty and melodic synth work, they leave no room for doubt about their abilities, as songwriters and performers.

The six musicians in Mystery on stage ready to bowMystery. Promo photo by François Morisset

After many years of enjoying Mystery's music, I have been racking my brain trying to identify whose voice most closely matches Jean Pageau's. I finally discovered the similarity when I accidentally played a song by Air Supply featuring their long-time vocalist, Russell Hitchcock. Having said that, this is in no way a blight on Mystery's music, as the styles are so far removed from each other. Air Supply were a band from Australia who were often marginalised for producing so many syrupy-sweet love songs that sounded like every other one. They were a popular band with the ladies. However, if a bloke was asked by his partner to attend a concert by said band, you'd see them run a mile, thrust a number of fingers down one's throat or look for a phial of arsenic. They were definitely not a man's band.

I liken Mystery's music to that of the rather excellent band from Poland called Millenium. They operate with a similar palette and produce some stunning songs, replete with tonnes of accessible and harmonious singing, great lyrics, clever use of keyboards and guitar, and backed up by a steady and reliable rhythm section. They also are able to perform with a vocalist who has no discernible accent, which greatly improves their popularity.

Thankfully, Mystery possess the same instantly likeable and accessible style of songs and Jean Pageau, their singer since 2014, has one of the nicest and emotionally inspired voices that you are likely to find. The band consistently produce a very approachable batch of songs for each release that just adds more polish to the album before. I am not finding anything ground-breaking new or innovative here, but as they have been on a winning formula for so long now, at least you know that you are going to be in for a great ride.

My Inspiration and Homecoming are both excellent songs and features some sublime guitar while the rest of the band simply get on with the job at hand. For my ears, the closing song, Is This How The Story Ends?, is a total stunner featuring some seriously infectious melodies within the chorus, and guitar leads as you would always want to hear them. Soaring way past the stratosphere, with the volume cranked up to triple digits, this wonderful track had the hairs on my arms stand on end.

Thankfully, I have been supplied with a pre-release digital copy of the lyric sheet, so this makes it much easier to interpret exactly what is going on. With such a title to the song and having faced so many seriously disturbing global events recently, you might be mistaken for thinking this epic, 19-minute track was about how the world ends but thankfully that is not the case. I'll let you decide for yourself what message is hidden, once you hear the song.

If ever a prize was to be awarded to a band for producing the most consistent music, the list of contenders would have to include Mystery. To that list, you could add IQ, Arena, Pendragon, Marillion, Millenium, Big Big Train, Clepsydra, Collage, Cosmograf, Knight Area, Neal Morse, Mostly Autumn, Damanek and countless others. Needless to say, if you enjoy the music of the fore-mentioned bands, then Redemption is an album you would be happy to have sitting alongside your other gems. Recommended!

Album Reviews