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Saturday, July 23, 2016

Review: Universal Mind Project - The Jaguar Priest

Universal Mind Project (UMP for short) come from Italy and their album “The Jaguar Priest” is the brainchild of beautiful singer Elina Laveira & guitarist Michael Alexander.

Their style is a mix of power progressive metal that is quite open to a lot of influences.

Straight from the start, the album carries itself with a very impressive spacey, sci-fi artwork that certainly raises the anticipation. A closer to look to the booklet reveals a very impressive array of guest musicians. Charlie Dominici (ex- Dream Theater), Nils K Rue (Pagan’s Mind), Mark Jansen (Epica, Mayan), Diego Valdez (Helker) and this is just for the vocal department. Wait till you hear the rest!!

Mike LePond (Symphony X and numerous other projects) along with people from DGM, Vision Divine, Andromeda.

The amount of just the people invited to participate looks like a small gathering for a 2nd STARS album!

All guest are giving their best throughout the listening of “The Jaguar Priest” just listen to the amazing vocal texture from the ageless Charlie Dominici or the powerful vocals from Nils K Rue.

The rest of the UMP are also top level musicians powerful drumming courtesy of Alex Landerburg (Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody), cool bass from the mighty Mike LePond and great keyboard playing from Emanuele Cassali.

Elina Laveira is showcasing some very impressive and emotional singing and fearlessly combines melodies from pop, rock and maybe some jazz. Think of something like Amy Lee from Evanescence, at the same time Michael Alexander’s growls give something of a mild Children of Bodom aura. There are plenty of virtuosic solos from Michael Alexander who isn’t too shy in presenting his skills in guitar. This has been kind of a trademark for many Italian bands since the mid 90s fusing neoclassical shredding with influences that could range from Steve Vai to more fusion stuff. Unfortunately, I’m unaccustomed with Henrik Bath voice, so I can’t identify him for certain. However, all the male vocal parts are sung with heaviness and intensity.

So far, I have presented the highs of the “Jaguar Priest”. However, I was unable to get into this album. Maybe it’s the whole musical approach of Stratovarius meeting Children of Bodom that turned me off (weird since I consider myself a fan of both bands) or Elina’s vocal melodies that (despite her excellent voice) lack the necessary heaviness and power that a metal album should have. They sound way too pop oriented and this makes the final result unappealing, at least for my taste.

Also, while the musicianship is of high quality, the songwriting skills of UMP aren’t. I couldn’t find any highs or favorite parts throughout the listening of the album. There are plenty of interesting parts but I couldn’t pick a song that stood out from the rest. Same thing goes for the lyrics too. On the UMP’s case it’s you get exactly what you read. No hidden messages, metaphors or double meanings anywhere to be found. The lyrics simply serve the concept of the album and nothing more.

Production/mix is quite modern clear and precise but on the other hand takes away the intensity of the guitar as well as driving it in the background.

UMP is a talented band without a doubt, but that doesn’t mean that their musical offering reflects that talent. This album clearly targets fans of power/progressive but my advice to potential listeners is to check out before you buy.

Written by Manos Xanthakis

Universal Mind Project Official Website
Universal Mind Project Facebook

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