Pulse For A Graveheart
Back in my songwriting days, a friend once told me never to write a song about film. For some reason the idea seemed utterly appalling to him. Well, if he was into progressive metal at all, I would love to shove Mind Key’s Pulse For A Graveheart in his face.
Not that this album is entirely based around the concept of cinema, but there are several hints that keyboard player Dario De Cicco, who wrote all of the lyrics, has an affection for the silver screen. Take opening salvo “Sunset Highway” for example, it is in title and content an homage to Billy Wilder’s classic film noir “Sunset Boulevard”. Apart from a well-documented re-telling of the movie through the eyes of faded silent film star Norma Desmond, it also establishes the thunderous branch of progressive metal Mind Key has made its own. The sound clip of film stock rolling through a projector is a nice touch, but what eventually blows us away is the modernized monstrous riffing accompanied with the spacey atmospheric synths of Mr. De Cicco. Not to mention the wonderfully catchy and uplifting chorus that somehow still manages to be dark and melancholic, much like Wilder’s cinematic masterpiece itself.
And that’s only the opening track. How do you follow up a mid-tempo stomper like “Sunset Highway”? You add speed, that’s how. “The Seventh Seal” kicks off with a mood-setting guitar solo and ditto keyboards, but becomes an entirely different beast once the exciting-as-a-game-of-chess-with-the-Devil-chorus kicks in for the first time. Cinephiles will be on alert now, and yes, this song shares its title and subject matter with one of the better known works of Swedish visionary filmmaker Ingmar Bergman. Does it get classier than this? Yes it does, as the follow-up is based on one of the great American movie landmarks: Orson Welles’ “Citizen Kane”. It’s almost as De Cicco is trying to ram us a “1001 movies you have to see before you die”-list down our throats, but as long as it results in breathtaking mini-epics like “Citizen Of Greed”, you won’t hear me complaining.
I could go on lauding every single song of this record into the highest regions of heaven, but I’m close to overselling this thing as it is. Let me just add praise for other standouts like the pumping “Crusted Memories” (not based on a movie, but a story about euthanasia), the innovative “Eye Of A Stranger” (by George Orwell’s “Nineteen Eighty-Four”) and the hauntingly beautiful closer “A New Generation” (a salute to the life and legacy of Italian Cineaste Pier Paolo Pasolini).
Debating whether Mind Key sounds more like Dream Theater than Symphony X is a moot point, since whatever the Italians cook up comes out fresh and impressive. But if we have to talk influences, I’d say this crosses paths with Masterplan and early Evergrey, with a little Symphony X for extra flavor. Fun fact: Mind Key’s own excellent singer Aurelio Fierro Jr. sings a duet with Evergrey’s Tom S. Englund on “Graveheart” and comes out equal, if not the winner in the vocal department. But limiting a description of Mind Key’s music to name-dropping would be underselling their talent and abilities.
I lack the foreknowledge of their debut “Journey Of A Rough Diamond” (a mistake that will certainly be corrected in the near future), but I just can’t get enough of “Pulse For A Graveheart” to go look for anything else at the moment. Whatever Mind Key has done and has yet to do, their sophomore album stands as one of the most beautiful things ever to come out of the country that brought us Sergio Leone, Federico Fellini and Michelangelo Antiononi. I’m sure De Cicco would be flattered.
Arno Callens' rating: 4.5 out of 5