A couple of months ago, Italian band Mystic Majesty did the impossible, improbable and totally unexpected. They released a “concept album” that isn’t boring. I put it at #15 on my Doom Charts submission at the time of release. This brings up something I dislike about ratings: they tell you something without telling you anything.
So, let me clear this up, make things right, get back on track and all that stuff:
SPEAK YOUR MIND IS AN EXCEPTIONAL ALBUM!
Again, it’s a concept album that isn’t boring, and it’s singularly unique in its ability to convey concepts, sometimes complicated, in songs that average under 3 minutes in length. You read that right: the average length is about three minutes or less. The longest, as it should be, is the last song, Confessions (of a restless mind), at 4:47 in length. It also delivers a solid punch to the gut if you follow the narrative.
The narrative? Well, the human mind. Not usually the kind of topic I expect in an expertly-crafted ROCK album with dozens of bouncy, cleaver hooks among dozens of tasty guitar parts and a tight-as-tripwire rhythm section. Fans of Queens of the Stone Age will have plenty to dig in this release, though it’s not derivative.
The thing is, you don’t have to geek-out on the album or grab a thesaurus to find this to be a fun and energetic experience at all. This is where the “improbable” part comes from. Usually, concept albums dealing with heavy topics can be burdened with ponderous musical passages. Musicians on masterworks usually want to put the spotlight on how magnificent they are. And I’m a guy who had a Rick Wakeman poster hanging in my room as a kid: I have nothing but love and respect for magnificence. But it’s still true: my heroes and idols can be a bit pompous.
Mystic Majesty takes the opposite approach (which does make the band name ironic as I write this). They’ve taken a seriously heavy and bright red pen to the songs and production on Speak Your Mind. These aren’t long-form riffs cobbled together for epic massiveness but finely honed, complete songs meant to deliver either maximum experience or a fucking good time. It’s your choice, and whether you listen and pay attention to the depth, or play it in your car for maximum road-trip energy, this fits your bill. It even meets or exceeds the Frank Zappa dance-test.
That might be the only flaw to Speak Your Mind. It delivers the goods with a velvet-wrapped jewelry hammer and not a maul. An audience craving earth-shattering bombast may have missed this “stoner” gem. In the end, it reminds of the punk-infused Exposure by Robert Fripp from the late ’70s, or the early ’70’s Bowie and their ability to craft short songs with precise intention. The only problem is, sometimes that’s not what we’re looking for.
In the case of Speak Your Mind, I highly recommend giving this a serious listen. It’s the perfect compliment for heavier appetites who need a break. But I gotta warn you, once you dig in and follow the lyrics, this might be one of the “heaviest” albums of the year. I can also say that personally, I keep going back to this, and honestly listen to it more now than I did 3 months ago when I first heard it before release. I suspect that this will grow on more and more people as the year progresses, and if it doesn’t it will be one of those gems that gets rediscovered years later.
I assure you, there’s no reason to wait!