It’s refreshing to hear bands such as Netherlands based Fractal Mirror who, having absorbed the classic progressive sound, have also allowed themselves to be influenced by a host of other acts as well. Besides the classic prog rock groups, you will hear touches of the likes of Beck, R.E.M., Psychedelic Furs, Tears For Fears, No-Man, Blackfield, and maybe a nod towards David Bowie at times, plus a host of other acts from the rock and pop spectrum, from Indie, pop to rock.
Beyond Borders is the band’s fifth studio album. It sees the core line-up of Leo Koperdraat on keyboards and vocals and drummer Frank Urbaniak bolstered by the return of founder member Ed Van Haagen on bass, along with new boy Gareth Cole, known for his work with Tom Slatter Band, The Rube Goldberg Machine, One Sided Horse, and Whitewater, adding his characteristic guitar talents on this his first Fractal Mirror album.
The music is a fresh sounding, crisply presented collection of modern progressive rock songs. The band has allowed its more progressive side to feature more on this release than on the recent last couple of albums, and it is an assured and multifaceted sound. Keyboardist Leo Koperdraat achieves some lovely rich warm tones with his instruments, with an impressive performance with a Mellotron 4000d particularly notable. In many ways his keyboards are bookended by Gareth Cole’s guitars, who’s electric and acoustic guitars are played with great feeling and touch. This allows the rhythm section room, although they are mainly interested in the needs of the songs rather than being overly flashy. For all of the band’s musical prowess, it is true to say that it is the melodies that dominate here. The group never loses its focus on the pop side of its character though, and it is vocals that really dominate. Leo’s voice isn’t really going to challenge for any awards, but his laconic and, at times, slightly flat style is characterful and really suits the music. The singing is in any case bolstered by some excellent harmonisations, including contributions from Echolyn’s Brett Krull, who also mixed the album (The band also credit him with providing “good advice”). At times this creates a quite lush sound, enhanced as it frequently is by judicious use of the mellotron’s choral capacity. At some seventeen minutes long the track Ashes is something of a classic prog-rock epic, with plenty of twists and turns to please the discerning progger. Other songs are more conscious of their melodic progressive pop intent. The opening track Beyond is a splendid instrumental track rich with mellotron swells and tasteful guitar work that acts not only as a great start to the album but assumes the role of a kind of introductory fanfare.
This is really a quite cohesive album with excellent song writing and it is crackingly well played. Brett Krull has done a very good job with the mixing, no doubt enhanced by the mastering by Larry Fast, who many will know from his involvement with Synergy and Peter Gabriel. The album moves at a good pace without ever becoming agitated or discordant. The songs are allowed to breathe and have their own space, although they do tend to flow into one another. This is modern melodic progressive rock at its very best, with the emphasis definitely on the songs and not being a technical whizz musician with superb but misplaced licks. An impressive release.
3. Slip Away
4. Shadow Man
5. Kingdom of the Lost
Leo Koperdraat – voice, Mellotron 4000d, keyboards
Gareth Cole – guitars, background vocals
Ed van Haagen – bass, additional vocals
Frank Urbaniak – drums, lyrics, voice on Ashes intro
Brett Kull – background vocal, good advice
Written and produced by Fractal Mirror
Mixed by Brett Kull
Mastered by Larry Fast
Release date: 15th October 2021
Label: Bad Elephant Music