I have had a feast of progressive rock musical experiences recently and I make no bones about prog-rock being my favoured musical genre. However, every now and then something comes along that, in no way, shape or form can be classed as progressive rock and it will simply blow me away.
Not being genre specific can sometimes be detrimental to a new band’s future success as, unfortunately, music lovers and music writers are happier to classify a band as being in a specific genre and, generally, unwilling to look out of the box. This could be heavy metal, hard rock, ambient or any other musical style.
There are some excellent artists out there that cross many musical genres and, in my opinion, they should be lauded for breaking out of a specific style and not punished because we don’t have the alacrity to adapt our own personal way of thinking about musical stereotypes.
Having caught up with my rather long list of new releases to write about, I asked if there was anything that our glorious leaders would like me to review. Out of the selection of new albums that was sent my way, the one that came across as being the most different and intriguing was the Greek band Mother of Millions debut release ‘Human’and, after a few listens I must admit I was captivated by the complexity and diversity of their musical influences and the incredible talent on show.
Mother of Millions were formed in the winter of 2008, driven by the will of composing and presenting their own music. Free of the need of joining a specific musical genre, the band has been intensely working on its material and, in the winter of 2011 released a 4-track demo EP. In the summer of 2012, they entered the studio to begin recording their first full length album. The recording and production sessions ended a year after and the band released its debut album “Human”.
The band consists of George Prokopiou (vocals), Kostas Konstantinidis (guitars), Panos Priftis (bass), Makis Tsamkosoglou (keyboards, samples) and George Boukaouris (drums, percussions).
Along the way Mother of Millions has played in many venues around Greece and shared the stage with established acts. Many of their live performances have been featured in websites and magazines that cover the local scene. The sound of Mother Of Millions can be described as an intense experimentation involving elaborate rhythms, stoner rock / metal philosophy, folk aesthetics and progressive rock tunes.
The first hint that this was not going to be my usual reviewing forte was the fact that, despite consisting of 10 tracks, the album is only 40 minutes long. Not your common-or-garden progressive rock album then? Definitely not, to find out more read on my friends!
The first track is Orientation and it has a really heavy, dark metal vibe to it but with definite progressive undertones. There is a radio like intro before a swirling keyboard and thumping riff kick in. The slow, steady pace is reminiscent of early Opeth along with the initial hushed vocal delivery. When Prokopiou lets rip with the full power of his lungs he has an immense voice, it is not harsh or growling, just full of dark menace. The drums and bass deliver a solid rhythm section and the track has level of complexity that lifts it above the norm. The chorus section is particularly addictive and this is where it becomes more than just a metal song, an impressive opening track, the crunching riff that closes the song nearly disembowels you! Propaganda Techniques begins with a keyboard and ambient intro that hints at industrial metal. The voice over is superseded by another powerful riff that is as melodic as it is potent. The vocals begin and have more of an alternative rock feel to them on this track, like a cross between Gavin Rossdale and Matthew Bellamy, it isn’t long before George lets fly with his more forceful vocal delivery though. While the undertone is gentle keyboards, drum and bass, his voice gives the song a different dynamic. The song closes out with a return to the epic, monstrous riffing and soaring vocals.
Without further ado, we move straight into The Parallel with no pause for breath. Once more a stylish keyboard and hard and heavy riff deliver the introduction. The vocals on the verses are very much thrash or black metal influenced with a harsh and strident delivery whilst being sombre but more enunciated on the rather catchy chorus. This is forceful and robust industrial metal with the programming and keyboards used very effectively. There is immensity to the track, momentous and colossal, like an immoveable object. After three relatively lengthy tracks, the two minute Ignition is like an interlude to proceedings. It uses just keyboards and electronics over a spoken dialogue to give an eerie feel of suspense, quite clever in fact.
The thunderous riff and mountainous drumming return on Evolving, three minutes of heaviness that drills you to the core. Prokopiou has this knack of delivering a vocal performance that has so much depth and intensity to it yet remains eminently listenable. He has a really impassioned voice that drips heart and soul and is matched by the all-consuming wall of sound that the rest of the band can deliver. The track segues immediately into Evolved which is mainly an astringent instrumental of coruscating guitar and steady drums. The contrast of the gentle piano note and the severely delivered vocal screams is incredibly vivid. The complexity and ferocity continue as the albums flows neatly into Fire. This song begins with a huge wall of sound composed of fierce guitars and humongous drums along with incredibly relentless and savage vocals that bare your soul. There is a sea change half way through the track where it becomes much more laid back in style, almost far eastern. The contrast in styles works very well and it is on this song where the breadth of Prokopiou’s vocal talents is really noticeable as he moves seamlessly through differing vocal styles. The track comes to a furious ending that leaves you breathless.
Loss begins in a much more subdued manner, the hushed vocal and lilting piano soothe your tortured soul. The slow and measured guitar then gives way to a stronger vocal that is full of emotion, almost sorrowful in the way the words are enunciated. The whole song is increasingly hypnotic in the way the vocals squirm and flow and the guitar solo is full of passion and remorse. This is a song that really affects you and empathises with you. I am left with a feeling not of despair but, of hope. Whether that was the intention or not, I don’t know. Running is another two minute instrumental that has an incredible folk rhythm to it, inventive and almost playful. It is another interlude before the final course.
The last track on this journey through the musical worlds of Mother of Millions is the title track Human. In many ways, the band has left the best part of this exquisite musical journey until last. The introduction is measured and smooth. Smart percussion and clever bass back up the guitar as it winds its way through your mind. The piano and keyboards add a feeling of apprehension as they underlie the tense vocal. All hell is let loose as the vocals erupt into a thunderous effusion and an amazing slow burning guitar solo follows before parity is restored. This is where the band shows the diversity and intricacy of their musical styles, keeping everything in check before outpourings of musical nirvana. The potency and fervour are quite imposing and I am held in total thrall by this enthralling record. As the track and album are brought to a close by a simple piano run-out you are left drained of emotion yet wanting more.
This complex yet eminently accessible release is one of my surprise highlights of what is already becoming a phenomenal year for the music I love. Mother of Millions defy accepted convention and refuse to be pigeon-holed into any stereotypical musical genre. This attitude has produced an album that deserves the highest praise and leaves you slack-jawed in appreciation. I cannot recommend it enough.