Mystery- The World is a Game
Sat, 22 Sep 2012 09:58:00 +0000
One of the most exciting parts about being a music lover is getting that first listen to a new album by an artist you know you love all ready. Such was my anticipation behind the latest release by Mystery, The World is a Game. Mystery is a band I fell for from the first listen. After coming across the name in the most surreptitious of ways via a random Recommended Artist listings, I decided to do a bit of research. My first check came up with the lead singer’s name, Benoit David, a name I knew well from when he took over the vocal duties of one of my all time favorite bands, Yes, a job he handled more than adequately through a long tour and two albums, most notably the wonderful Fly From Here. Upon listening to a few tracks, I was in love with an all too familiar prog sound that is near and dear to me, plus a passion and emotion I had yet to ever hear, especially from their 2010 release One Among the Living. One more thing my search turned up was a release date of their next project. Calenders were marked, and the anticipation began.
Mystery is the brainchild of Michel St. Pere, and he has been its driving force since 1990 through six studio albums. Benoit David has been along for the ride for the last three albums. Other than those two, the rest consisted of various, talented touring and studio musicians. For The World is a Game, the lineup consist of St. Pere on guitar and keyboards, David on vocals, Antoine Fafard of the band Spaced Out on bass and additional acoustic guitar, and Nick D’Virgilio, formerly of Spock’s Beard and presently with Big Big Train, on drums.
Now, let’s go back to the first listen. As I had said, I loved, loved, loved their sound, it is prog sound that is right up my alley. I giddily got my download, and hit play. After a melodic, wonderful instrumental piece, the first full song of the album, Pride, began. Soft guitar notes lead immediately into pounding riffs, and David’s voice sings out one line that sets up the tone for what turned out to be an absolutely brilliant thematic concept album, “What if all the love and hate is merged into one.” One thing hit me right away, that though I enjoyed David’s work with Yes, Mystery is his home, this is the band he was meant to sing in. His melodic and soaring voice fits in perfectly not only with the music, but with the tender yet firm tone of the albums lyrical portrait. His vocalization of the line, “Who could have told we’d live to see the day when tears would come rolling down our face, and steal away our pride” is nothing but perfect, and brings the listener right where the band wants them. In Pride, Mystery sets up the theme of the album by exposing the listener’s most vulnerable moments, those moments when we cross a mirror and are ashamed to look at our own reflection, when we don’t want to face the world, when we are done with the game. It is a brilliant set up to the rest of the album, and a song that did a rare feat, moved me to tears upon first listen. The line, “Pride, how does it feel to cry, how does it feel to have to hide, can I help you for a while?” goes to a space very fragile in us, one we don’t like to admit exist but does.
I definitely want to focus on the music for a bit, for it is a few steps short of brilliant. Pere’s guitar leads the way, but by using the second guitar as rhythm, they are able to keep a much more secure sound rolling as Pere takes his all to welcome searing solo pieces. The man knows how to make the axe sing, and sing wonderfully, so full of emotion and power that it almost acts as a second vocalist, carrying the myriad moods of the album wonderfully. D’Virgilio’s drums are eclectic and fluidic, a perfect match for varying tones of the album. Though they never go into a full metal mode(sorry headbangers), they do have their harder moments, but for the most part, this is more an album of aggressive tenderness, forceful and at times fast, but always with a loving touch. It’s most magical moments come through in the passages I can only describe as soaring and falling, like being helplessly carried on the wind. It is perfect for the message it carries.
Getting back to that message, after exposing and breaking us down in Pride, Mystery begins the long healing process, not by patting us on the head and saying it will be all better, but by breaking open a fundamental truth about an approach to a serene existence. In Superstar, we are shown that even though broken and isolated, we still have a touch of the spark for a better life in us, that this isn’t the end all. It is a somber and comforting piece that flows wonderfully into the title track. I may be off base on this one, but it seems to me this one is directed at God, trying to find some kind of culpability for our pain from said Supreme Being, “You point a finger then you say one word and we fall, but who’s the winner after all.” It turns to one very important line, “Remember these pawns all have names, the rules are the same in their lives.” In the next song, Dear Someone, a hauntingly soft song, they reach out to others, to give a note of caution to our present faults. The second to last song, Time Goes By, is a lyrical wonder, the imagery of the healing power of time is simply amazing. Having set up the tone of the spiritual breakdown and structure of the present state of being, Mystery heads into the epic, and the final song of the album, Another Day.
For those of you who like epics dripping with mind-blowing instrumental work, sit down and take a listen to this one. The three main lyrical parts are buffeted by some serious action, and makes for an almost twenty minute song that still seems too short. Other times previously in the album, the imagery of the end of the world is brought up, and Another Day opens with this. Now, when we are in a state where the very core of our being is broken, that’s kind of how it feels, like the world is ending. It is a hopelessness like no other. They take this further, and translate it to a more personal level in the middle part, and what is the most aggressive part of the song that flows through the night of desperation and fear of the morning that has to come. The realization they brought to me is how we live that night, whether it be in said fear of the morning, or as a part of what is happening at the moment. In other words, it is just a game, but maybe that’s all it has to be, the important part being we don’t step out of that game, but try our best to be an active, loving part of it. The closing passages are serious life advice if nothing else, “For all the love we get, we take, we lose, and we make another day. For all we touch and see, we hear and we create another day. For those who think the world is just a game, come out and play for another day, come out and play.” Yes, come out and play, be a part of it, and do it in joyous bliss that only the act of play can bring.
To have such an intense and wonderful message conveyed to us is one thing; to pass in on through the medium of a veritable musical wonder is a blessed gift. I know that if I listen to this album, not only will I be carried away on an amazing musical journey, but I have the potential to better my place in the world, such a precious hidden gem found in an incredible album.