Korsair - Mechopolis (2014)
Reviewed by Sebastian Kluth
Korsair is a Swedish progressive metal project built around mastermind Anders Thonander, who’s playing bass and keyboards on the debut full length effort, and who takes care of the programming and the ambitious lyrics that tell the story of two twins, two friends, two cyborgs, and a robot who come together under strange circumstances. Anders Thonander gathered twelve guest musicians from countries such as Canada, Denmark, the Netherlands, Sweden, Turkey, and the United States of America around him to give birth to Mechopolis. This album features sixteen songs and is only available digitally at this point in time, as the record has a stunning running time of more than two hours (which includes six tracks breaking the ten minute mark). Obviously, such an album requests a lot of attention, intellect, and patience to unfold, but fans of Ayreon should definitely try this record out.
Apart from the cinematic atmosphere and gripping lyrics to a fascinating story, the most outstanding element of this challenging release is its use of keyboards and programming. One gets to hear warm and psychedelic organ sounds similar to old progressive rock bands like Deep Purple, more technically stunning passages that could have come from Dream Theater, and even some contemporary electronic sounds that remind me of Transcend. All the different instruments have solo sections and different tunes where they take the lead, but the keyboards and programming hold the entire record together and give this release a space opera atmosphere. In particular, the calm instrumental passages in the epic songs or the shorter tracks featuring narrative vocal samples work extremely well on this cinematic release.
However, some of the other instruments fail to stand out despite several featured parts. The bass guitar is not as dominant as it should be, the drumming varies from promising patterns in some songs to disappointingly dull and repetitive beats in others, but it’s the guitar play that’s especially a letdown. The harder riffs sound ordinary, the greatest melodies are carried by the keyboards, and the overlong solos lack compelling emotion. The numerous guest vocalists deliver a solid, routine job, but none of them delivers a remarkable effort that would inspire you to check out the singers’ other projects.
It’s difficult to point out any best or worst tracks on such a long record. “Dark Green Skies” is probably the catchiest tune, as it comes around with calm, enchanting, and grounded androgynous vocals underlaid by mysterious and peaceful guitar and keyboard melodies, packed into five and a half compact minutes. The quasi-instrumental “The Turn” has a constantly growing apocalyptic and psychedelic atmosphere as the sound gets progressively louder, faster, and more epic while hectic narrative vocal samples set in. This cinematic track is probably the most dramatic song on the release, and manages to grab the listener for a short rollercoaster ride of four and a half minutes.
I must admit that the story behind the release has a lot of potential. It would have made a great graphic novel, novel, or movie for sure. Anders Thonander could have also created an excellent instrumental record or atmospheric score for a science fiction blockbuster with a few shorter and more concise tracks without the guest singers. However, a great concept idea is not always enough to carry an album so far over two hours. The final word on Mechopolis is that it has a lack of emotional outbursts, noticeably empty lengths, and some dull instrumental passages lacking diversity and originality. This is the perfect example where less would have been so much more. In the end,Mechopolis is only interesting for very patient progressive rock and metal fans who don’t mind overlong conceptual records with a calmer tone in the key of the last Ayreon release and the like.
3 // 5