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Flaming Row - Mirage - A Portrayal Of Figures CD (album) cover

MIRAGE - A PORTRAYAL OF FIGURES

Flaming Row

 

Progressive Metal

3.95 | 126 ratings

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Second Life Syndrome
Prog Reviewer
4 stars It excites me to see progressive metal bands continually moving away from the norm, and toward new, fresh sounds and combinations. Flaming Row out of Germany has released their second album, and it's ambitious for certain. "Mirage - A Portrayal of Figures" is a massive, rock opera-like album that has a cohesive, definite story to it. "Mirage" is massive in many ways, from story to guest musicians. These guests include members of bands such as Haken, Spock's Beard, Pain of Salvation, and even Ayreon. This is really impressive for a band that is only on its second album.

"Mirage" revolves around the Magistrate, a group of alien rulers that have decided that mankind has progressed too far in their technological abilities, but not far enough in their morality or unity. This certainly isn't anything new, as I can name a few albums off the top of my head with similar plots: however, the added twist is that the survivors have banded together to fight back, but a lowly soldier believes that his leaders have different plans than they claim. It's obviously quite an undertaking, and I believe they pull it off pretty well with a good twist at the end.

The lyrical content is epic at times, delicate and quiet in others. This album, like most rock operas, falls prey to a basic problem that grinds my gears. Often, the lyrics are written to be dialogue, and this ends up feeling cheap and forced, as this dialogue is usually not conducive to real songs. I especially felt this way about Ayreon's 2013 album, "The Theory of Everything". "Mirage", however, only falls into this rut a few times, as most of the album is comprised of real songs that are well-suited to the story.

The music is the shining force on this album. Calling Flaming Row a progressive metal band is a bit of a generalization, as there are many styles at work here. Sure, there are some hefty metal portions, but there are also jazzy sequences, American country parts, many European folk influences, and even some rousing "saloon" piano, for lack of a better description. These are all mixed well, seamlessly even.

The music is an eclectic mix, then, of heavy guitars (at times), dynamic drums and bass, the always excellent keys and sax of Marek Arnold, and guest musicians that play everything from Uilleann pipes, whistles, and violins to mandolins, cellos, and basically everything you can imagine. One can imagine the folksy vibe that would be present with all those wind and stringed instruments.

The tracks themselves are extraordinary for the most part. The album begins with a 16+ minute title track that feels epic and soaring. Right on its heels, though, we have my favorite track "Aim L45", a quieter, more organic and folksy tune that is simply beautiful. But, after that, "Burning Sky" starts the massive feeling all over again. This is rather representative of the entire album, as the styles and tone move up and down and all over the place. The myriad of vocalists that appear on this album make for a diverse, if sometimes hard to distinguish, array of "faces" to remember. It does feel a bit crowded at times, even hard to follow. However, the music keeps the listener grounded, and multiple listens are rather rewarding.

"Mirage", then, is a soaring story of giant proportions, one that is told well and executed musically even better. The many styles in play keep things interesting, and there are some jaw-dropping moments that really make the album what it is. Flaming Row, I believe, has trumped their first album by quite a bit here, and I expect to uncover more and more as I continue to listen to this wondrous album.

Second Life Syndrome | 4/5 |

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