You wouldn’t be wrong to say that Marching Mind is a comparatively “under the radar” band, but to dismiss them as second rate because of that would be a terrible mistake. The group describes themselves as a “prog/grunge/metal” band, and while I really know nothing about grunge and thus can’t comment on how accurate the band’s self-labeling is, I can definitely say that this is a very interesting album that touches a lot of styles without falling firmly into any of them. Gorgeous melodic piano is nearly ubiquitous on the album, but there’s also a huge amount of very technical music that at times comes close to math-metal. The result is a sound that’s very hard to describe and impossible to shoehorn into one label: melody combines with technicality in the best way possible and as a result the album ends up being very good.
The album starts out on a very promising note, with solo piano leading the way in “Conception.” The track proves that you don’t need complicated instrumentation to create good music, with compelling melodies that remind a bit of Phideaux and a remarkably “full” feel given that there sounds to be only one instrument playing. It’s a great opening track despite its sparseness and it sets the stage very well for what is to come.
“Vertigo of Silence” starts with a bit of a slow burn, beginning with a restrained but brilliant percussion, bass, and piano interplay. There’s an almost jazzy vibe to the track, which is slightly undercut by brief, percussive bursts of heavy guitar. When vocals come in they’re extremely well suited to the music, slightly restrained and maintaining the air of mystery that the instruments have established. At about the 3 minute mark the track abruptly switches gears, with a quickened tempo and a punchy guitar and bass part that contains the slightest hints of Rush influence. Another motif appears at around 5 minutes, with heavier riffing guitars and growing intensity in the vocals. This eventually morphs into a section that’s almost math-metal, and the vocals finally unleash their full power, throwing aside any of their previous restraint in favor of powerful, emotive rawness. A powerful instrumental that’s Dream Theater-esque in both its complexity and its overall sound helps bring the song to its close.
“Reactivation” wastes no time in getting started, immediately launching into a frenetic riff accompanied by some truly manic drumming. The song has an almost thrashy feel to it, with some stylistic similarity to bands such as Atheist or perhaps even Death, though all the vocals here are clean. However, there are moments here that are far more melodic than most of those bands’ output, including an awesome instrumental section in the middle of the track that swings from jazzy soloing to groove-metal-esque instrumental interplay. Again, comparisons to Dream Theater really cannot be avoided during this instrumental section, but the track as a whole is far from a clone piece.
“Borne Upon Tears” puts the piano back at the forefront of the track, to great effect. Powerful vocals give the track a great deal of emotional heft, and the piano is used incredibly to give the track a sense of anticipation. In fact, when all the other instruments join in midway through the track, it feels like an incredibly triumphant moment, in no small part due to the anticipatory ambience set up by the piano. A great vocal melody ties the track together, and a variety of solos from both piano and guitar help flesh it out despite its (relatively) short run- time.
“Steps of Avaran” also begins with a solo piano introduction, introducing some gorgeous melodies before acoustic guitar comes in and an amazing duet begins, backed by some percussion and bass. When vocals come in, they’re restrained but emotional, just as they were in the beginning of “Vertigo of Silence.” However, the vocalist is given a chance to break loose during a chorus section, and the brief bursts of raw emotional delivery contrast very well with the more controlled verses. Midway through the track changes its motif, ramping up the heaviness and intensity with sledgehammer riffs and some still-gorgeous piano accompaniment. A really stellar guitar solo takes up much of the beginning of the second half of the track, followed by an almost classical sounding piano interlude. An instrumental section closes out the track, with some excellent interaction between bass, piano, guitar, and percussion.
“Astral Transmission” begins with an air of mystery, with ominous acoustic guitar and bass creating an almost haunting atmosphere before some extremely heavy guitar chords come crashing in. Some vocals are added over this before the track takes on a more jazzy tone, which is juxtaposed brilliantly with almost grunge-y vocals. The track as a whole has a very unique sound to it, with nods to jazz, metal, alt-rock, and even some more classical- sounding piano sections. Yet another excellent solo piano section closes out the track.
“Locust Enigma” transitions seamlessly from this, with the same solo piano beginning the track before the launching into a complex, prog-metal instrumental that again reminds one of Dream Theater. Top notch playing and excellent arrangement (piano against guitar riffing is a combination I will never tire of) ensure that this intro section is compelling before vocals enter. “Locust Enigma” is one of the heavier songs appearing on the album, with most of the sections (even vocal ones) featuring heavy riffing and frenetic playing.
“Surge Subterra” starts off with a “punchier” intro, with almost groovy piano, guitar and percussion playing off one another brilliantly. The track switches its feel a bit once vocals come in, taking on a more standard, riff-based theme. Another new motif emerges at a little after the three minute mark, with the guitar taking on a cinematic, driving line that eventually develops into another slightly DT-esque instrumental section. The track ends with some great guitar solong over some climactic percussion and keyboards that eventually spiral into one final crash of sound.
The final epic “Convergence” begins just as the album itself did, with a melodic, dramatic solo piano section that brilliantly blends atmosphere with melody. As with many of the songs here, though, the song quickly changes into a heavier number, with technical riffs and raw, powerful vocals blending together to create the kind of “prog-grunge” sound that the band labels itself with. I have to emphasize again how impressive the playing is; the riffs and fills are almost mechanically precise, but the musicians don’t lose any emotion in their flawless execution. A more melodic section appears at around the 9 minute mark and carries through to the end of the track, with crashing but cinematic guitars giving way to piano accompaniment and almost Floydian guitar soloing. The final minute of the track is really quite beautiful, with that same gorgeous piano that started the album also closing it on a quite delicate note.
So overall, The Sickness and the Theory is highly recommended listening for any fan of progressive metal (and perhaps even for non-metal fans-I imagine that Marching Mind would have a good deal of crossover appeal). This is really an excellent blend of emotion, precision, melody, and technicality, and one that should leave the listener with a very satisfied feeling upon the album’s conclusion.
2. Vertigo of Silence
4. Borne Upon Tears
5. Steps of Avaran
6. Astral Transmission
7. Locust Enigma
8. Surge Subterra
Sections of this review originally appeared on Progarchives.com