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Universal Mind Project was created by guitarist/composer Michael Alexander as a pet project between musicians back in 2012. The band has taken form with Elina Laivera and Henrik Båth on vocals, Alexander growling and on guitars and Alex Landenburg of Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody fame on drums. ‘The Jaguar Priest’, which is Universal Mind Project’s debut album, invites many familiar artists to give listeners some common ground to cling to, while also offering something completely new! UMP includes performances by Nils K Rue [Pagan’s Mind], Mark Jansen [Epica, Mayan], Charlie Dominici [ex-Dream Theater], Mike Lepond [Symphony X] and Diego Valdez [Helker]. Jingles and waves of audio inspired by each of these acts come across throughout ‘The Jaguar Priest’, adding so much more than your average traditional power-prog album.

Reading the above, with mentions of Pagan’s Mind, Symphony X and Luca Turilli, should bring a smile to any progressive metal fan and the song writing in this offering does not disappoint, for the most part. Jumping right into the album you will be rewarded with terrific symphony, blazing guitars, snarling vocals that accompany imaginative lead lyrics and keyboard talents that take you to another world. ‘Anthem for Freedom’ offers some wondrous introductions to the dynamic style to be found with this record. A dose of clean male, then female and edgy snarling lyrics, steer you in a direction of success. Imagine if Amaranthe were a bit more polished and had more soul! Then you get this opening track.

‘Truth’ is the first track off this album that I heard as a single or music video. It comes across as very easy on the ears and can be enjoyed by a wide audience. ‘The Bargain of Lost Souls’ opens with some classy keys that transition into a very Pagan’s Mind style chorus. ‘Dreamstate’ comes across as what I would consider a misfire on this release. Which isn’t to say that I dislike the track; it has a very nice build that unfortunately leads into a rather weak chorus. ‘Awakened By the Light’ picks things back up with gritty guitars and terrific harmonic vocals. The transitions from ballad to speedy guitars are hard to explain and should be heard to be believed.

‘A World that Burns’ is nearly 5 minutes of ballad that I personally can’t wrap my head around fully. The piano accompanies a very nice vocal performance by Laivera, but it feels out of place on this album. ‘Seven’ starts off with more pianos after transitioning from the ballad track prior and quickly reminds us that this is a metal album. While it tries to pick up the momentum from earlier tracks, it comes up just a tad short. Next we have a nine mutant journey with the title track of ‘The Jaguar Priest’, which does not disappoint. Various methods and transitions create a complete story all in one track. Very well done.

Towards the end of this release are two interesting tracks that wrap up a very impressive album. ‘The Force of our Creation’ has moments of out-worldly synth and acoustics that rapidly transform into crunchy guitars, marching swiftly into a fantasy laden chorus. ‘Xibalba’ brings us into the finale with such sci-fi fantasy groove that will encourage you to listen from beginning to end right away to experience everything again!

Michael Alexander’s work has such a terrific blend of progressive metal with fantasy and science fiction. The wide spectrum and style in this release should appeal to many, while proving enjoyable to diehard fans of the power metal genre.
Inner Wound Recordings
Review by Joshua Jaeger
29th April 2016
1) Anthem for Freedom
2) Truth
3) The Bargain of Lost Souls
4) Dreamstate
5) Awakened by the Light (Univeral Mind)
6) A World That Burns
7) Seven
8) The Jaguar Priest
9) The Force of Our Creation
10) Xibalba
"...such a terrific blend of progressive metal with fantasy and science fiction. The wide spectrum and style in this release should appeal to many, while proving enjoyable to diehard fans of the power metal genre."