I've kept an eye on Italy's progressive metal scene after discovering the wonderfully elegant Pathosray back in 2007 when a promo copy of their self-titled debut slipped into my curious hands; it was only a matter of time before I was head over heels. Mirrormaze's "Walkabout," serendipitously featuring Pathosray bassist Fabio D'Amore, provides more proof regarding the consistency and brilliance of this overlooked niche. Clearly inspired by Dream Theater and Fates Warning (Ray Alder even provides a vocal cameo on "Deeper Signs"), Mirrormaze's brand of progressive metal is as traditional and true as it gets, yet there's never an ounce of dried instrumentation that fails to become magnetic or enthralling. Mirrormaze is quintessentially the definition of a beautifully tasteful progressive metal group, acting perplexing and pretty when asked, yet putting a shoe in your face when necessary.
The opening moments of "The Prisoner" spell out just what Mirrormaze is all about, what with the circumventing heavy riffs swaying through zesty keyboards and a plethora of carefully calculated algorithms swirling over an upbeat, driving glaze. In essence, Mirrormaze hones in on a sequence very similar to Fates Warning or Dream Theater, yet their textures address an edge of crispiness, perhaps a little carefree as well. They waste no time slamming down prog-inspired tornados heaving chunky guitar work and instrumentation ("Walkabout," "The Prisoner") and sometimes putting a mild brake on the progressive elements ("Earn Your Answers"). It's quite a varied album, including a multitude of dynamic blueprints that make each song shine in its own right; several bands often strike gold once or twice, but Mirrormaze never succumbs. Things really begin mixing on the title track, a monolithic demonstration of progressive metal mastery, and finally cumulating in the epic "Broken Soul," another monstrous slice of beauty.
Songs like "Vicious Circle" and Mirrormaze's homage to the Clown Prince of Crime throughout "Joke" up the pace and intensity a bit, but without dropping the dramatic and innate magic surrounding the album's efforts. D'Amore's vocals are so smooth and fitting that Ray Alder's addition to "Deeper Signs" finds itself equally tested in skill; a great tune regardless of the microphone's holder. Their voices work together in an iconic, surreal fashion of magnificence, and the music surrounding the duo is just as riveting; it's easily one of the finest songs throughout "Walkabout." I'm personally more attracted to tracks found swinging towards the metallic side of the pendulum such as "Joke" or the title track naturally; the lighter, atmospheric songs still look perfectly fine within Mirrormaze's exploration of progressive metal, a journey they mastered quite thoroughly.
The thing about "Walkabout" that really strikes me is its undying ability to adhere to the norms and expectations of what we consider progressive metal, yet simultaneously, Mirrormaze appears completely fresh and individualistic. The song structures are heavily layered and dripping an excellent display of overall musicianship that is both complex and incredibly coherent. For such a versatile showcase, Mirrormaze certainly has the mandatory needs nailed down, and these dudes have an extensive knowledge of the sub-genre's state of mind, which is magically shown through their first-rate debut. I think we can officially fit progressive metal into Italy's valuable exports, somewhere next to The Aeneid and Olive Garden. "Walkabout" will be an essential grab for Dream Theater nuts and Fates Warning followers or those looking for a fresh product inside progressive metal's fences.