Published on October 27th, 2016 | by Justin G.
Universal Mind Project: The Jaguar Priest
While Avantasia and Almanac are the big ensemble projects that got the most attention this year (and rightfully so), 2016 saw the debut of a very promising new venture in Universal Mind Project on the Inner Wound label. The main group consists of guitarist Michael Alexander, drummer Alex Landenburg (Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody, Mekong Delta), male vocalist Henrik Bath (Darkwater, Waken Eyes) and femal vocalist Elina Laivera (ex-Seduce the Heaven).
For their debut offering, titled The Jaguar Priest, Universal Mind Project is joined by some impressive guests, including bassist Mike LePond (Symphony X), keyboardist Emanuele Casali (DGM, Astra), guitarist Johan Reinholdz (Andromeda), drummer Alessandri Bissa (Sound Storm, ex-Vision Divine) and singers Nils K. Rue (Pagan’s Mind), Mark Jansen (Epica), Charlie Dominici (ex-Dream Theater), Diego Valdez (Helker, Iron Mask). DGM’s Simone Mularoni produced the album.
Now that the roll call is out of the way, let’s get down to the important stuff. Namely, is The Jaguar Priest any good, and what does it sound like? That’s a definite YES to the first part. This is a very well put together and executed album. Universal Mind Project sounds pretty much like you’d expect a supergroup on the Inner Wound label to sound like. They have a happy medium between progressive and power metal, with plenty of technicality but also great melodies. Think Harmony, InnerWish and Pyramaze, but also Pagan’s Mind and to some degree Avantasia. The Jaguar Priest isn’t quite at the rock opera level, but it does have a larger than life concept album vibe.
On the vocal side, Elina Laivera is featured prominently, which stands to reason since she co-wrote much of the album with guitarist Michael Alexander. She has a strong vocal presence that’s in the general Within Temptation style. It works well contrasted with the occasional growled vocals and the various male guest singers. Nils Rue’s performances stand out, as does Diego Valdez. And to his credit, Henrik Bath more than holds his own here.
We’ve seen projects like this in the past where once you remove the guest appearances there just isn’t enough going on to make the band interesting. That’s definitely not the case here. Universal Mind Project is writing really solid prog/power material, and their core group is more than talented enough to “sell” these songs. Fans of melodic progressive and power metal, especially the kind of bands on the Inner Wound roster, are going to love The Jaguar Priest. And fans of the large projects like Avantasia, Ayreon and Almanac ought to check it out as well.
Summary: This is a must-have for fans of the Inner Wound roster.