Universal Mind Project – “The Jaguar Priest”


universal_mind_project_artwork_1600_a5a Universal Mind Project was started in 2012 by guitarist and composer Michael Alexander. It began as a collaborative project between musicians from all around the globe to finally shape into a band with a solid nucleus consisting of Elina Laivera and Henrik Båth [Darkwater] on vocals, Michael Alexander on guitars and growls and Alex Landenburg [Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody] on drums.

Their style is modern progressive/power metal combined with the diversity of male and female vocals that spread from lyrical and fragile to soothing and powerful, as well as the use of growled vocal parts. The debut album ‘The Jaguar Priest’ was mixed by Simone Mularoni [Ancient Bards, DGM, Vision Divine] at Domination Studios and the impressive artwork was created by Jan Yrlund [Apocalyptica, Korpiklaani, Leah] at Darkgrove Design.

The album was composed by Michael Alexander and Elina Laivera with care to ensure that the vocal lines would suit each guest vocalist. Apart from Elina Laivera and Henrik Båth, the album also includes performances by Nils K Rue [Pagan’s Mind], Mark Jansen [Epica, Mayan], Charlie Dominici [ex. Dream Theater] and Diego Valdez [Helker] – each of whom add their own distinctive style to the songs.

‘Anthem For Freedom’ is laden with keyboards and hard rock guitar-work as Elina trades vocals with Henrik, along with a section of gruff vocals. “Say even if it all falls around you now / and pain wraps its hands around you / set for a brand new horizon! / Cause you know even if you are down and out / you’ll always have wings strong enough to / spread over brand new horizons / Spread over and fly!”

The pace quickens for ‘Truth’ which has more growls up front. The prog metal comes to the fore with some blistering guitar solos and Elina has a voice that is haunting, beautiful and melodic as it is allowed to develop. After such intensity, it is taken back to a more reflective intro on ‘The Bargain Of Lost Souls’ before the swarthy riffs take hold.

There is a much heavier approach on ‘Dreamstate’ as the guitars dominate the song. As it is a longer track it allows for melodic excerpts and fully explores the melodic area for the latter half. “Spinning in circles in your dreamstate / have you just wondered what is your fate? / what you believe in, now? “

‘Awakened By The Light’ breaks the eight minute mark as they fully embrace their progressive side with Diego Valdez [Helker]. This is followed by a tender ballad upheld by subtle piano in ‘A World That Burns’ with Elina’s beautiful and ethereal vocals. The hard rock reappears for ‘Seven’ and it certainly suits Diego Valdez (his style has often been compared to Ronnie James Dio).

‘The Jaguar Priest’ sees you transported to the atmospheric Mayan jungle and the realm of the feathered serpent, Kukulkan. Charlie Dominici [ex. Dream Theater] wrote the lyrics for this song and sings it too. “I am the jaguar priest / For the people I gather the knowledge / The jungle opens up for me, as I run to meet the great God” as the song rises up.

‘The Force Of Our Creation’ has Mike LePond [Symphony X] on bass and Johan Reinholz [Andromeda] contributes a guitar solo in the latter part of the track. It has more overt keyboard flourishes and compliments Elina’s voice as she goes from delicate to operatic.

Another aspect of Mayan culture was the underworld realm called Xibalba (place of fear), which was ruled over by the Maya death gods and their helpers. It’s a fast paced sprint with Elina Laivera and Henrik Båth after the two previous long songs. “Set Higher High / through the darkness of Xibalba / Cradle of fire / conquers sceneries painted in blood”.

Reviewed by Peter John Willoughby

Rating: 7.5/10

01. Anthem For Freedom
02. Truth
03. The Bargain Of Lost Souls
04. Dreamstate
05. Awakened By The Light (Universal Mind)
06. A World That Burns
07. Seven
08. The Jaguar Priest
09. The Force Of Our Creation
10. Xibalba

Universal Mind Project line-up:
Elina Laivera [Seduce The Heaven] – Vocals
Henrik Båth [Darkwater, Waken Eyes] – Vocals
Michael Alexander – Guitars & growls
Alex Landenburg [Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody, 21 Octayne] – Drums

Guests on the album:
Emanuele Casali [DGM] – Keyboards on all tracks
Mark Jansen [Epica, Mayan] – Growls on “Anthem For Freedom”, “Truth” and “Dreamstate”
Nils K Rue [Pagan’s Mind] – Vocals on “Bargain of Lost Souls”
Diego Valdez [Helker] – Vocals on “Awakened By The Light” and “Seven”
Charlie Dominici [ex. Dream Theater] – Vocals on “The Jaguar Priest”
Alessandro Bissa [Vision Divine] – Drums on “Dreamstate”, “Anthem For Freedom”, “Awakened By The Light”, “Bargain Of Lost Souls” and “Truth”
Mike LePond [Symphony X] – Bass on “Truth” and “The Force Of Our Creation”
Johan Reinholz [Andromeda] – Guitar solo on “The Force Of Our Creation” 07:08-07:30

Weblinks: Facebook / Indiegogo

Buy the album here:
Holland: First Paradox
Norway: Nordic Mission

Video below: ‘Truth’

Lyric video: ‘The Force Of Our Creation’

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