Course of Fate – Mindweaver Review

I’ve always been interested in bands that have long histories and comparatively brief discographies. Course of Fate is a Norwegian sextet that formed back in 2003, but their debut full-length album Mindweaver is just now releasing, seventeen years later. Their last sign of life came in the form of Cognizance, an EP released in 2013, and they’ve been working on Mindweaver for the last six years. I’m usually pretty cautious when it comes to finding progressive metal — the term really can mean just about anything — but Course of Fate had me hooked within a minute of sampling the album. I just had to hear more. It’s hard to not have high expectations for an album six years in the making, but I’m happy to say that Course of Fate absolutely delivers here.

Mindweaver is a smooth rocker that weaves in and out of heaviness without ever shedding its progressive charm. It reminds me a fair bit of Evergrey, with lead keyboard passages that scream While Heaven Wept. At times catchy, at others overwhelmingly emotional, Course of Fate are here to take you on a journey. There’s a clear story to Mindweaver, one that makes this a very easy album to listen to from beginning to end. “There Is Someone Watching” is an opener done right — a mere 93 seconds long, it tells you everything you need to know about the album straightaway. It’s intensely dramatic, surprisingly powerful, and would absolutely linger in the brain if not for the following track, “The Faceless Men Pt. I.” Soaring leads and dramatic organs bring the album proper to life in an upbeat way. Leads and vocal lines vie for your attention amidst a progressive symphony that wouldn’t be so out of place on an Ayreon record and have found a comfortable long-term home in my skull.

Yes, Mindweaver is a lively piece of work, but the emotional core of the album is what keeps bringing me back. “Endgame” might have a killer chorus, but the ethereal synths and layered vocals that build up to it get me every time. “Wolves” features some killer riffs that are designed to get the heart pounding. Time and time again across the album, earnest performances accented by a gorgeous mix steal the spotlight, as though every band member is competing at once for your ear and your heart. But it all pales against “Drifting Away,” the penultimate track and absolute highlight of the album. This is the ballad track, and it pulls on the heartstrings with immense skill. Everything about it just works, and I would be remiss if I didn’t take a moment to praise Eivind Gunnesen’s fantastic vocal performance here. It’s hard to believe this is even the same singer from the rest of the album; stripped of effects and production magics, his voice helps Course of Fate to really convey the Mindweaver story, and after the album is done, it’s the chorus from this song that takes hours to leave my mind.

Not every track reaches such lofty heights, but no song on Mindweaver is anything less than good. While Mindweaver‘s forty-five minutes is reasonably succinct for progressive metal, there are moments that I feel are a bit too meandering for my own tastes. “Utopia” certainly has its moments, but my attention usually begins to drift a couple of minutes in. Following up with “The Walls Are Closing In” also feels like a slight misstep — on its own, the minute-long acoustic track feels out of place. Typically, I spend this minute wanting the album’s hitherto flawless flow to come back, and while it does — the song is actually a great “intro track” for “Wolves” — for a minute, I’m a lot less immersed than for the remainder of the album. These are by no means fatal flaws, but I certainly feel that the album could be tightened up a bit halfway through.

For the first time this year, I find myself enamored by a progressive metal album. Mindweaver is an absolute blast, containing within its forty-five minutes a little bit of everything I like about metal. I know I’ll be coming back to this one, and — provided they don’t make me wait another six years for a followup — I am boldly declaring Course of Fate a Band to Keep an Eye On™. As far as debuts go, this one is simply great.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 5 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: ROAR Rock of Angels Records
Releases Worldwide: May 15th, 2020

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