Okay I’ll be honest with you. The cover art alone demanded a review of this one. Just look at that beauty. It’s 100% van-worthy and nearly as good as the cover of their 2014 debut Fantasia, which was a visual gobstopper to be sure. Any-who, Estate hail from Mother Russia and they walk the path of rich, creamy Euro-power metal. Mirrorland is their second go at fame and fortune and what you’ll find here is a fourth, maybe fifth tier band trying really hard to move up the power metal food chain. However, their path to glory is blocked by a few implacable obstacles. They aren’t all that great at songwriting, and they have a vocalist who defines the term “love or hate,” except in this case, few are going to be attending Camp Love. Against such dire odds, can exuberance and moxie overcome harsh, cruel reality and elevate Mirrorland to that elusive next level of metal art?
Not a chance, son. This is some tough to love material, despite the band’s earnest efforts to entertain. The opening title track hits like a 50 pound block of Velveeta hurled from a passing cheese truck with ill intent. It’s zippy, energetic and does the Euro-power polka adequately, but when Iliand Ferro joins the fray, his warble-heavy, unpolished rasp sucks all the air out of the room, forcing you to focus on him instead of the music. He’s not a good singer and the more he tries to stretch his range the worse things get. When he hits high notes, as he does often, it sounds like someone is torturing a cat. It’s hard to hear and not tune completely out. Even if Ferro wisely invoked his right to remain silent, the music isn’t doing much of anything interesting and the song itself is just not good.
What follows is an album loaded with misfires and missed opportunities. The band mixes things up between straight-ahead power metal and more hard rock-based numbers with a Jornish edge. It’s with the latter variety that they find a few moments of minor success. “Storm of the Age Part II: Knight of Hope” vaguely reminds me of Avantasia and winds up as the album standout because of it. Ferro even manages to sound ever so slightly like Mr. Tobias Sammet himself, or a karaoke approximation at any rate. It’s still not a good song, but compared to what it’s surrounded by, it sounds polished and semi-professional. “Storm of the Age Part III: Lady Wind” follows a similar approach but with a bit less panache and hooks.
Now for what got trapped in the grease filter: “Winter Kingdom” is a wildly unsuccessful power ballad where Ferro is asked to carry things vocally. This is a strategic blunder on par with getting involved in a land war in Asia or eating AMG‘s lunch in the office break room, and making it the album’s single seems like self-loathing. The man tries gamely but he just isn’t cut out for soaring ballads, and he’s more exposed here than Muppet at a Vengaboys meet n’ greet. The band doubles down on this losing hand by running Ferro back out for an even bigger, sappier power ballad called “Silvery Skies” because sadism. As bad as “Winter Kingdom” is, it’s got nothing on this thing which is bad every way a song can be, and yes, it reaches hilarious levels of awful rather quickly.
Essentially gone are the folk elements Estate included on their debut, though traces appear during “Stolen Heart.” This is a small matter though when everything is on fire and melting. Aside from Ferro’s shortcomings, the band is not completely without talent. Guitarist Peter Filevskiy can play, and his riffing and solos are often the only things holding this house of cards up at all. The keyboards from Dmitriy Efimov are decent and actually under-employed more often than not. If the band could significantly improve their songcraft and get Ferro some kind of intensive vocal training, these cats might just end up serviceable.
In a world overloaded with crappy power metal, Mirrorland is just another dud and Estate are not ready for prime time. The writing is utterly unmemorable and the execution is sub par. At least we got that bitchin’ cover art though, right? We’ll always have that.