Mastord – To Whom Bow Even the Trees Review

One of the best things about seeing the “progressive metal” sign rotting beside some long-forgotten deposit in the Promo Pit is how little that actually tells you about what’s going on with the album. As much as I have been frustrated with prog recently, I adore the genre for its boundless potential and ability to truly amaze, even when all other metal feels stagnant.1 In today’s case, the progressive metal band in question is Finnish Mastord; To Whom Bow Even the Trees is their sophomore full-length, a seventy-two minute showcase of the band’s impressive array of speedy solos, heavy riffs, and radiant talent. Let’s dive in. Like trees. Like trees bowing to whom… oh, never mind.

The nice thing about Mastord’s style is that their music remains fairly grounded in “heavy metal” territory. As much as there are lots of wild solos, staggering song structures and huge extravaganzas of talent on display, the album is produced, mixed, and written in such a way as to remain appropriately heavy and impressive. Like Southern Empire, the keys and lead guitars offer superb melodic touches, but don’t take away from a heavy focus. Standout songs like “Master – Savior” contrast hypnotizing and powerful riffs with slow, emotional drawls in the chorus, a stellar prog rock interlude, and a number of sly guitar solos throughout. Despite these touches, it never stops feeling like a heavy metal song at heart.

Throughout To Whom Bow Even the Trees, Mastord take full advantage of these factors to create an album that is varied and lively, with any number of twists and turns keeping the listener on their toes. This album is utterly vibrant, with numbers like “Humble Professor” and opener “The Walls” keeping the head nodding, the feet tapping, and the heart happy. Then you have songs like “Silent Chime” — which, by the way, is an amazing song — that bring thundering riffs with emotional singing and grandeur aplenty. For the most part, it seems like anything Mastord put their minds to, they succeed at, and To Whom Bow Even the Trees feels like progressive metal in the best sense of the term as a result. It helps that every band member brings their A-game to the proceedings; keys, guitars, bass, drums, and vocals are all in fine form, weaving in and out of the spotlight in well-thought-out and creative ways with tons energy to boot.

I could cite only a couple of drawbacks to the album, though nothing that seriously takes away from its quality. The first is something I’ve mentioned a couple of times already, and that’s the album length. I get it — it’s prog, it’s over an hour long, that comes with the territory. Still, I can’t help but feel that To Whom Bow Even the Trees loses steam as it nears that hour mark. “Endless Confusion” begins with a solid two minutes of guitar solo highlights, which, while impressive, meander a bunch and knock the album off of its flow. From there, it doesn’t recover as well as it could. The last three songs are still good, but they’re missing the vibrant wow-factor from the first three-quarters of the album. Secondly, Markku Pihjaja (Return to Void, Kaihoro) is an amazing vocalist, but he plays things very safe throughout the album, and some of the song climaxes feel like they’re missing something because he never really goes all-out. The restrained approach works great on songs like “Silent Chime” and “Humble Professor” but seems to clash occasionally with the music elsewhere. In general, I wish he’d taken a couple more risks here and there.

I didn’t know what to expect when I fished To Whom Bow Even the Trees from the Promo Pit; I’d never heard of Mastord2 and my prog metal history is both rusty and tempered with caution. I am very, very glad I took the chance on these guys. This album is engaging, exciting, and has given me a new band to keep an eye on going forward. My first pleasant surprise of the year, this is not an album for any fan of prog to sleep on.


Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 9 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Inverse Records
Websites: mastord.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/mastordofficial
Releases Worldwide: February 19th, 2021

Show 2 footnotes

  1. That’s an occasional feeling, not a resolute diagnosis.
  2. What? You’ve never slathered Mastord on your hot dog? – Holdeneye
« »