Medevil – Mirror in the Darkness Review

Sometimes you stumble upon a band entirely unknown to you (and I suspect, to everyone else) and you hear a lot of good things, yet the overall listening experience falls well short of good. Canadian prog-power-trad metallers, Medevil subjected your Steelness to such an unsatisfying experience with their sophomore outing, Mirror in the Darkness.  Since it’s abundantly clear that Medevil have talent and ability and should be capable of producing good material, what could be the cause of this tragedy? Perhaps it’s because they’ve been out of action since 2016. Maybe it’s something deeper and genetic. The only way to find out what killed Mirror in the Darkness is to hack into the corpse, throw all the organs against the wall, and burn the blood, piss and bile. It’s a bloody disgusting job, but someone’s gotta do it.

On cursory examination, it appears the chief cause of expiration is terminal bloat. Five of the ten tracks are infected with this remorseless killer of otherwise respectable material. This is especially unfortunate, as Medevil’s overall sound is often interesting, like a weird mash-up of Metal Church and 90s prog-metal acts like Wicked Maraya. Cool ideas populate nearly every song and there are a collection of killer moments that hook the ear, but these are regularly undermined by extended lengths and poor choices. Opener “Dead Before Birth” sets the stage (while diminishing expectations) with a riff-forward charge that references Metal Church’s Blessing in Disguise era but with the “unique” Udo-meets-David Wayne vocals of Liam Collingwood in lieu of the late, great Mike Howe. These vocals are of the love-or-hate variety, and I don’t always love them. I do love the guitarwork from Brett Gibbs and Gary Cordsen though, and their meaty, burly, and somewhat proggy playing keeps me hooked in longer than they probably should as the song wanders into its sixth minute when four would have sufficed. “Among Thieves” is certainly aggressive enough and relatively short at 5 minutes, but the chorus badly underwhelms. “Pray for Me” is considerably better and is the album standout, but it too suffers from the dreaded bloat, thereby neutering much of the goodwill it accrues.

Then come the really outsized monstrosities. “The Signal” runs amok, with good ideas smashing headlong into bad ones with startling regularity. It tries to find the sweet spot between straight-up metal and prog but misses the mark, meandering into meadows best avoided. It even veers into symphonic excess at times, sounding like Angel Dust at their most overblown.1 The title track is a decent song with a nicely dark mood but it gets reduced by the 3-4 extra minutes padded on, and closer “No Peace in Rest” repeats this mistake, delivering 9-plus minutes when 5-6 would be more than enough. Now tack on an unnecessary interlude (“Smoke and Mirrors”), a bizarre track that sounds like Jane’s Addiction, Mordred and Rob Zombie having an unwanted child (“Gateways”), and a forced attempt at electronica-drenched prog (“Unveiled”) and you have an altered beast that’s tough to love. At 56 minutes, Mirror in the Darkness is an enormously overstuffed mess of the good, the bad, and the fugly, and it’s a frustrating experience because it’s obvious they could do much better.

Aside from the band’s inability to edit or pick and choose what worked and what didn’t, Liam Collingwood’s vocals are a wildly mixed bag. When he goes full Udo he often sounds annoying and out of sync with the proggy material. When he opts to dial the screech back and sing, he’s far more palatable. Unfortunately, he stays in cheesegrater mode far too often. Brett Gibbs and Gary Cordsen are very talented players and regularly churn out interesting leads with proggy flavors. At their best, they adopt a riff style similar to Brainstorm and vintage Metal Church. If they focused more on that aspect of their sound, things would likely improve markedly.

Maybe all the time off Medevil had between 2016 and whenever they recorded this led them to hoard ideas they couldn’t part with when it came time to piece this mammoth behemoth together. There’s certainly a whole lot of chaff that should have been left on the cutting room floor. There’s a solid album here somewhere, buried underneath layers of blubber, flab, and throbbing gristle. I did my best to extract it, but Surgical Steel can only do so much with these cursed ape hands. Pull the plug and call it, Daddy needs a banana jelly donut and a whiskey.

Rating: 2.0/5.0
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Self-Release
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: April 7th, 2023

Show 1 footnote

  1. If you aren’t familiar with Angel Dust, I heartily recommend you spin BleedEnlighten the Darkness, and Borders of Reality post haste.
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