It’s been a great five years for Québec-based Mystery and their fans since the release of their previous live album Tales From The Netherlands in 2014. In that time, they’ve brought formidable vocalist and front man Jean Pageau on board, released two of their strongest studio albums to date, and played numerous Canadian and European tours, including one that celebrated the tenth anniversary of their popular album Beneath The Veil Of Winter’s Face by playing it in its entirety. To commemorate this most recent (and arguably best) era of the band, Mystery are unveiling Live In Poznań, their third double live album, on 15 November. Recorded this past April on one of the Polish dates of their Lies and Butterflies tour, Poznań is over two and a half hours of prime Mystery tracks from all across their career – including the complete Butterflies scattered throughout the set.
Fan favourites including Delusion Rain, The Scarlett Eye, Pride, Shadow Of The Lake, The Sailor And The Mermaid and the outstanding epic The Willow Tree are all played with trademark Mystery depth and emotion, their alluring melodies underpinned by deep, rumbling bass (if you’re a sucker for wall-shaking Taurus pedals, look no further), and a beautiful, clear mix. The album sounds spectacular, and I hope listeners pop in the CDs (or the vinyl) and crank it on their home systems for maximum enjoyment, the way such compelling and dynamic music is meant to be heard.
The band is a tight live unit and can shift comfortably between the more complex and the more radio-friendly songs. There’s a high level of quality woven throughout Mystery’s music – a blend of lush, melodic progressive rock and brushes of more polished AOR stylings. They never go too far in any one direction – heavy parts never approach ‘metal’, ballads are not syrupy, instrumental workouts are engaging and emotional, rather than an academic display of technical prowess. Epic pieces don’t feel stitched-together and ‘prog’ for the sake of. Energetic rocking sections blend seamlessly into beautiful and haunting melodies, with a perfect balance between guitar and keyboard lines. The voice (and flute) of Pageau glides effortlessly over top of all of this, with main man Michel St-Père’s soaring guitar parts always a hallmark of the band – live or otherwise. And while many of the big pieces from their past are as vibrant and appealing as always, the biggest draw here is the new crop of songs from career highlight Lies And Butterflies. Its lengthy bookend tracks Looking For Something Else and Chrysalis were born to be played live, with all their twists and turns (the spine-tingling moment when St-Père launches into those perfect guitar solos at the climax of Looking For Something Else is as passionate a musical moment as I’ve heard all year). Come To Me and Where Dreams Come Alive sound huge and full, even in comparison with their studio renditions. One older track I would like to have heard is The World Is A Game, since it wasn’t on the last live release either – but they can’t play everything, I suppose, and this is a pretty loaded set as it is.
Live In Poznań is definitely a worthy entry in the Mystery catalogue, an exciting journey that spans their career, and while it’s certainly comprehensive, it never feels overly long. Existing fans will appreciate this gathering of tracks in a current live setting, with all the majestic playing they’ve come to expect from this lineup. New fans would do well to start here too, as it’s not only a terrific overview of what the band have been about over the years, but an excellent document of where they are at right now (spoiler alert: it’s a very good place indeed). It’s no cliché: Mystery really have never sounded better. Recommended listening.
Available for pre-order in 2-CD digisleeve, digibook and four different vinyl boxed sets for release in November here.
Jean Pageau: Lead Vocal, Flute & Keyboards
Michel St-Père: Guitar
Sylvain Moineau: Guitar & backing vocals
Francois Fournier: Bass, Taurus Bass pedals & backing vocals
Jean-Sébastien Goyette: Drums & backing vocals
Antoine Michaud: Keyboards
Fall tour dates:
10-17 Epic Studios, Norwich UK
10-19 Boerderij Cultuurpodium, Zoetermeer Netherlands
10-20 Yard Club, Die Kantine, Cologne Germany
10-21 Meisenfrei Blues Club, Bremen Germany
10-22 Musiktheater Piano, Dortmund Germany
10-23 Musiktheater Rex, Bensheim Germany
10-24 Z7, Pratteln Switzerland
10-26 Prog En Beauce Festival, Salle Maurice Leblond, Pierres, France
11-09 Petit Campus, Montréal, Canada
11-10 LaScene Lebourgneuf, Québec, Canada