Think of Canadian progressive rock and one particularly durable trio immediately comes to mind. But there are plenty of other decent acts besides Rush in Canada, and Mystery is one of them. The Montreal band have now survived for over 25 years, helmed throughout by guitarist and keyboardist Michel St-Père. The World Is A Game is their sixth album and their third in no fewer than five years.
These days Mystery enjoy greater prominence than they have for most of their existence. That’s partly due to the quality of their last two albums, 2007’s Beneath The Veil Of Winter’s Face and 2010’s One Among The Living. But Mystery’s profile has been boosted recently to a greater extent by extraneous events. Indeed it’s difficult not to feel more than a modicum of sympathy for Mystery vocalist Benoît David.
David was plucked from the relative obscurity of fronting Mystery and Yes tribute act Close To The Edge to replace the ailing Jon Anderson in Yes itself in 2008. He racked up over 200 concerts with the prog greats and featured on their Fly From Here album last year, showing commendable grace under pressure in the face of opprobrium from a militant portion of the Yes audience for the crime of replacing/not being Anderson. But in a cruelly ironic twist of fate David himself was sidelined from Yes for health reasons earlier this year and subsequently exited the band, exhibiting great magnanimity in the process.
At first sight The World Is A Game represents David’s return to the fray. However in reality his vocals were recorded prior to his health issues, as the band’s sole ever-present member St-Père revealed in the last issue of Prog. So any over-interpretation of the lyrics of Superstar (‘After all this time giving up is such a crime/Feeling alone in a world of your own with no place to hide…’) would appear to be misleading. Either way, David is on fine form here, with Superstar, Pride, the title track and 19-minute closer Another Day all impressing in particular.
While David’s continuing role in Mystery is likely to attract most of the attention, it’s worth mentioning that recent Spock’s Beard departee Nick D’Virgilio plays all the drum tracks here and his presence adds a fitting touch of class in the rhythm department. Then of course, there’s no overshadowing St-Père’s own redoubtable talents; he is after all the musical heart of the entire enterprise. He certainly doesn’t attempt to rewrite the prog play book, but his gift for intelligent, lovingly rendered composition prevails.
As a piece of medium-paced neo-prog, The World Is A Game is another indubitably classy and slick work.