Let's go ahead and get the NEVERMORE thing out of the way first, as it seems to be the first word uttered during discussions of Norway's COMMUNIC, an influence the band doesn't deny. The similarities to NEVERMORE on the trio's debut album (after a three-track demo), "Conspiracy in Mind", come mainly from the moments of jackhammer rhythms and chunky riff attacks. Guitarist/vocalist Oddleif Stensland's voice has a certain Warrel Dane quality to it, but it's no rip-off. You'll hear the NEVERMORE influence on the title track (like one of the tuneful rippers from "Dreaming Neon Black"), and snippets of the overall approach throughout. That's really where the comparison ends because aside from being a band making quality music like NEVERMORE, this seven-song, 57-minute album (yeah, these suckers are long) blends in more classic metal and prog influences, moving much further from traditional song-structures without seeming too overindulgent.
"Conspiracy in Mind" is a challenging listen, but it's not a difficult listen, if that makes any sense. In other words, the arrangements are complex, but the melodies and song dynamics are adventurous and interesting. "Communication Sublime", a mere seven-and-a-half minutes, includes the album's strongest melody. Many songs (the title track being a good example) incorporate flowing, almost ethereal sections, with up-tempo modern thrashing. The vocal parts are varied, and the light/dark contrasts break up the metal stomp parts and allow the arrangements to breathe (listen to "History Reversed"). On parts of the 11-minute epic, "Silence Surrounds", Stensland lets his voice float over pummeling rhythms, as Halford-esque screams are punched in, creating a feeling of rage and serenity within the same section.
As much as I enjoy what COMMUNIC has done here, I find myself more intrigued than blown away by the music of "Conspiracy in Mind". The compositions are impressive and the musicianship is stellar, yet the songs didn't make the impact I would have expected them to. In simpler terms, there is a lot of cool stuff happening here, but in a holistic sense I feel as though something is missing. I'll have to revisit it in a few months. Regardless, "Conspiracy in Mind" is sure to dazzle many a musician and those metal fans that lean toward the progressive end of the spectrum.