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The Progspace Awards 2020

Heyoka’s Mirror – The Uninvited King

Heyoka’s Mirror – The Uninvited King

Heyoka's Mirror - The Uninvited King

  • Rating: 7/10
  • Release Date: 06 March, 2021
  • Label:
  • Musicians:
    Andrew Balboa - Vocals, Keyboard, Guitar Omar Sultan - Guitar Casey Lewis - Drums, Johnny Kerr - Drums, Brendan Rothwell - Bass
  • Favorite songs:
    Asylum, Celebration of Light
  • For Fans of:
    Dream Theater, Steve Vai, System of a Down

Heyoka’s Mirror is an up-and-coming progressive rock/metal band from Calgary, Canada. Following an EP and a few single releases, they are now releasing their full-length debut album “The Uninvited King”. After a few listens I’ve gotten pretty keen on it and certainly have respect for the band but there are also a few things that threw me off a bit.

The compositional approach feels a bit like Dream Theater on a diet. It has many of the same elements in terms of riffs, grooves, drum patterns and technical passages, though not pushed to the same extent. And the somewhat fuzzy, organic production makes it feel rather flimsy, not giving the same beefy punch that I like in more modern hi-fi production. But I can tell it’s the way it was intended to sound and it gets a nice gritty texture that’s actually quite satisfying, just not very much down my alley of preference. The music itself is pretty complex, using unorthodox song-structures and many unpredictable twists, turns and changes in pace. They’re quite eccentric and sometimes like to startle you or just hit you in the head with something you’d least expect. I’ve always liked being taken by surprise and I guess that’s Heyoka’s Mirror’s biggest strength.

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The groove created by the drums is solid and there are many details to unpack. Sometimes the headbanging patterns are given  a rest and allow the music to be more straightforward, but it’s never long before the beat starts to trip or the drilling technical passages take over. There’s some blasting in there, clever unexpected use of double bass at high speeds, starting and stopping when you least expect it, confusing transitions and off-beat accents that really tickle my fancy. The guitar riffs are quite heavy but not very impactful due to the raw production, rather bendy scratchy and scrappy instead. However, the guitar leads are very powerful, taking over the spotlight with weird, echoing delay tones, mystical eerie melodies or hooky themes. And there are also clever solos, going through many ideas on extended lengths. The bass is also very groovy, stealing the spotlight here and there and adding a nice depth to the sound. My favourite bass moment would have to be the intro to ‘Deal With The Devil’. Another element that surprised me positively was the diverse use of keyboards. The synth solo and subsequent atmospheric piano section in ‘Asylum’ are some of my favourite moments on the record.

And that gets us to the atmospheric and expressive side of their music. From time to time, the heaviness will stop and they will go on a flowery spree of clean guitars, keys and piano, sometimes accompanied by very groovy drum and bass parts. Intros to many songs have this effect, teasing the listener with creepy or sometimes peaceful tones and melodies. So it creates quite an ominous, weird tone that builds some anticipation, and then when they hit, it actually gets pretty theatrical. I think many of the instrumental parts have a certain restlessness to them that makes the music feel rushed and slightly nutty. The vocals follow very well into this emotional state with a raspy pirate-ish falsetto, shouts, gritty screams, low growls and pretty evil narrative parts. Overall, I’m getting a bit of a circus freakshow effect from the vocal part and while I don’t find it  satisfying all the time, I really admire the creativity, diversity and expressive value it carries.

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For a debut record, this is quite impressive, and despite it not falling into all of my preferences genre-wise or with the compositional and production choices they made, it still made a positive impression on me.  Heyoka’s Mirror also displays loads of technical and compositional proficiency, often going on long rampant passages of progressive noodling with odd times and weird changes, which is something to admire for any real prog nerd. “The Uninvited King” is impressive both from an analytical and an enjoyment standpoint.

Track List:

  1. The Light Within (01:57)
  2. Heavy Rain (06:56)
  3. Shadow Man (04:07)
  4. The Darkness Within (10:11)
  5. Asylum (08:40)
  6. Deal With The Devil (05:43)
  7. King of Deception (07:40)
  8. Celebration of Light (05:41)

About the Author

Andrei Dan

Born and raised in Romania, currently living and studying in the Netherlands, Andrei was introduced to both classic and modern prog at once when he discovered Symphony X and Intervals in 2015. He has quickly grown fond of all the sub-categories of metal but keeps a focus on progressive or innovative music. Most of his free time is spent keeping track of new artists or releases and visiting concerts.

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