Italian prog metallers Mind Key are back and – most importantly – in something approaching career-bet form on their new album!

It’s been a decade since I’ve heard anything from this band – 2009’s epic Pulse For A Graveheart, which was one of my favourite albums of that year – and they’ve really kicked on since then. Maybe it’s the influence of the two new members joining for this album (bassist Lucio Grilli and drummer Mirko De Maio), but the band have added a melodic edge to their metal that sees them moving away from their roots as a metalised mix of Steve Morse-era Kansas and Dixie Dregs into an entirely fresh sounding amalgam of Toto, Nightranger and the less strident moments of Symphony X.

Guitarist Emanuele Colella and vocalist Aurelio Fierro Jr are the big stars of Aliens In Wonderland, and both put in match winning performances here. Colella can be as explosive as any of the best shredders you might care to mention on his day; however he rarely lets himself go fully here, preferring to play for the song on every occasion with particularly pleasing results on tracks like Vertigo (Where The Cold Wind Blows). Likewise Fierro clearly possesses the pipes to lay waste to small nations should he so choose, but instead delivers a series of bravura performances which show him to be a man of taste and restraint rather than a ‘just’ belligerent bellower. Have a listen to the exquisite hard rock of Hands Of Cain if you need further proof.

Hardened proggists may be dismayed by this seemingly wholesale shift towards more melodic waters, but I suspect the rest of us will be revelling in this new-found reliance on songwriting smarts as apposed to chop overload. All fans of melodic heavy metal and hard rock are advised to get hold of a copy of this at their earliest convenience – You can find it in the racks swathed in a slave rather too close to Cats In Space for comfort!

Mk III – Aliens In Wonderland is out now.