For a newcomer to the weird and wonderful world of Estradasphere, Palace of Mirrors is as good a starting point as any. Though the album lacks the vocals featured on the bands previous releases, due to the departure of vocalist and contributing songwriter John Whooley, it is by no means weak as a consequence. The album works well as an instrumental piece and the absence of lyrics allows the listener to draw their own meaning and interpretation from the music. Simply put, Palace of Mirrors is brain-candy for your imagination and will almost certainly get your head-cogs turning.
Each track conjures up an intriguing landscape and story, whether it is passing through some Arabian bazaar (as with the title track) or following the fantastic escapades of some 60's super spy (on "Colossal Risk"). "Palace of Mirrors" sounds as if it's jumped right out of Danny Elfman's repertoire, the score to some as of yet undreamt Tim Burton feature, with just a hint of Balkan gypsy flavor. "A Corporate Merger" and the standout "Those Who Know..." keep the far-eastern sound alive, managing to throw a hint of funk into the mix in the process. Though it would be easy for such a pick-and-mix of musical styles to become little more than a chaotic mess, Estradasphere manage to hold it all together. The band continues their genre world tour by splicing surf rock and strings on "The Terrible Beautypower of Meow." Things even take a turn for the sinister on "Flower Garden of an Evil Man" and "The Unfolding/Pause on the Threshold", with some electronic-come-industrial beats thrown in for good measure.
How to classify all of this? Big-band gypsy jazz funk folk metal is about the best I can come up with, and that in itself is really no clear explanation of what to expect from Palace of Mirrors. It's almost as if Estradasphere can hear critics and fans alike trying to pin them down under one genre, but always manage to slip away at the last moment. It's even more difficult to compare Estradasphere, concretely, to any other artists - perhaps with the exception of Mr. Bungle, or other genre-bending Mike Patton projects. The broken mirror on the cover of Palace of Mirrors seems suggestive of all of this: the fractured sound, the absence of a clear-cut identity. All of this may seem a little bizarre and daunting at first, but if you're willing to go into Palace of Mirrors with an open-mind, I doubt you'll find yourself disappointed.
8.5 / 10
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