JOAKEM – Mind Matter
Joakem is an artistic pseudonym of one Cypriot vocal/instrumental extraordinaire, Stelios Ioakim, who reportedly became a classical pianist by the time he was 6, becoming a member of several bands since 2009, many of which are active to this day. Quickly becoming proficient in additional instrumentation and jazz and fusion, Joakem co-opted Elias Chrysochos (guitars), Christos Agathokleous (bass) and Danny Georgiou (drums) for the recording of his debut album, after gaining international publicity for being the second place finalist of The Voice of Greece, and "Mind Matter" saw light in December 2018.
To say this is a weird album would understate the obvious, but, mostly to its strength, Joakem is all over the path. One very significant influence is Dream Theater’s "Awake" album, although without much of its catchiness, the latter, non-death Opeth, the other, especially with the man’s vocals very similar to Lars Mikael Åkerfeldt’s "Treacherous", but, too, Soundgarden’s Christopher John "Chris" Cornell’s (Resurgence), but he can do pretty good David Randall "Randy" Blythe of Lamb Of God (A Peaceful Place), Korn’s Jonathan Howsmon Davis (Terra) or frighteningly good Chad Robert Kroeger of Nickelback fame (Generation Z), all this evident of Ioakim’s vocal versatility. Musically, just as the promo says, the album is a blend of complex melodies and time signatures, heavy synth sounds, aggressive guitars and intricate drum patterns, some of which work, others not so much.
While most songs are very good, such as the jazzy Barren Earth-ly "The Path", the catchy "Illusory" with the intro a’la Michael Gordon Oldfield’s legendary "Tubular Bells" or the strong closing ballad, "Departure", two songs rub me the wrong way. First is the Black Label Society meets Nickelback of "Generation Z" which both sounds too much like a Nickelback song and sticks out like a sore thumb. The other is the remarkably aggressive, rich and fiercely unmemorable "Terra", despite the good emotional ending. Overall impression is that Joakem is a little to thinly spread without necessary focus for this mind to truly matter the way the artist intended.
As much as I would love to shout praises for this album, it just strikes me as an excellently executed blend of conflicting sounds and measures. But this is just the beginning from a clearly brilliant musician and a powerful vocalist. Let the man catch his wave and amaze us as I have no doubt he will on future endeavors.