THE STORY OF ELINA LAIVERA AND UNIVERSAL MIND PROJECT
BY JOHN COLLINGE Roiling guitars and widdly synths ride galloping rhythms around gorgeously melodic vocal leads taunted by fashionably contrasting guttural growls. Intimate acoustic texturing introduces grand orchestrations, while high-flown lyrics dramatize man’s eternal quest for self-knowledge. International ensemble Universal Mind Project paid obvious attention to detail throwing everything and the kitchen sink from its progressive-metal palette into new album The Jaguar Priest. Three years in process and featuring impressive guest talent, this formidable debut on Germany’s Inner Wound label is an adrenaline aperitif with food for thought. Founded in 2012 by guitarist/composer Michael Alexander, Universal Mind Project manifests his musical vision of a true global collaborative. Its nucleus comprises lead vocalists Elina Laivera and Henrik Bath (Darkwater), drummer Alex Landenburg (Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody) with Alexander on guitars and growls. Joining them are singers Nils K. Rue (Pagan’s Mind), Mark Jansen (Epica, Mayan), Charlie Dominici (ex-Dream Theater) and Diego Valdez (Helker); plus, Mike LePond (Symphony X, bass), Emanuele Casali (keyboards), Johan Reinholz (guitar) and Alessandro Bissa (drums). In the following interview, album co-writer Laivera provides details behind this ambitious undertaking and how she “met up” with Alexander from more than half a world away.