Ivan Mihaljevic & Side Effects is an interesting eclectic trio of musicians from Croatia. There popularity in recent times has been skyrocketing. Recently they played live in support of Whitesnake, and have made quite a few appearances on television and on radio. Of course, while these feats are in no way representative of the quality of music (after all, pop artists with little in the way of musical talent receive widespread popularity), they are worth noting as the band seeks out a larger fan base. With their most recent album entitled "Counterclockwise," they seek to stretch out into that stadium rock sound and wish to grab the hands of those willing to come close to their stage.
The mixing and mastering conducted on "Counterclockwise" is fantastic for the genre. Everything in each track is well placed in the mix. Whether I am listening through my laptop computer speakers or high end studio headphones, the sound is crisp and easy to enjoy. For a stadium rock album, the right amount of reverb was used to create a sense of space and stage like atmosphere without being overwhelming or irritatingly muddy.
The compositions found on Ivan Mihaljevic & SE's latest creation are for the most part really solid. Usually with this style of music I run into a lot of pop song structures, however they are able to break the mold and add some spice to their tracks to keep them perpetually interesting. The progressive rock breaks, with dual harmonic guitar solos and all, are well done and allow this album to be simply entertaining. The track "Driving Force," for example begins in common fashion, but ultimately progresses towards ethnic guitar scales, phaser guitar effects, and synthesizers.
Over the past several days I have been lounging around in my free time and taking in the sound of "Counterclockwise." The best part of this album is, frankly, the instrumentation. Some of the verse segments can be a bit dull as we are treated to fairly straightforward guitar rhythms and vocal lines, but each song always unveils some interesting lead, instrument (like a synth), or solo to add more dynamic depth. The tracks themselves are not just confined to loud, in your face rock music, and like any good band of this nature allows room for quiet acoustic pieces. "Gilded Cage" is one instance of this, and calls back memories of listening to jazz chords and Led Zeppelin's so famous "Stairway to Heaven." In essence, the instrumentation on this album is quite simply entertaining. Again, entertainment being one of the focuses of this band as it looks to play live more and more, and compete for stage space with huge bands like Iron Maiden who continue to rule the genre.
As for the vocals, they are very solid across the board. They have a certain ethnic flair to them that will no doubt make them appealing to a lot of people, but they can take a little bit of time to adjust to. From the first moments they appear in the album opener "Too Much is Not Enough," I instantly could draw comparisons between the vocalist's voice and the ones present on many power metal albums, and at best a similarity to Mikael Akerfeldt of Opeth. In some ways, the entirety of this album could be conceived of as a mix between a lighter varient of Opeth with a rock opera piece. The vocals sit well, though will be dominated by the instrumentation on many occasions. I would love to hear more in the vocal department, perhaps from other guest vocalist or musicians in the band.
If you have the sense that this review has been overwhelmingly positive, that is simply because there is little I do not like about this album. Within the context of this genre, "Counterclockwise" is truly remarkable. It entertains the musician and music fan in me. I could see myself going to a large festival and listening to this band. With material like this, I have no doubt that Ivan Mihaljevic & Side Effects will be able to go from the small nation of Croatia to becoming a world renowned trio. I absolutely recommend this for fans of progressive and stadium rock like Iron Maiden. Standout tracks include: "Driving Force," Gift of Life," and "Eclipse."