The Mystical Hot Chocolate Endeavors are a Boston-based progressive rock quartet who comprise of Craig Harley Schmuhl (vocals, guitar), Trevor Martin (guitar, keyboards), Tyler Novak (bass) and William M. Candelario (drums). Their second album, a double concept entitled `A Clock Without A Craftsman` was written as a self / world analysis during the uncertain times during the 2020 lockdown and addresses subjects such as societal uproar, mental health degradation, substance abuse, and what extreme isolation does to a person. The band started off as a passion project by Hate Storm Annihilation founder Craig Schmuhl, who had been interested in pursuing musical endeavors outside the sonic boundaries of the Death Metal genre.

The album opens with `The Clock` a short intro with ticking clock and snippets of some of the various tracks that are to follow. A piano gently leads us into `Come Hell Or High Water` and thence the journey begins as this track weaves in and out hypnotically and emits a kind of yin and yang texture with delicate calm slices and more forceful sections with vocals that intersperse throughout.  
`Present, But Not Here` is a further expedition but has a much more substantial heavier feel and has the band almost drawing together to deliver this encounter against an unspecified force. There`s a reflective texture to `It All Has To Mean Something` a tender musical soundscape that seems to mirror the title.

`I’ll Never Be` appears to be a straightforward metal offering initially but does become more introspective a third of the way through then surges into life and has some growled vocals in the latter part as the track builds to a climax. I felt that `Outta Sight Outta Mind` had a hypnotic quality although there were growled vocals at the midpoint and towards its conclusion.

`Eye To Eye` has a pulse like beat running through it like a beating heart and is a number that speaks about racial discrimination. This track concludes the first disc or album.

The second disc begins with `How Much Longer?` which opens quietly before exploding into life and is a song that was written amidst the chaos of  the global pandemic when the singer was struggling with health issues and a sense of would this crisis ever end. The soundscape accompanying these thoughts eludes that sense of doubt and uncertainty. I read that `Sorry` is a song about domestic abuse, written from the perspective of an abused individual. It`s an intricately balanced number that is shared in a comprehending nigh on sympathetic and sensitive manner.

`The Deceiver` has a powerful and complex texture and balance to it as this composition evolves. We enjoy pounding drums, robust and elaborate guitar chord riffs, guiding bass lines, a variety of key tones and vocals layered atop on this meandering musical trek. I have to admit that i`m not sure what `AOTTFDTSR` equated to or stood for but it`s a further involute piece with various layers exposed as it subtlety develops closing with a soft piano fragment.     
`In His Image` is a fairly epic listen running at around fifteen minutes in length and opens with the sound of church bells. It twists, turns, and curves in numerous directions as it`s layers enfold. There seems to be light and dark as we have some growled vocals throughout and brief subdivisions that head into a more death metal field. I felt it could possibly be interpreted on a more spiritual level even mirroring the Knights Templer crusades. This release closes out with title track `A Clock Without A Craftsman` a piece that again veers in numerous directions with lyrics that appear to seek answers maybe as to the recent global pandemic or maybe something more personal.    

`A Clock Without A Craftsman` is a pretty ambitious but rewarding listen and for me, I thought needed to be imbibed slowly as it runs to around one hundred minutes in length. There`s a real complex beauty about it with its questioning lyrics and vocals. At times the musical soundscape is stunning, diverse, and exquisite and could possibly be the band`s Magnum opus.

Rating 9 / 10

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