Tad Morose – St. Demonius

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Can’t stand Symphonic, Power, or Operatic Metal? Do you hate it when a vocalist gets all wobbly-wailey? Do you think that keyboards have no place in “Troo Metulz”? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then walk on swiftly – this album ain’t for you, friend.

If, on the other hand, your strasse is populated by the likes of Symphony X, Kamelot, Helloween, Hammerfall or Firewind and you don’t mind a bit of Children of Bodom (before they turned themselves into a riff recycling plant, obvs) thrown in for effect, then St. Demonius (Despotz) by Tad Morose may well be worth an hour or so of your time.

Personally, I like a little less vibrato in my vocalists, and a bit more variety from my guitarists, but I think this album stands up well amongst the pantheon of Power Metal. Mainly, because whilst giving you (most of) the power/operatic staples, it also injects an edge of heaviness that sets it apart from its peers & ancestors. It loses points, however, due to the lack of cheesy guitar solos and fist-pump singalong choruses (there are singalongs to be found, but it’s all taking itself rather seriously). For me, these are the things that the different branches of Power Metal are all about, but I’m sure St. Demonius will find an audience to fill rooms with a sea of leather patch jackets and metal claws.

The album opens with ‘Bow to The Reapers Blade’, which is a straight up fusion of Bodom & Firewind (this is a Good Thing). ‘Your Own Demise’ follows next, with some nice bounce, crunchy riffs and some nice vocal hooks; I particularly like the lyric “succumb to my greatness” – I shall have to steal that. ‘Forlorn’ opens with a hook line that’s almost Rammstein and opens out with a Symphony X breakdown. Different. And good. Some excellent choral arrangements with layered vocals make this an epic track which will surely be a crowd favourite. Other standout tracks are ‘Where Ignorance Reigns’, the rifftastic ‘Black Fire’ and ‘The Shadows Play’, a track that has it all, including my vote as best track on the album and ‘Fear Subside’ and its twin guitar noodling!.

All in all, an enjoyable listen and a solid…

 

7.0/10

 

PHILIP PAGE

Serious Black – As Daylight Breaks

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Well, that’s shut me well and truly the fuck up

(You wish…)

It’s apt to begin a commentary on a release from one ex-Helloween guitarist (Roland Grapow) with reference to the man he succeeded in the pumpkin-obsessed kings of Power Metal, one Kai Hansen, who titled the third Gamma Ray album Insanity & Genius (Noise) and referenced in the lyrics how thin the line between the two is. Well, the line between generic and uninteresting pap and Power Metal Glory is even thinner, perhaps as thin as the hair-line on Herr Hansen’s fivehead these days. But with As Daylight Breaks (Nuclear Blast) Serious Black (contenders for best new band name – certainly best Harry Potter themed one) have released a debut that is so far over the line on the side of quality, the line is a dot to them (answers on a postcard if you get that reference).

Having written off Power Metal in my mind as a genre that, no matter how well its composite parts could be put together, was done, creatively redundant and in the type of artistic morass that Death Metal found itself in for twenty years, nevertheless, like the child poking the disembowelled frog with a stick and hoping for some twitch or reaction, with morbid curiosity I find myself drawn to it. See, when Power Metal is on it, there’s very little better for invigorating the mind and soul. And Grapow’s latest offering slapped me round the chops, leaving me with a fiendish grin, a rediscovered  enthusiasm for the genre and a frog named Lazarus.

The brainchild of Grapow and former Visions of Atlantis bassist Mario Lochert, with the rhythm section rounded out by former Blind Guardian tub thumper Thomen Stauch, Serious Black absolutely nail everything that is joyous about Power Metal infused hard rock, from the driving opening pair of ‘I Seek No Other Life’ and the simply massive ‘High And Low’ through to the theatre-y and slightly camp closing ‘Older and Wiser’.

The band is led by the underrated and under-celebrated vocal talents of former Tad Morose pipes, Urban breed who avoids being one of a million Kiske-clean wannabes by injecting power and tone; at times channelling Jon Oliva, particularly on the keys led title-track, at others Mike Howe (Metal Church), and able to carry a faster verse alongside the ubiquitous sizeable choruses.

Musically, you can bandy about names such as Kamelot (‘Akhenation’), Within Temptation (the uptempo rock romp of ‘Trail of Murder’), Savatage, Stratovarius, and Sonata Arctica if you like; there definite elements of Blind Guardian and Helloween,  and that’s absolutely fine, as Serious Black sit as a kind of summation of all that “is” from the polished end of Power Metal.

As Daylight Breaks benefits from a great, full, vibrant production and above all exudes the sensation of a band really enjoying their work. As they rightly should. I once incorrectly tagged Grapow as a Janick Gers figure who had ruined one of my favourite bands. He well and truly proved me wrong – I even quite like Pink Bubbles Go Ape now, and I’m one of the few people on the planet who love Chameleon (both EMI) – and with Serious Black he’s done it again, proving as Edguy did with last years’ Space Police (Nuclear Blast) that, when done well, Power Metal can be fulfilling rompy-pompy.

 

7.5/10

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STEVE TOVEY