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Occasionally in the shining land of power metal, we run across bands that mix the ancient ancestral secrets of Helloween, Gamma Ray, Iron Maiden, etc. with the somewhat more suspect stylings of hard rock. Sometimes it’s done fabulously well (Unisonic), sometimes it’s all right (Edguy), and sometimes it’s a joke (Freedom Call). In the case of Italy’s Athlantis, it’s just plain confusing.
Adding to the somewhat questionable recent roster of RockItUp records, Athlantis’ M.W.N.D. is the band’s first release in almost ten years, and at first I was delighted to have found this promo. The first couple of songs, despite rather conventional and transparent lyrics (drugs, sex, love, etc.), are extremely tight and powerful, with some exceptionally strong, powerful vocals, solid guitar work, and very good production. I am reminded of other south and eastern European bands that have lately taken the USPM track rather than playing the lighter style that was made typical during the 1990’s- but only for the first three songs. “Madness Is Rising”, “Getaway”, and “The Final Judgement” are all potent, rollicking power metal tracks that left me with an eyebrow poised carefully to arch higher. However, things begin to unravel rather quickly.
“Strong As Your Love” is definitely a hard rock tune, from the title to the broad, simple riffing, to the obvious lyrical agenda. Thoroughly unremarkable, I was understandably disappointed and impatient for more of the previously indicated potential to wash over me. Next, however, comes the soft and forgettable “Faraway” (I don’t think this band understands that “away” doesn’t just attach itself to whatever word precedes it), after which I was truly restless. Finally, Athlantis blew nearly all of my hopes with the completely useless, if catchy, “Dry Gin” (which is exactly what it sounds like). From here on out, I felt cheated until the advent of closer, “Holy Call”, which brings back a shadow of the mid-paced, beefy power metal that I was teased with for the first fifteen minutes.
So, four out of ten tracks are good, but even those are plagued at times by stupid lyrics, and completely guilty of raising expectations far too high for the rest of an otherwise forgettable album. For a hard rock/AOR band, this might be admirable work, but I was promised power metal and received enough of it to whet my appetite. Like most metal listeners, the old bait and switch is not something that I take kindly to (I’m looking at you, Freedom Call). Therefore, I can’t really recommend more than a passing listen to M.W.N.D. and its three or four pretty good songs. It might be a gateway album for some, but I expect better. If Athlantis concentrated solely upon one style or another and hired a competent lyricist who used a pen rather than a rubber mallet, these guys could go somewhere.
Original review written for Black Wind Metal
Athlantis is something of an oddball band, not just because they have an unusual spelling of a famed mythical sunken city, but also because they don’t quite listen like the typical Italian power metal band. Most of the time there is a tendency towards the symphonic side of the coin ala the ubiquitous influence of Luca Turilli and Rhapsody Of Fire, and even when a band decides to go towards a somewhat less overtly symphonic direction, there is a strong familiarity with the same Helloween influences that went into albums like “Legendary Tales” and “King Of The Nordic Twilight”. What is heard on “M.W.N.D.” is much closer to a traditional metal sound, one that recalls the style pre-1995, yet retains a fair amount of present day trappings.
The first band that immediately came to mind when first hearing some of the speed infused, sing-along fanfare such as “Getaway”, “Lightning” and “Holy Call” was Firewind, more specifically the first two albums with Stephen Fredrick at the helm. Part of it has to do with lead vocalist Jack Spider having a similarly husky and gravely baritone character to his voice, but truth be told, the extremely formulaic and symmetrical nature of the songwriting definitely runs along similar lines and gives the band that sort of vanilla sound that is often derided by detractors of Gus G’s songwriting. The only place where the band doesn’t really resemble Firewind much is in the lead guitar department, which is very clearly nowhere near the technical level of what Ozzy’s latest axe man is capable of, but still manages to be reasonably proficient by the old school, 80s metal standard.
There are also a few points of surprising and bewilderment that are introduced into this otherwise predictable equation via guest vocal slots. Giorgia Gueglio, who looks like a more slender version of Elise Martin but sounds more like Amanda Somerville, provides an unusually soft, angelic quality to what is otherwise a pretty meaty sound, particularly on the token ballad “Faraway” which already gets dangerously close to easy-listening territory. The other guest vocalist Alessio Calandriello has a proto-typically light Italian tenor sound that would probably have put him in the running for Luca Turilli’s latest project, and his presence turns an otherwise strong Firewind sounding speeder in “The Final Judgment” into something closer to the latest Secret Sphere sound. He also does a quirky little old school rock sounding duet with Jack Spider on “Dry Gin” that is sure to be eaten up by the average Motley Crue fan, but is a bit out of place alongside most of this album’s contents.
There’s not really much to complain about with an album like this, but at the same time it doesn’t do a heck of a lot to merit extreme praise. This is power metal for people who eat it by the ton and have all but made themselves of obese on it, and will probably fly under the radar of most people who already get their kicks from Hammerfall and Dream Evil. It’s definitely competent, and at times it definitely manages to entertain and even enthrall, but it loses its power over time and doesn’t really go the whole distance in making itself distinct from the pack. If it’s on sale, it might be worth the dough, but it’s not something that would merit a grand expedition in search for its namesake beneath the sea.
Originally submitted to (www.metal-observer.com) on September 4, 2012.