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American guitarist, Chris Impellitteri and his band has returned after a 5 year absence, to release their 9th full-length CD, entitled ‘Wicked maiden’. Absent in 2004’s ‘Pedal to the metal’ and 2002’s ‘System X’, journeyman vocalist Rob Rock (Fires of Babylon, Driver, Axel Rudi Pell, Warrior) has returned to the band, after being Impellitteri’s singer for all of their releases between 1992 and 2000; 6 in all including this release. The other 2 vocalists to sing on Impellitteri releases include Graham Bonnet and Curtis Skelton.
For the shred lovers of the world, this is another chance for you to be taken agasp by the bewildering talents of guitarist and (arguably) #2 fastest shredder of all time (according to Guitar One magazine), Chris Impellitteri. That #1 honor would be going to Mr. Michael Batio with his double and quad guitar. Playing traditional U.S. heavy metal, Impellitteri obviously leads the way, with almost all the tracks predominately guitar driven; but that’s not to say the remainder of the band is forgotten about.
A great deal of metal fans would have heard Rob Rock’s wailing vocals at some point or another. One of the greatest and most adaptable metal vocalists, Rock can fit himself perfectly into any band he sings for. Much like Jorn Lande (Masterplan, Allen/Lande), Rob has a wonderful trademark style and a strong reputation of having soulful, melodic and passionate vocals. I was surprised and impressed at the strength of drumming by Glen Sobel, who has been with Impellitteri since 2000’s ‘Crunch’ CD. Sobel’s drum-work is very full and deep, while also containing some top double-bass pummeling throughout the CD.
The title track kicks things off and you couldn’t ask for a better start. “Wicked maiden” is fantastic, including deep bass and typical, not too over the top shredding from the master himself. Rob Rock reaches the melodic high notes with ease on this track, making it one of the best on the CD. “Weapons of mass distortion” contains some great guitaring from Impellitteri, especially during the mandatory solo. Another great track, “Garden of Eden”, has an awesome beat and chugging/driving riffing from Impellitteri. With one of the catchiest chorus’ on the CD and also one of the best solos, “Garden of Eden” is another standout.
Screaming 80s metal is the mid-paced rocker, “Eyes of an angel”. The keyboards of Edward Harris Roth and bass work of James Amelio Pulli really make this track stand out, as Impellitteri’s guitars take a surprising back seat. “Wonderful life” has Impellitteri playing the axe much like one of his influences, Eddie Van Halen, and once again casting a great solo and showing off his talents. Ending the ride with “The battle rages on”, easily the heaviest track on the CD, the song consists of thunderous drumming and very heavy, almost thrash-like, guitar riffing.
Unfortunately, there has to be one place where Impellitteri does not completely excel at, and that is for writing lyrics. Both he and Rob Rock wrote the CD, and while some tracks have great songwriting, there are a few which just don’t quite get off the ground, particularly in the lyric department. With that in mind, I speak of the tracks “The vision” and “Holy man”. The only other murmur of negativity coming from this reviewer, would be the length of the CD; which clocks in at just a fraction under 43 minutes. In this day and age, a 43-minute full-length release really just doesn’t cut it. Either add another track or 2, or include some bonus tracks or live tracks taken from one of Impellitteri’s sensational shows. Something should be given back to the fans here, who have followed, adored and pretended to be Chris Impellitteri from the moment they first heard his extraordinary guitar mastery.
Overall, I must say that I feel there are more great things from this release than not. Although some of the tracks are a tad inconsistent in quality than others, ‘Wicked maiden’ is still a typical solid Impellitteri release and worthy of adding to a fan’s collection. Those fans who crave ripping guitar shredding in the likes of fellow guitarists like Axel Rudi Pell, Yngwie Malmsteen and Uli Jon Roth, you’ll be glad to know that Chris’ efforts on this release are again outstanding and inspiring.
Originally written for www.metalcdratings.com